Written by: Mike Oglesbee, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
Fear is one of the most debilitating experiences in life. It can disrupt your plans, cause you to go through unnecessary hardships, and cripple even the strongest people. Many common struggles are expressions of fear, including anxiety and depression. Our most common reaction to fear is avoidance. We will do almost anything to get away from it, even if it means destroying ourselves and others in the process.
While fear is a natural part of the human experience, you can mitigate it with a few simple steps and a greater understanding of its purpose. Though painful and sometimes difficult, fear is designed to assist us. It shows us our mental limits and keeps us safe at times. The problem occurs when our fears are propelled by perceived dangers rather than real dangers.
Imagine a gazelle peacefully grazing on some grass in the wild. It looks around and notices a lion running towards it. It immediately enters a state of hypervigilance and runs to safety. Once it has reached a safe space, the hypervigilance dissipates, and it returns to grazing on the grass. The fear response turned off automatically once the threat or danger was over.
As humans, our fear response can turn on by our thoughts. A real threat or danger doesn’t have to be present; only an idea of a threat or danger will activate it. This is why learning to think differently is the first of the four steps to overcoming your fears.
#1 Thinking through a filter
The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life. Many have been conditioned into a passive rather than an active state of thinking. Imagine driving down the highway, and a thought about a recent news article you read about a bridge collapsing pops into your mind. Then you realize that you’re coming up on a bridge shortly and begin experiencing stories in your mind that the bridge along your route collapses as you drive over it. Down the rabbit hole your mind goes, and before you know it, you’re experiencing fear and anxiety about your upcoming experience.
Developing a strategic process to filter your thinking is an effective solution to overcoming your fears. With a greater understanding that the purpose of fear is to help you somehow, you can begin to implement a new association with it when it arises. Imagine in every fear is a gift waiting for you. To receive the gift, you must step into the fear and look for it. This is referred to as a growth-oriented mindset.
A growth-oriented mindset is cultivated by seeking lessons and growth in every situation. It allows you to not only go through your struggles in life but to experience personal growth through them as well. Think about a time when you stepped into your fear. Maybe there was an upcoming performance you had to give or an event you were nervous about. You likely came out on the other side better than when you stepped in. Maybe you gained more confidence or believed in yourself a little more.
Opportunities to become better, stronger, and more resilient lay dormant in every fear you encounter. It’s your job to find and activate them. Begin to ask the following questions when facing your fears:
What lessons could this situation be teaching me?
If I were to step into this situation, what gifts or opportunities may be waiting for me?
What would my most empowered self do in this situation?
How can I use this fear to become better?
#2 Writing them out
Not enough can be said about the power of writing. It’s talked about in many of the most famous self-help books and by many leaders in psychology today. One of the most significant benefits of writing out your fears and all the stories behind them is viewing them objectively. This allows you to see the bigger picture of what’s going on, which gives you greater power to break it down and replace it.
Imagine a friend coming to you for help with a fear they have. They tell you the details and the struggles they’re experiencing. Without being emotionally involved in their story, you could probably give them some good advice on overcoming it. You tap into this power of objective thinking by writing things out.
Once you’ve written out all your thoughts and emotions concerning your fear, take a moment to read through what you’ve written out. Process each statement you wrote through the growth-oriented filter from step one above. See the lessons and opportunities to grow and become better. Keep an open mind while doing this, and think objectively, as if you were helping your friend work through their fear. Write out every opportunity and gift to grow and become better that you can find for each statement, and move to step three.
#3 Visualizing them in a new way
Now that you have written out and dissected your fear and its growth and opportunities, it’s time to activate a new story in your mind. Visualization is a powerful tool that can help you reassociate the meaning of things you experience. Your mind can’t differentiate between what’s real and what’s not.
For example, suppose you play a story out repeatedly in your mind about that bridge collapsing. In that case, your mind will create defense mechanisms to deter you from driving over it. This may include anxiety, panic attacks, or other forms of fear debilitating you. Remember, there doesn’t have to be a real danger for the mind to create defense mechanisms, only a perceived threat.
Using visualization to teach your mind a new story based on your answers in step two can help you change the association from fear to opportunity. Your mind desires to move toward opportunity and can be a powerful replacement for your fears. When using visualization, be sure to include as much of each physical sense as you can.
Using the example of the bridge, see yourself driving over the bridge from the new perspective of confidence, peace, and whatever growth opportunities you found from step two. Hear the sounds around you as you drive over it. Notice the internal dialogue of telling yourself positive things, such as confidence and strength. Tune into your body and notice how you feel, such as calm, relaxed, and confident. Imagine that fragrance if there are any smells, such as an air freshener. And if there’s a taste in your mouth, such as gum or candy, taste it. Perform it in your mind precisely as you want it to be in real life.
#4 Take action and trust yourself
Once you’ve completed steps one through three, it’s time to take action! Nothing changes without taking action. This is the step that brings your new ideal experience to life. You’ve already mentally rehearsed this, so now it’s time to trust yourself and the mental training you have performed.
If you experience nervousness or fear, remember your ideal outcome and the growth opportunities you will experience. Trust yourself and your resilience. Remember that once you face that fear, it will no longer control you. Step into it and remember this is an opportunity to become stronger and better. Go for it! You got this!
Mike Oglesbee, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Mike Oglesbee is an author and a transformative coach who has been helping people eradicate their fears and live more effective lives since 2011. His diverse, unique background and experience with struggles and debilitating fears, both personally and professionally, have led him to create a robust system and philosophy that addresses the root causes of these disturbances. he devotes much of his time as a coach, mentor, and advisor, to teaching and helping people understand themselves in a more profound way that allows them to step into their power and make the changes they desire in their lives.