How to face your fears

Fear is one of nature’s gifts to aid us in our survival. Without the ability to experience it we would be easy prey to all predatory beings, including some of our fellow humans.  In so-called lower animals fear operates (as does ours) on an instinctive basis, built right into their mammalian brains. They, unlike we humans probably don’t think about their fears, they don’t manufacture them; they simply automatically react to them as nature dictated. Our evolutionary story is different in that we have become self-made heroes, able to intelligently think and out smart, not just hope to out run the dangers in everyday life. However, in the very same minds we’ve used to  invent a world that has freed us from primordial dangers, we can imagine threats to our safety, envision and create danger as full sensory experiences so that we suffer the physical, mental and emotional stress that can kill us as surely as anything attacking us from the outside. The fact is your body doesn’t know the difference between a real or imagined threat. In many respects your body is a mirror of your mind, so what you think is what you get: If you think you are threatened, your entire biological physiological system goes into flight or fight mode.

Too often in modern times fear is a perceptual distortion, based on erroneous or faulty input. Just as your perception of an event determines whether or not it is stressful, so perceived threats can wreak havoc within you and make life horrible for you. It stops you from living a satisfying life; it makes you ill and ill-suited to achieve what you were meant to. So it’s important to learn to differentiate between genuine danger and that which you imagine to be dangerous.

 It’s normal to be afraid when we are being stalked, or physically threatened in some way. Fear then generates energy and gives us the go ahead to do what we need to do to protect ourselves, whether it is to run, hide, take flight or fight.  We can sense danger at times, such as when the hair on the back of our necks rises and goose bumps cover our body. Or when our subconscious tells us “something isn’t quite right here.” These intuitive warnings ought to be heeded. In his brilliant book, “The Gift of Fear” (a must read for everyone) Gavin De Becker advises that we never disregard those subconscious, intuitive and instructive communications; they are survival signals meant to protect you, and they can save your life.  Of course no wise person would ever tell you to ignore your intuitive voices; for they rely on credible evidence construed through known and little known senses that are like radar antennas always scanning your environment. Your subconscious is aware of so many minute details in your environment that your conscious mind is not tuned into, and it lets you know what it makes of a situation; sometimes the conscious mind wants to argue with the message; this can lead to disaster, as Gavin De Becker warns. And you know from experience when you haven’t heeded a warning from within how much you regret it later.

Obviously fear can be your friend or foe.  Being afraid when you are in a burning building is natural, fear of being burned alive gives you the impetus to escape; you cannot safely argue with or ignore any legitimate danger. Many fears are also logically protecting us from irrational risky or foolhardy behaviors.

Fear is our friend when we let it speak its truth to us; ironically, even if the truth is that the fear is based on fiction. You see many fears are manufactured within us, they tell us what if stories; often they are myths that have taken on the character of facts. By imagining and anticipating pain, humiliation, disappointment etc. we create if for ourselves within ourselves.  It is those fears that we must confront and abolish.

 As a child I was often stalked by the ghosts and other beings of my imagination. Admittedly, I was extremely psychically sensitive and aware of things that other people were not, and was often frozen with fear. If I moved or called out I was sure they, my imagined giants and shadows that resembled people and ghosts  would know where I was and get me!

  It was when my mother told me the poem about The Giant that I learned for the first time the power of my own mind (see poem below).  It taught me that when you learn to challenge fear’s powers over you, and face them…look at them from within your evolved mind/brain and determine their validity or lack of it, and their origins, you are on your way to relieving them.  When you confront them with the understanding that since you created them, or they were imbedded in you by someone else, you have the power to overpower them, then you begin to set yourself free.

 So many of my clients have expressed fear of confronting their fears; they fear that in doing so they will have to create whole new ways of relating to themselves and others;  and they will need to accept that their belief systems are faulty and their relationships with others will need to change. This can feel like a daunting task, one fraught with its own imagined dangers: So one of the first things that must become clear is that the energy that you are using to withstand your fears and the consequences of them can be channeled into confronting and resolving them.

It’s a choice on how to use psychic energy and mind space; a choice that many people don’t realize they have available to them.

The question is, do you want to go on being afraid? Or do you want to use the energy that fear has usurped from your life towards living your life more fully and freely? And very importantly, you need to realize that what you fear might happen if you stand up to fear and those who evoked it within you probably won’t.  And even if it does, you can adjust to any changes you might need to make, just as you have adjusted your life to live with and around fear.

Being afraid of being afraid adds to the complex spirals of fear that are part of the phobic malaise. The inner self talk such as, “I’m afraid I’ll have an anxiety attack again,” is an example. One client told me, “I’m afraid when the time comes I’ll be too afraid to deal with the situation, I’ll lose my nerve, and I’m afraid I’ll mess it up.” She articulated well what so many people feel. Compounded fear is a lack of knowledge of our own capabilities and /or negative anticipation of painful events. Fear isn’t always about what it is come; it is about what has been and the belief that the past is prologue.

I have to teach my clients not to be afraid of being afraid.

Roosevelt’s message   “The only thing to fear is fear itself,” is a warning against allowing our fears to paralyze us; not a message to not ever be afraid. Yes, indeed, sometimes fear can paralyze a person. We can’t know for sure in each case what causes a person to stop motion when action of some kind would make more sense. Perhaps it’s a bio physiological mechanistic glitch. We have known in our own experience at times what its like to be too afraid to move, so that even breathing seems to add to the danger of being harmed. It might also be one of instincts decisions to halt all action…to prevent us from making a dangerous move.

It’s the paralyzing fears that are psychologically based that need to be dispelled if you are to move freely in your life and accomplish your goals.  

         So many fears are based on generalizations. For example, “My father beat me when I didn’t please him; therefore all male authority figures will hurt me if I displease them.”  Or, “If I tell him how I really feel he will be angry and leave me.” The beliefs founded in childhood experience, or from emotional pain inflicted in adulthood can ruin a person’s chances of ever living in peace or succeeding in all of their endeavors if we allow them to dominate our lives.

So in order to overcome your fears, you need to use them wisely: Think of fear as a communicator, a messenger warning you, and in order to interpret its message you need to come face to face with it, listen to it carefully, so you can know what it’s telling you.

 I call it processing fear.  In so doing you let your rational mind take charge.  It’s only when you process your fear intelligently that you can begin healing the wounds that evoked a fear response within you.

So what is your fear?  Look at it objectively, open-mindedly. What is it based on?  When you examine your fear  you will discover (correctly) that the it is most likely  based on out dated messages you got from others or from hurts and fears of being hurt, or from imagining being hurt; then you can deal with them in a way that gives you the power to eradicate them.

As I’ve said, fears are often manufactured within our minds: fear of loss, fear of success or failure, fear of not living up to someone else’s expectations, fear of getting sick, are the creative mind working against you when it really evolved to work for you; and extreme fears such as phobias are exaggerated notions of extreme possibilities: Not probability.

Examining your psychological history gives you the clues to solving our own personal fear problems; even if already know where your fears originated, looking at them differently than you have before helps enormously: You know many come from those who raised you, and from a society in which media promotes fear with newscasts that threaten doom, and from challenges of daily life to sustain secure and comfortable living.  It’s those manufactured fears that cause people to withdraw, to experience upset and anxiety about what might happen. It’s those imagined threats that undermine confidence, disrupt intelligent mental processing and cause emotional pain and result in inhibitions that prevent actualization of potential: Also physical damage, because stress causes myriad negative chemical responses in your body, including weakening your immune system and causing life threatening inflammation.

Once we face fear head-on,  we are able to process its information with our intelligent, rational and objective minds, we are then able to teach our poorly educated over reactive emotions how to put them in their proper perspective and let them go. Actually you can use your common sense mind to educate your emotions; it’s a process I use a lot for my clients in my Whole Mind Hypnotherapy processes.

 Here are a few ways you can begin the process of gaining control of your fears.

    Don’t be afraid to confront your fears. Remember fear is telling you something, listen. Question it.  Refuse to let it control you.  When it arises from within you with no objective rational inferences , it is carrying an important deeply personal message. Who gave it that message to bring to you?  Let your fear speak its truth; its truth will be the first step to setting you free.

Don’t tell your self you shouldn’t be afraid, that it’s silly, foolish etc; that only adds another element of stress to what you are already feeling. Most people have a fear of looking or being foolish. Psychologically based fear is no more foolish than the fear generated by a gun at your head. It is a real felt experience. It is simply telling you what you already know deep within your subconscious self.  Be honest. Tell your self, “I have a fear;” acknowledge it.  Question, “What is my fear? What is it telling me?” Another good question, once you’ve challenged your fear is to ask yourself, “If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do?”  Be quiet inside, listen with an open mind. The answers will come, and you can then use them to get moving forward in your life, to being all you can be, to feeling secure being yourself and being with others.

There are many other ways that in hypnotherapy we can facilitate freedom from fear; we can do the healing of emotional wounds… help people develop confidence and teach them how to be in touch with their inner resources. The first step is always to confront the fear, and  and  from being determined  not to continue to suffer anxiety or panic attacks, or have nightmares, or not be able to do what you would like to do.  Admitting it will empower you so you can make the next move towards eliminating it.

And you need to know that you have what you need within you to deal well with your fears and their information from a position of inner strength.

Here is the poem my mother told me. I learned it by heart, and maybe you’d like to do the same.

There came a giant to my door, a giant fierce and strong

His step was heavy on the ground, his arms were ten yards long

He scowled and frowned and shook the ground, I trembled through and through

At length I looked him in the face and cried, “Who cares for you!”

The mighty giant as I spoke grew pale and thin and small

And through his body as t’were smoke I saw the sunshine fall.

Such giants come to strike us dumb, yet weak in every part

They melt before the strong man’s eyes, and fly the true of heart.

TTFN and all the best , always,  from Elaine Kissel


2 Responses to “How to face your fears”

  1. Tonie Martinette Says:

    WOW, timely for me Elaine Kissel. I’ve been held up by fears forever… and since I read this blog have done what you recommended. It has already given me a feeling of ability to conquer them . Love the poem. Will copy and post it on my computer as my screen saver. Thanks a million.
    Tonie Martinette.

    • Dr. Elaine Kissel Says:

      Tonie, you haven’t had your fears forever, you have them only until you face ,and as you say conquer them. Forever is always. Now you are going to put your fears in the past. Keep me informed about your progress.
      I like the idea to make the poem a screen saver. It could be a life saver!
      .From Elaine Kissel

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