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Fears and How to Overcome Them?

Updated on March 15, 2018

Fear is a primary emotion which every one of us has experienced and keeps on experiencing in life. Small toddlers don’t fear anything so they touch things, which can harm them; they pick up any thing and put in their mouth which can harm them; they can go on the road unaware of the danger of being run over by a vehicle. But as they grow up, they learn to fear things which can harm them either by a previous experience or by the instructions of the parents who guide them to avoid certain things or situations.

As small children, we are taught of monsters and bogey men to be afraid of, whenever we want the children to behave properly. So we are made to develop many fears by others. These fears reside in our subconscious mind. They hold us prisoners against our will. We humans fear the unknown, whether it be absence of light, death, starting a new job or whatever.

It some situations, fear safeguards us, teaches us to be cautious since self-preservation is primal. It is a basic survival mechanism occurring in response to specific stimuli such as pain and threat of danger. If the human beings of the pre-historic era had failed to avoid various dangers which threatened them, the human species would have not survived.

Basically, there are three types of fears –

  • Fears of self-preservation—They are the fears which safeguard us from dangers. Such fears are universal among living organism and they cause the organisms to seek safety. Self- preservation may be a coping mechanism to prevent an emotional trauma. In fact, such fears ensure the survival of an organism.
  • Learned or founded fears-- People develop fears as result of learning such as fears of dogs or rats or lizards in some persons. A fear can be acquired by a frightening traumatic experience. For example, if a child falls into a well, he may develop the fear of wells. Similarly, fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) or fear of water (aquaphobia) is also learned one. There are some other fears or phobias which people develop as result of traumatic experience. We all have fear of death. Fears of apparitions or spirits are also founded fears.
  • Unfounded fears-- Such fears have no sound basis. They may stem from insecurity which is due to lack of self-belief and confidence. An insecure mind constantly fears rejection and disapproval of others. There is insecurity of future which we always fear for what awaits us in the unknown future. We are fearful of what will happen to our relationships; we are fearful of what will happen to our career. We fear to take decisions because we are not sure of their outcome. So we see that most of our unfounded fears are imaginary. In fact, the imaginary fears are the ones which harm us the most.

How to overcome fears—

Since fears can stop our progress, so it is very necessary to learn how to overcome them, especially founded and unfounded fears.

  • Analyze the fear— First we have to dispassionately analyze if a certain fear will really harm us. For example, if we have a fear of snakes, we have to know that all snakes are not poisonous. We should also know that a snake will bite us only if it is harmed or feels threatened. But most of us cannot differentiate between poisonous and no-poisonous snakes. In the same manner, if we are fearful of a situation, we should thoroughly analyze it.
  • Desensitize gradually— If you fear lizards, remind yourself that it is an irrational phobia. Then you can go near them and observe their shape and movements. You will find that they will not harm you. Initially they may scare way by your presence but gradually will not run away. Thus you will be able to overcome their fear.
  • Confront the fear directly— If you are afraid of a harmless spider, go near it and catch and hold it in the hand. This can be really tough for an arachnophobic. But by doing this a couple of times, one can get over the fear. In the same manner, confront a situation which is causing fear in you.
  • Rehearse courage mentally—The brain cannot differentiate between what it imagines and what actually happens. If you repeated visualize yourself as being calm collected and confident, your behavior will imitate the imagination when facing the fear.
  • Reframe the fear—Create a comparison in your mind that makes the fear trivial. For example, while worrying about your career, you can think of millions of people who have to worry about whether they are going to eat today. Against this perspective, you will overcome your fear.

Methods to overcome unrealistic fears—

  • The forget method—Tell your friends about your fears and ask them not to talk about them. Try to forget gradually.
  • The confront method—Do the activity that causes the fear in you first with someone reliable and then alone. Gradually you will overcome it.
  • The fun method—Print a picture of your fears and punch them. This will tell you that they are not bigger than you.

The bottom line -

Some of us have some or other fear that may paralsye us for a while sometimes in life, grinding our rational thinking to a halt. In fact, most of such fears are unfounded without any rational basis, which are engrained deeply in our unconscious mind. We need to get rid of such paralysing fears that can actually be done with patience and practice.

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