There’s nothing to fear, seriously

Facing your fears is never easy, but don’t let it dominate your life, writes Dorothy Victor

Once we know how to transcend our fears, we become more alive and forging ahead to a liberated life becomes a reality.

We have all faced it. Time and again, that feeling of terror grips us, consumes us and stops us from venturing into new avenues, trying fresh ideas, addressing an audience or simply to meet and shake hands with someone. Fear of failure; fear of criticism; fear of change; fear of spiders and other fears dominate and come in the way of a full and free life that we could be living.

However, once we know how to transcend our fears, we become more alive and forging ahead to a liberated life becomes a reality. These few tips given by behavioural scientists can help in the process of looking fear straight in its eyes and overcoming it successfully:

Write them down

“First write down what you are afraid of,” exhort counsellors treating patients who habitually fear. It becomes easier to list our fears when we make an attempt to formally pen them one by one. Putting our fears down in black and white gives us a clear perception of that which we fear. This exercise also helps us to separate the wheat from the chaff, which is, to identify the fears that really matter and to put aside the inconsequential ones.

Evaluate them

Whether it is being fearful about the political climate of the country we live in or about the well-being of someone who is in a far off land, some fears, though legitimate and large, are beyond our control. Fearing about them, besides causing unnecessary anxiety, is both wasteful and draining of our time and energy. A thorough evaluation of our fears will go a long way in knowing those fears over which we can wield no influence and hence eventually to get over them, leaving us to handle those fears which are within our influence.

Exercise exposure therapy

Avoiding a fear and running away from it might feel like the right thing to do in handling fears. Yet, it has been proved that avoiding something that we are afraid of makes the brain centre that controls fear to become more fearful of the fear factor. On the contrary, when we face our fears, it trains the brain to handle the fear effectively and makes it a habit out of the experience. Thus, when we begin to expose ourselves to the very thing that causes fear, our fearful attitudes are changed. From the fear of getting on to an escalator to making a speech in public, exposing ourselves to these activities in an incremental manner can benefit us in overcoming these fears.

Referred to as exposure therapy, it is helpful in working slowly and steadily until the ultimate goal of overcoming the fear is achieved. For instance, someone with a fear of public speaking should expose himself in making one comment each week during a meeting and slowly by pushing himself in giving presentations to a bigger group he can eventually adopt himself to face an audience and give a speech fearlessly.

Practise courage

Courage is the ultimate, time-tested antidote to fear. It is that innate and fortifying quality that we are all born with to a lesser or greater degree. It comes to our aid and strengthens us when our knees tremble or our voice quivers or our stomachs are invaded by butterflies at doing something that scares us. It gives us a lift and the inexplicable power to do the very thing we are afraid of doing. To develop this forte simply means to practise it as often as possible. Just like a muscle that gets sturdier with exercise, we become more courageous the more often we use courage. Small acts of courage repeated over time give us the courage to face larger fears. However, foolhardiness should not be confused with courage. Taking unnecessary and foolish risks is not being brave. Banishing our fears does not mean running straight into danger; it means facing life without unnecessary phobias, undue anxieties and dogged fears.

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