5 Strategies for Confronting Fear
It is said that fear is like a monster who feeds off itself. This essentially means that when you have fear and avoid confronting it, it is as if you are nourishing that fear, allowing it to grow. It is very easy to say that you should confront a fear. The difficult part is finding the right way to do it.
Sometimes, you are brave enough and you decide to expose yourself to that which you fear. For example, if you are afraid of heights, you may decide one day to go somewhere high up and wait to feel that fear so you can confront and overcome it.
The problem is that this “all or nothing” kind of tactic is not always effective. Sometimes it is only partially effective, or it may even cause you to experience such a horrible feeling that in the end feel like you will never do it again. In other words, it may end up having the opposite effect.
“Love banishes fear and, reciprocally, fear banishes love. And not only does fear expel love, it also expels intelligence, kindness, all thought of beauty and truth, and all that is left is silent desperation. And in the end, fear can expel from man humanity itself.”
In reality, confronting a fear is a process. It has its own steps, rhythm, and methods. The right way to do it is to face what you fear by designing a strategy that actually leads you and allows you to achieve your objective. Here are five strategies for confronting fear effectively.
1. Reflect on your fear
The first step is to reflect broadly and deeply on what could be causing you to be afraid. You should ask yourself the question, “what am I really afraid of?” and write down all of the things that pop into your mind in response to that, as absurd or unrelated as they may seem.
There are fears that are completely reasonable. For example, maybe you are afraid of water because you don’t know how to swim. Or maybe you are afraid of wild animals because you think they are stronger than you and you see that they react instinctively, unpredictably, or irrationally.
Other fears, though, can be irrational and come from sources that are unknown and difficult to identify. For example, fearing harmless insects, or a fear of heights even when you are simply in a building and have no chance of falling.
2. Know and accept your fears
So, what you should do is try to identify and get to know your fear as best as you can. Don’t struggle against it. Instead, accept it and look it in the face from every possible perspective. Are you afraid of mice? Why, exactly? When was the first time you felt this? How do you react when you see a mouse?
Investigate the source of your fear, because almost all phobias are associated with a lack of information, or the unknown. If you are afraid of love, read as many books about it as you can. Become informed about what others think of it. Do this with anything that makes you feel fearful or intimidated.
3. Recognize your own resources
When you are scared, you feel incapable and miserable. In fact, sometimes it even makes you forget everything you are capable of, and everything you are capable of confronting. Fear operates like a worm that eats away inside and leads you to perceive yourself like someone who has their hands and feet tied, a person with no power to act.
Therefore, it is very important to change your perspective. Think about all the things you do on a daily basis that demand strength and character. Sometimes, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that simply getting up in the morning to carry out all of the day’s obligations demands a huge amount of abilities and virtues.
Interrogate yourself about those virtues and strengths that you put into practice day after day. Don’t be miserly in the recognition of your own values and strengths. In fact, be the opposite: appreciate, with no false modesty, the great quantity of attributes without which it would be impossible to endure your daily routine.
4. Visualize your life without fear
Visualize what your life would be like if the fears that torment you were not present, and the limits they impose upon you were not there. Think about how things would change if you did not have to carry the burden of your fear. Make a list of all of the ways your life could improve.
Try to get close, as close as you can, to that thing you are afraid of. For example, if you are afraid of public speaking, attend events and conferences and sit right in the front row to be close to the person who is speaking, and observe them. Try to get to know theatre actors, or people who work in public settings talking to others.
5. Take action
The most important thing is not to overcome your fear all at once, but rather taking action and steps to achieve this. If you truly want to let go of whatever you are afraid of, the only commandment you cannot break is this: “Never, for no reason, can you be passive in the face of that which you are afraid of”.
Don’t let yourself be a victim of fear. Accept that you are always able, no matter how difficult it may be, to answer your fears when it is time to confront them. That answer may be to evade whatever it is you are afraid of, but the objective is not to do it in a mechanical or compulsive way, but rather logical and well thought out.
If you avoid confronting that object or situation, you should not simply lose control and flee. You must have some kind of “step by step” plan to act in case that confrontation overwhelms you.
But be careful; this shouldn’t be the solution forever. Give yourself a time limit and decide when the time is right to confront your fear. If even after this process you still find it impossible to expose yourself to your original fear, it may be time to seek professional help.
Remember, in the majority of cases, the most difficult part is making the decision to take action and confront what torments you. Once you are able to do that, you discover that everything was in your mind. You realize that the threat is not so as serious as what you had always imagined. You finally will be able to see that what you are truly afraid of is fear itself. That in itself is the only thing that allowed that monster of fear inside you to grow in the first place.
Images courtesy of Jack Traverse