Negative emotions such as jealousy, anger and frustrations have a great impact on our daily lives. In many ways and for many people this impact is outside of our day to day awareness. These emotions impact our physical and mental health, they impede our abilities to fulfill our deepest desires and are often at the root of behaviors and actions that we wish that we (and others) would soon forget.
No emotion is as widely impactful as fear. When one peels back the dark curtains of other emotions we can see that fear is often there lurking in the darkness behind anger, jealousy, hate, anxiety and worry.
But what is fear? According to some online sources, “fear is a distressing negative sensation induced by a perceived threat.” It is also described as a “basic survival mechanism occurring in response to a specific situation” such as the threat of danger. In short, “fear is the ability to recognize danger leading to an urge to confront it or flee from it (also known as the fight-or flight – response).”
Yes, the response to threats of danger is apparently an ancient internal mechanism that humans developed to prepare them for flight or to fight. However, these days, we are no longer threatened by saber tooth tigers roaming around in the night outside of our huts or by poisonous snakes slithering through the underbrush around our feet… at least very few of us live in those circumstances today.
The world has been transformed by humans and we have evolved.
Well… our fear has also evolved. We now experience the same levels of fear of the saber tooth tiger that we had 15,000 years ago… but we experience it at the thought of situations such as losing our jobs! That same level of fear where there was a direct threat to our lives… has now been transformed to a perceived threat to our circumstances. For example, losing our jobs would mean losing our homes and our nice cars. It would mean that we would lose our place in society and that others would now look down on us… rather than up to us. It would mean that our kids would have to go to public schools and that we might have to shop at the public market instead of the upscale supermarket.
Notice the significant difference between the fear of the clear and present danger of the saber tooth tiger prowling around outside our door – and the perceived danger that we may lose our jobs and may lose our homes and may lose… Well I hope you get the picture. We are frightened, anxious and worried about events that have not yet occurred. And that fright, anxiety and worry is at times at the same levels as those that we once had of saber tooth tigers.
In fact, scientists are of the view that we are now more afraid of losing our jobs than we were of the saber tooth tiger. And not only are we more afraid… the fear is more pervasive. We are afraid day in and day out… every week and every month. Our fear is triggered when we hear on the news that such and such company in the next state has closed. We are scared out of our wits when we look at increasing taxes and our diminishing paychecks. And, we are scared when we hear of bankruptcies… not of individuals… not of companies… but of countries! Is our country next? What does that mean for me… for my family… for my lifestyle… for my future… for my dreams… ???
Have I triggered your fear? Don’t blame me… it was just under the surface anyway.
So what do we do about the fear that is our constant companion lurking outside the back door of our consciousness?
Here are some suggestions:
- Awareness. I hope that reading this article will trigger the awareness of how much fear is deeply entrenched in your feelings, thoughts and behaviors. Awareness and recognition is the first level of any successful change in your life. Think carefully and deeply about all of your important decisions and actions within the last week, month, year and going back even further. Ask yourself: “What role did fear play in those?” Be honest! What is at the root of your fears?
- Acknowledgement. Whatever your answers were to the foregoing questions, they are not as important as your next step. Face your fear… whatever it is. Make a commitment now… “I will face my fear. I will look it right in the eye… and embrace it. I am afraid of…. I have been afraid of… I am facing my fear of…”
- Commitment and Intention. “I am facing my fear… and I intend to keep facing it fully. I will not let it slip quietly by. I will no longer allow it to lurk in the dark behind my actions and decisions. I will acknowledge it is there… I will face it… and I will fight it… starting now. I will no longer live my life by fear… I will not take flight from my fright… I will fight the fright.”
- Attention. Now you must pay attention to all of your feelings, thoughts, decisions and actions. You must constantly be on the lookout for the fear that will sneak back to taint what you think and what you do. Attentiveness means that a part of you must always be on guard… like a security sentinel… watching for that intruder named fear… And when you find it… and use the spotlight to reveal its presence you must banish it. “What was the reasoning behind that decision? What was the real reason…? What am I afraid of as I make this decision or take this action? How would I act if fear was not present? What would I do differently if I wasn’t worried or anxious?” Let’s put those questions differently: How would I have responded or acted if I was confident and assured? If I had all the confidence in the world, what would I do differently?”
- Release and Let it go. You are now aware of the fear that lurked in the dark recesses of your mind and emotions… You have now acknowledged its presence… and you have exposed it to the light… and you are now facing your fear fully. You have made a commitment to fight your fear and have stated that as a powerful intention. You have been paying attention to your thoughts and actions – and you have been digging away at your hidden fears and peeling back all of their hiding places. You have begun asking questions about assuredness and confidence and about how your life would be different. Now you must move forward and ask a different question when you find any fear in your life. When you find a fear lurking inside your head or your gut… ask yourself: “Can I let this fear of _____ go?” If the answer is no… “How soon can I let it go?” And you must keep that internal dialogue going… Until you get a clear yes to your internal question.
- Awareness. Look at your internal life now. How are you feeling now versus when you started on this journey. Pay attention to and become aware of your internal growth and notice how you have changed. Minor changes are often times more important than massive changes because they portend a shift from the past to the future. Acknowledge the minor positive changes and resolve to keep the process going. Resolve that you will continue to challenge fear and instead live a life based on confidence, self-trust, and embracing the future.
- Energy. All of the above steps will take a lot of energy and passion. It will take sustained energy to face your fear and to keep paying attention to the minor and major ways it has inhibited you in the past. It will also take sustained energy to maximize the small positive minor wins that you will begin to experience so that you can grow them into massive emotional, attitudinal and behavioral changes in your life.
- Passion for Life. All of us have a passion for life. We exhibit that passion in different ways. When you release your fear and begin the process of let it go – forever – you will now uncover what you have always wanted to do! And with renewed energy, your zeal will flow through like the sun shining through after a week of black clouds… You will begin to do things that you never thought you could but always wanted to… you will surprise yourself… and everyone around you.
Feel the fear… face the fear… fight the fear… Release the fear… and life your life passionately – forevermore!
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