“How do I get rid of fear in my life?”
That’s probably what’s on your mind right now.
Fear is probably the most crippling emotion. Yes, it keeps you alert and on guard, in some real-life tough situation. But in some situations, like while going for an interview, during a public speech, a first date, it can be dangerous.
Is there a way to overcome it and stop living in fear?
“Fear is a feeling, and feelings are part of basic human nature, its like encoded in the roots of human psychology. No-one can ever fully get rid of it. It’s impossible of being totally a fearless person even for the bravest person on the Earth. But one can overcome his fear at an instant and that what makes him brave.”
On the fantastic Ologies podcast, Poffenroth explained that fears come in two main forms: factual and fictional.
Factual fear comes from an actual threat to your life: a burglar breaks into your home, a car is hurtling toward you, or that mountain lion approaches you in the woods, for example.
Fictional fear, on the other hand, is based in truth but mostly made up in your head: Like you are afraid that you can’t submit your project on time, or you will choke in front of an audience on stage. This fear is in the form of pure adverse emotion anxiety, insecureness, stress etc. for example.
The brain’s emotion center, known as the amygdala, is the problem that reacts the same way to those fictional fears as it does to factual fears. If you spend every day stressed or insecure, you’re putting your body in a constant fear response. Poffenroth explained,
“That’s what I really focus on, how we can change our story with our fictional fears so they aren’t firing up the amygdala so much and we aren’t going into this full stress response.”
RIA stands for recognize, identify, address. In other words, recognize that you’re afraid, identify the fear, and then find a way to cope.
Recognize how you’re feeling. Is your heart beating fast? Are you feeling hot, or breaking out in a cold sweat? Is your mouth dry, or are you feeling some digestive discomfort? If you find these symptoms in you, you get to acknowledge that you’re afraid.
Identify your fear and name it to claim it. Like Beetlejuice, Rumplestiltskin, or Voldemort, naming something can give you power over it. If your fear is fictional coming from anxiety, stress or nervousness, name the feeling or object. Poffenroth says that you can often just stop here, since simply recognizing that something is going on and identifying what it is can be enough to calm you down. It also makes us feel not so alone. It’s just our human body being a human body. It’s not, like, what we would consider ourselves. It’s our brain doing its brain thing.
Address the fear, if you’ve done the first two steps. If it’s a factual fear, this is obviously the point when you should take steps to protect yourself. If it’s a fictional fear, however, there are a number of strategies you can use to overcome it.
You can try box breathing i.e. breathe in for four seconds, hold for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds, repeat as needed. Practice Yoga to relax your mind and find a way out of it. But to get to the root of the problem, it’s essential to face your fear. If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Go and get busy.
Most importantly, don’t ignore it. If you pretend your fear doesn’t exist, your body will keep fighting it with or without you and cause more problems down the line.