“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” ~ Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, from the novel Dune
Fear. No matter the package it arrives in, it remains one of the most primordial emotions we are capable of experiencing. For years, psychologists have debated on how to best deal with it when it arises. Coming in all shapes and sizes, it is simply a part of daily life for the majority of us, with worries, qualms and nagging patterns of thought that seem unavoidable.
At their worst, these phobias have been linked to a number of anxiety disorders such as OCD and panic attacks. Yet there remains so much stigma around talking about our fears (let alone showing them) that many of these important issues remain unaddressed. Given this, it is important to highlight the number of methods out there to help those who so often suffer in silence. Here are 5 proven psychological techniques to help you beat your fears.
With fear and anxiety creating a false sense of isolation, we so often believe that this awful thing is only happening to us. Yet what we tend to forget is that anxiety affects a huge amount of people with most of us actually unaware of what we are feeling.
Therefore, the most important thing is to be aware. Accept that you have anxiety, and whatever you do, don’t fight it. Pushing it away only feeds it and can make it much worse than before. Instead, do your best to embrace it, feel it and allow it to pass through you. Let it run through your bones, through your skin and muscle. Breathe. With numerous techniques offered to control your anxiety, doctors and psychologists universally agree that one of the best ways of coping is to simply manage your breathing. Never forget to breathe.
Accepting is the first step in moving forward. Being able to acknowledge and manage these episodes as they arise will serve as a stepping stone to better understanding — and eventually embracing — your fears, which is the beginning of transcending them.
4) What’s The Worst That Could Happen?
OK, so this is a phrase that can sometimes make your blood boil. An expression that ironically forces you think about the absolute worst, which surely can’t be a ‘good thin’ right? Wrong. You may think that the last thing you want to do when you are anxious or frightened is to take some time out and think about it, yet that is exactly what you should be doing.
Going through a situation in your head until you reach the result that you so often fear can help you see these things in perspective. Psychologists state that by envisioning these ‘worst case scenarios’ you can at least provide yourself with a sense of control even over a situation that hasn’t actually happened yet. You can prepare yourself for a panic attack. You can prepare yourself for a mind block. The overall goal here is to help the mind get used to coping with the ultimate worst.
It is important to note here the difference between this type of rational, controlled consideration of future scenarios and fear-based, run-away thinking, which brings me to the next point:
3) Understanding Your Brain
With many suffering a love/hate relationship with that strange object that sits inside of our skulls, it is important to recognize the signals that the brain so often likes to confuse you with. When we become anxious we begin to find it difficult to think clearly. We begin to over think, with each thought becoming rapidly out of context and forming a run-away train that is set to quickly go off the rails.
In order to control this, psychologists recommend that you force yourself to use numbers by scaling your fears from 1 to 10. With 1 being in a complete relaxed state to 10 being absolutely petrified, it is advised that by scaling your fear you can then try to rationalize the underlining cause, which forces you to reevaluate the situation and eventually calm down.
It wouldn’t be the motto for so many if it weren’t true. Avoiding your fears only makes them 100 times scarier, therefore it is extremely important to embrace them rather than run away. Psychologists claim that the most common way of facing your fears is to expose yourself to the root of the cause. If you are scared of spiders, pick up a spider. If you are scared of social situations, force yourself into the unknown.
While doing so, it is important to remember that this is a process. Don’t feel defeated if you haven’t achieved what you wanted after just a few days. The mind can be extremely stubborn, challenging change at every given opportunity. Training your brain into a new way of thinking can be extremely difficult. Especially after a lifetime of thinking in a particular way. Give it time and remain patient, repeating the same process and procedure. It’s Ok not to be OK. Grant yourself some space to move. It’s a step by step process.
Your fears are the ultimate manipulators, therefore you must control them, rather than the other way around. And the best way to do this is patient persistence. Whatever your fear may be, when you eventually face it, time and again, it will ultimately fade.
1) Reward Yourself
It is just as important to reward yourself as it is to accept and face those thoughts of distress. Both failure and success in the short-term is key to long-term success, therefore every win, be it small or big, should be celebrated and admired. With so much focus on the act itself, it is just as important to take care of yourself as well, even when you may be in one of your calmer states. A reward is not only a motivation boost but also a book-end that can seal off an incident that you won and moved on from. Give yourself something to look forward to rather than something you dread happening.