Fear, a fast emotion that is designed to help us survive. It can be overcome if we take the time to understand how it works and what to do about it.
Fear is something that everyone experiences, either through instincts or through experience. Some might say it's a big part of humans nature-without fear; we would risk everything and potentially harm ourselves by acting foolishly.
There are two types of fear:
"alarm" or life-threatening fears that repel us from what they tell us to avoid (such as heights),
social/emotional fears, which can prevent us from doing things where success depends on other people (such as public speaking).
Our minds are wired for survival. Anytime something poses a threat, the body goes into "fight or flight" mode, activating the sympathetic nervous system. When this happens, our heart rate increases cortisol production starts. The brain's amygdala also sends signals to the hypothalamus gland, secreting corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH). This process prepares us for fight or flight.
Knowing that the mind will react in such a way allows us first to recognize when we are afraid of something before conquering it. The next step would then be learning how to overcome this fear.
One way to overcome fear is to gradually expose yourself to whatever you are afraid of, starting with a low level and working your way up as time progresses. The process known as systematic desensitization helps one overcome their fears by learning relaxation techniques, replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts, and getting used to the different levels of exposure to better handle the higher levels later on.
Sometimes we cannot control our environment, making it difficult for us to overcome our fears. In those times, it's best to think about what you have been taught from those around us, relating to the "fake it until you make it" philosophy. If you tell everyone that you do not have fear, people will eventually believe that you don't have a fear.
Since the beginning of time, fear has been a constant companion to humans and is so ingrained in our minds that it affects every aspect of our lives.
The fear comes from our primal need to survive danger or threat. There are many different kinds of fears, from irrational fears such as arachnophobia (the fear of spiders) to rational ones such as a fear of flying, but they all have one thing in common: they originate from inside your head.
A study showed that more than 70% of people have at least one phobia. Over time, these fears can be overcome with exposure therapy, where you confront your fear until it becomes manageable. While this method works for most people, some proceed to overcome their fears independently, without therapy.
The process known as systematic desensitization helps one overcome their fears by learning relaxation techniques, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, and getting used to the different levels of exposure to better handle the higher levels later on.
When overcome with these fears, our bodies initiate the fight-or-flight response. It causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, pupil dilation, tightening of muscles, tensing of joints, and other reactions. This is meant to prepare us for the perceived danger, whether through running away or preparing for battle.
Alarm fear can occur in response to immediate threats (such as having one's hand burned by a hot stove), but social/emotional fears are most common when we perceive ourselves at risk of humiliation or rejection (such as singing karaoke or doing stand-up comedy). Because social/emotional fears are about status rather than survival, they often trigger more intense physiological reactions.
Fear is the most primal emotion of all. It's an especially prevalent feeling in America today, where terrorism is a constant threat. We fear things that are different from us, for example. There's also the fear of not being able to provide enough for our families or the fear of getting sick. That last one holds special weight in this country due to the increasing concern over diseases like Ebola and Zika.
But when you think about it, when does fear serve its purpose?
People often focus on eliminating their fears rather than learning how to overcome them. They do so by exposing themselves to what they are afraid of- even if that thing is imagining it --repeatedly until they become desensitized to it.
The fear of enclosed spaces, or claustrophobia, is overcome by exposure therapy. A person might start by looking at pictures of small rooms, then progressing to entering one briefly under the supervision of a therapist, and eventually overcome their fear when they can remain in an enclosed space alone for an extended period. But how do you overcome something like terrorism?
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” – Dale Carnegie
reminds us that we create our fears out of our minds. The next step would be asking yourself what caused this particular fear. Was there a traumatic event that happened to you, or is it something you envisioned happening to someone else? Either way, understanding why this fear exists will help overcome it.
Remembering that the mind is very powerful may be enough for some people to overcome fear. However, if your fear is debilitating or chronic, your only option may be to treat it by a mental health professional.
Exposure therapy is one type of therapy that can be useful with specific phobias and anxiety disorders. This works because the more we expose ourselves to what we are afraid of, the less likely we'll react fearfully towards them.
Since everyone's experience and formulation of their fears and anxieties are different, it's important to practice using your mind to overcome them rather than trying to overcome them in the same manner as someone else.
As long as you remember that fear doesn't exist anywhere except in your mind and allow your mind to seek its fullest potential, you should be able to overcome anything.