This thought came to me recently:
I have been given the privilege of learning fear so that I can teach others how to overcome it.
I guess this explains about why I write and speak so much on fear … and it’s mean and nasty cousins doubt and uncertainty.
So what have I learned about fear in my 46 years?
- Fear is a fog. Fear is not a solid. It’s a gas. So you don’t get over fear — you get through it. And just like fog, you just keep going and eventually you get to the other side. Just like fog, fear doesn’t kill you but staying in one place can. You don’t fight fog with your fists. You fight it with light and movement.
- Fighting fear makes things worse … at first. The first few attempts at dealing with fear almost always end up as failures. Fear fights dirty and is relentless. Yet if we continue (see above) eventually we will begin to defeat fear. If you just keep fighting, eventually your superior firepower will lead to victory.
- The only cure for fear is action. Fears don’t dissipate without some sort of direct action. By taking action, we will see that most fears can be defeated. That’s why it is critical to act on something — even if it is small. Even a small action provides a surge of accomplishment and encouragement.
- There’s a difference between danger and fear. Sensing danger is our built-in primal warning system. And it’s is very accurate and should be listened to. Fear is a figment of the imagination; a tool of the ego. Paranoia is when your ego sees fears as dangers — and often ignores actual dangers.
- Fear is a friend … if you harness it. Understanding the root of your fear is a great revealer of your true self. Fear also keeps you humble and hungry. Just as we are not trying to kill our egos, we are not trying to eliminate fear itself — just the effects of fear. In this way, fear becomes an ally in producing growth.
- The grooves of fear made in childhood don’t heal with time. Unless you get some specific counseling or therapy, childhood trauma creates a permanent groove in your psyche. Until you do specific healing, these wounds remain even if you feel like they don’t effect you. These grooves will inform all of your decisions related to career, relationships and self-worth. By healing them, you are returning the original You.
- Your biggest fear is my biggest opportunity for success. Fear is often an early indicator of areas for growth and opportunity. In essence, we are reverse engineering the fog of fear that the ego produces in order to stay in survival mode. By seeing fear as an opportunity and not a threat, we automatically take ownership and dominion over it.
- Fear and biases are an unholy alliance. Cognitive biases and world views are always reflective of our fears. When our biases are informed by our fears, we literally see the world different. But that perspective is rarely truth — more just a projection of our fears and experiences. This is the root of any dogmatic, narrow belief system.
- Mis-used coping mechanisms cause addiction to fear. Humans are amazingly resilient and relentless. It is one of the things that separates us from other creatures. We have built in coping mechanisms designed to help us survive real trauma and dangerous situations. However, if we mis-use these coping mechanisms, it actually creates an addiction to fear. This is why the best weapon against fear is personal growth. Coping mechanisms make you stay in one place.
- Expressed fears always shrink or disappear. When you write or talk about your fears, they always appear smaller than they were in our minds. Using expression to battle fears is why we need a strong group of friends to share with. Fear is rarely defeated alone — which is why we need tribes, communities and other support systems.
- Your fears are not your identity. Your fears, doubts and uncertainties are not you. They are a fog around you, but they are not your identity. Just like with experiences, if we attach our identity to our fears, we will be consumed by them. So even in the face of fear, remind yourself that you are separate from any fear.