There are countless tips and tricks to consider when it comes to overcoming a fear. Everything from imaging exposure to the big “F” to taking it on the anxiety-producing source in increments.
Let’s say you have a fear of elevators. You might imagine pressing the button to the elevator, hearing the doors swoosh open, and stepping inside the machine, all while you remain at home. Or perhaps you stand in front of the elevator one day and the next, press the button to go on, observing any anxiety that shows up (i.e., a racing heart, sweaty palms, etc.) with each increased exposure.
Whatever tactic you choose, there are two things worth noting:
- You have to SIT WITH any discomfort to overcome said fear.
- The fear isn’t real.
Fear is generated by the thoughts we think based on the experiences we have. Fear is your mind playing tricks on you in order, (so the mind falsely, well thinks) to protect and help you survive.
There are those who love a scary horror flick and loathe the idea of public speaking. Yet both activities manifest some kind of adrenaline. It is the mind’s interpretation of each event that makes all the difference, determining which you perceive as fun and which as frightening.
The brain is an organ, no different than the heart or kidneys. It has a job. It thinks. Our ancestors depended on the mind to protect us, flooding us with flight-or-fight catecholamine activity to help us survive a grizzly bear heading toward us.
But we are no longer living as our ancestors did. There are no wild beasts coming after us as we sleep in a field. Our brains, however, have not adopted to our modern-day world of indoor plumbing and central air.
Our brains aren’t cruel. They are like puppies with a new chew toy. As Dr. Amy Johnson writes (author of Just a Thought):
Our minds are “a very smart machine that isn’t always wise, but it loves you.”
Fear can’t sit still when you face it. It changes form. The emotion we feel is real, but the thought behind it can change. You can talk to your busy mind as you would an overtired child whose had too much sugar:
“I know you [mind] think I’m in danger, but it’s really okay. I got this.”
If you sit long enough with the fear, the fear will morph into something new. The fear of touching an elevator button will change to the fear of getting on the elevator to the fear of allowing the elevator doors to close. Your mind will continue to generate new ways to protect you since that’s what a mind does.
Discomfort shows us “psychological experience is being mistaken for something solid, personal, and true…. When we get lost in our mind’s narrative and temporarily forget who-we-are, which we often do, we feel discomfort. Discomfort is the built-in alarm that alerts us to our misidentification.” Dr. Amy Johnson
Take comfort in the discomfort; allow your beautiful mind do what it is meant to do, knowing it is manufacturing worst-case-scenarios to unnecessarily protect you. Watch it compare, compete, create negative bias, warn, exaggerate, and sit with any negative sensations that may arise within your body. You’ll know you’re on the right track when you notice new fears pop up. Just like the original fear, your higher self knows they are all illusions.
*Source: Just a Thought: A No-Willpower Approach to Overcome Self-Doubt and Make Peace with Your Mind