The Antidote to Fear

The antidote to fear

The antidote to fear

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to reveal the significance of taking action, acting in spite of fear and stepping out of your comfort zone.

First a quick update:

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Now, let’s talk about the significance of taking action, acting in spite of fear and stepping out of your comfort zone.

A friend was explaining to me that she was unsure about what action to take; she had missed an international flight twice – three days apart.

“Everything happens for a reason, right? I am not supposed to go, right?”

‘Usually, the reason is us’ I replied.  ‘You obviously don’t want to go, and thus you keep creating that reality.’

“Are you saying I am sabotaging myself?”

‘I am saying that you have internal resistance and you don’t want to really go.’

“I do want to go. I love Europe.”

‘Okay. So there are 2 parts to you. Tell me about the part of you that doesn’t want to go.’

“I am afraid.”

‘Afraid of what? What has happened suddenly that you are preventing yourself from going to a place you consciously love but subconsciously fear?’

“I broke up with my boyfriend and now I feel afraid.”

‘So the relationship offered you security and was part of your identity, and now, you have fear and uncertainty.’

Fear is the anticipation of pain, obviously set in the future. We fear that something is going to occur; we focus on the potential pain (albeit negative imagination) and thus, we become paralyzed.

As we get older, we allow fear to control us, we shrink our comfort zone and it eventually becomes our prison zone.

When we stop and analyze fear, we realize that it is usually completely unfounded; again, it is the result of negative imagination.

The only antidote to fear is action.

Let’s first explain a key component of fear – the Amygdala Hijack.

The Amygdala is connected to our reptilian brain which is associated with survival. When faced with a threat, the Amygdala initiates the fight, flight or freeze response. It acts so fast that it bypasses the Limbic (complex emotional brain) and the Neo-cortex (thinking brain.) In other words, it is an automatic response so fast, that no time is given for the other parts of the brain to process it and conclude ‘no real fear here.’

The Amygdala Hijack is the response where the survival mechanism overtakes the rest of our brain with strong emotional reaction, a sudden onset and which later, upon reflection, is deemed as not having been a threat at all.

So how does the Amygdala relate to fears that seem to be more passive – such as the friend mentioned above who was afraid to travel alone?

Our past painful experiences determine the way we respond physically and emotionally to present events. In other words, trauma or even subconscious misinterpretations of past events form conclusions that then infect the way we react to everyday events as well as to meaningful events.

Thus, when an event occurs and it reminds us of that past painful event (albeit that the reminder is not at a conscious level and not as extreme as the original past event) the Amygdala fires again as it sends out a high alert but not a full blown fight, flight or freeze response. The result is anxiety, worry, tension, knots in the stomach, clenched jaw, indigestion, mental and emotional paralysis, and so forth.

Unless we take action to prevent the trickling by the Amygdala, it becomes yet another learned response. In other words, with new action, we create new associations and new wiring in the brain. With new action, we learn to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system rather than the sympathetic nervous system (the stress system.)

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” – Arthur Somers Roche

Here are some suggestions as the anti-dote to fear and to engage the parasympathetic nervous system.

You’re okay
These simple words are extremely powerful. Interestingly, my friend was asking for that exact assurance: “Tell me, I’ll be okay.”

The words ‘You’re okay’ or ‘You will be okay’ imply that you are safe, there is no danger.

Use them.

Say to yourself before taking a fearful action, or in times of doubt “I am okay.” Repeat them gently, not forcibly, which only creates further resistance.

What are you actually feeling?
The reptilian brain is often associated with fear and anger. However, when we use the words ‘fear’ or ‘afraid’ we are often referring to many other emotions which are also triggering the fear – loneliness, sadness, rejection, failure, humiliation, abandonment and so forth.

Write out a detailed list of what you are actually feeling when you refer to fear. In the example of my friend above, she was also feeling loneliness, confusion, sadness and self-doubt.

Triggering the past
Consider the way or ways that this present event is triggering old memories and old emotions. For example, a current event might be triggering an old feeling and experience of abandonment and rejection.

Seek professional help to resolve the earlier memory and experience; for example, once you resolve the original experience of abandonment, the Amygdala won’t be as easily triggered whenever faced with what might at first be perceived as ‘abandonment.’ You will also learn how to effectively respond to ‘abandonment.’ This also refers to developing emotional intelligence.

Comfort zone
The comfort zone refers to the psychological boundaries you create for yourself in which you feel safe and at ease. Our comfort zone is often created unconsciously via our habits – the route we take to get to work, the places we visit and frequent, the amount of friends we have and the things we do with them. The only way to expand your comfort zone is to replace existing habits & routines and do new things. Take small steps if need be; do one new thing each week – drive a different way to work or when running errands, try a new exercise routine, explore new places with friends. You are ultimately associating fun, adventure and excitement with new things and with the act of doing new things.

Empathy – help someone else
The Amygdala shuts down empathy. Focus on expressing more empathy to yourself and others. Find someone who might also be experiencing similar fears to you and make it a project to help them. By doing so, you are also helping yourself; we often don’t realize we have the ability and the solution until we begin to help others and then we consciously become aware of our own abilities as well as the actual solution.

Act in spite of fear
In some cases, when the fear level isn’t extreme, we can simply decide to act in spite of the fear. We can ask a friend to help us to commit to the action, to support us, and, to help us follow through and take the action.

Mindfulness and becoming an observer
Mindfulness is the art of observing with acceptance (free of judgment) your thoughts, feelings, actions and beliefs. It gives you power because by observing them, you become detached from their control over you. Observing is an action that helps set you free from emotional attachment.

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & SRTT Therapist

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