Have you ever heard the acronym for Fear?
Take a second and read that again.
What comes to mind when you think about fear that way? If you take your understanding of fear out of the picture and you accept that the feeling you associate with fear is based on your false expectations appearing real…...how would your life be different?
I watched this great TED talk not too long ago that described the impact of our mind on our body. To illustrate a point, the speaker asked the crowd to close their eyes and imagine they are holding a lemon in their hand. She then instructed the audience to bring the “lemon” to their nose and smell it. Next she asked them to take a bite of the “lemon.” If you do this exercise on your own right now (go on, no one's watching!) you will most likely have the same response the audience did - they started to salivate at the idea of biting a lemon! That's proof right there that our mind is so powerful!
The speaker's example illustrates how our mind is powerful enough to dictate our reality, and the rest of our body responds in kind.
So imagine this- instead of holding a lemon you are facing something you fear. If you do this exercise you’ll notice your body starts to respond accordingly. You might notice your breath is coming faster or your heart rate rises.
The point is, you don’t need to bite a lemon for your body to experience those sensations, and you don’t have to be experiencing fear to feel it.
We do this to ourselves all the time. We recognize something that makes us feel afraid and we don’t question it.
We just allow the fear to exist and we either hide from it, fight it, or try and shut it out.
But what if we didn’t have to?
PURPOSE OF FEAR
If you want to upgrade your relationship with fear you need to first understand the Purpose of Fear. Evolutionarily, this is a reaction that was developed to warn our primitive ancestors about predators or dangers so they could survive. But the reality is, these days most of us aren’t faced with these life-threatening dangers anymore, but somehow we still suffer from fear influencing our lives, why?
OUR ABILITY TO ADAPT
One of the most amazing things about the human body is its ability to adapt. Think about when it’s really cold or really hot, at first you recognize the intensity of the weather, but with some time your body acclimates.
Our fear response has done the same thing. Our fear response has adapted to respond not only to physical dangers but perceived psychological dangers as well. That adaptation might seem minor, but the response tends to be much greater. When you live with this adaptation that makes it possible for fear to be looming around any corner (within your mind). Just look at the spike in mental health conditions. According to Mental Health America, 8 in 10 people suffer from anxiety and depression.
Back in the Stone Age, when we were only dealing with physical dangers like predators and the elements, our physiology would get to work, leading us to fight or flight. But after the immediate danger was over, the body would return to its neutral state. But many of us live in a heightened state of stress, meaning we’ve trained our bodies to recognize stressors the same way we used to recognize life-threatening dangers. That means that our fear response is constantly being activated by perceived threats that are really just in our heads, leading us to spin around thoughts of fear all day or even months. It can be exhausting! Sound familiar?
CHALLENGE YOUR FEARS
At its core, fear’s intention is to warn us of something dangerous. The surrounding suffering - we do that to ourselves. We give our fear power by believing fear is real, when it’s not. With the understanding that our fear now responds to perceived psychological threats and recognizing how powerful our mind is we can alter our experience of fear by challenging it.
We never question fear, when it pops up we surrender our control and give in. Why? Probably because most of us were never taught to challenge our emotional states. When we feel them, we give in. Thus it’s really a simple solution, question and challenge your fear. Break it down using the acronym, starting with false expectations. What are the false expectations? What about those expectations makes you feel doubt or uncertainty? Where did those expectations come from? Etc. Now let’s dive into the second half, appearing real. How do you know this reality will happen? What proof or evidence do you have to support this false reality? Etc.
What I have found with my clients is when they SLOW DOWN long enough to give themselves space to challenge their fear, it limits their suffering and it restores power within themselves. It’s easier for them to accept fear as a warning sign instead of a stop sign. They can look at the perceived fear more intellectually to understand why fear popped up then choose how much to lean into it based on the challenging questions they asked.
WHY IT MATTERS
So why does it matter? Well first off, the experience of fear kind of sucks. It’s not a pleasant state and for most people fear pops up in random moments daily. Whether it be someone wanting to fit in, or someone who’s afraid to reach out for help, we are facing fear daily.
The problem with that is fear is also present at some of our greatest opportunities to shine. If you’re an athlete you might feel fear when you take the big shot, or if you are in a relationship you might feel fear before having a really hard conversation. But if you can challenge your fear and take the big shot you might get the rare opportunity to bask in a moment of glory that you will remember your whole life. If you have the courage to challenge your fear and have that fearful conversation with your partner you might open yourself up to a deeper level of love, understanding and connection than you’ve ever felt before.
How we experience fear is a choice! You can give into the fearful thoughts and let it take over possibly limiting your life OR you can challenge your fear. You can accept that fear really is false expectations appearing real and redirect your energy to accept fear as a warning sign. Then choose to look at both sides of the warning sign. Understand that false expectations can appear real but also consider what you would gain if you embrace courage and faced this fear….For on the other side of fear, life holds some of the most rewarding moments of our life experience.
So are you going to let fear control you or do you want to be the creator of your own experience?