A Coaching Power Tool created by Tracey Tischler
(Health and Wellness Coach, UNITED STATES)
Fear stops a lot of us from doing so many things. It is defined as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
foreboding, apprehension, consternation, dismay, dread, terror, fright, panic, horror, trepidation, qualm.
courage, security, calm, intrepidity. (dictionary.reference.com).
The one thing that amazes me most about fear is that it can be imagined. Meaning that we can have fear that isn’t causing a threat at this moment, or may never cause an actual threat, but can stop a lot of us dead in our tracks and prevent us from following our dreams! On the other hand is courage, which is an antonym of fear.
Courage is defined as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. (dictionary.reference.com).
Both definitions (fear and courage) come from the same reference, but I would have to disagree with the definition of courage. Just because we do something brave or face a difficulty, I don’t think we ever really face it without an element or some form of fear. I think we do it in spite of the fear.
Real fear is usually immediate and in the present moment. It brings up our fight or flight response which is our body’s primitive, automatic, inborn response that prepares the body to “fight” or “flee” from perceived attack, harm or threat to our survival. Some examples of an immediate, real fear are:
(1) being in the woods walking and happening upon a mother bear who’s cubs are close by;
(2) a direct threat from another person to cause bodily harm;
(3) waking up in the middle of the night with an intruder in your house. You get the idea. Its fear that is in the now, happening at a moment giving you the immediate feeling of staying to fight or fleeing from the situation.
Imagined fear is something that you conjure up in your mind. Something that isn’t happening now but may or may not happen in the future. The fear seems real and can cause the same fight or flee response as a real fear that is happening in the moment. Some examples of imagined fear are:
(1) asking someone out, fearing that if they ask that you will automatically be rejected;
(2) not swimming in the ocean because you are afraid of shark attacks;
(3) not riding in an elevator or going into tall buildings because of what happened on September 11th.
A lot of times imagined fear is based on either a past experience when something happened or didn’t turn out the way that you wanted so you have imagined that every or any time it comes up again, you will have the same outcome. It can also be related to experiences that you have only heard of like not wanting to swim in the ocean because you know that people have been attacked by sharks — no matter how small the likelihood of it is.
Being courageous is something someone does in spite of fear instead of the lack of fear. Actually, if there wasn’t fear involved in an act of courage, it wouldn’t take courage to do it. A lot of times when we think of courageous people, we never envision ourselves that way. It’s always someone who deals with the potential for courageous situations daily like police officers, fire fighters and soldiers.
In reality, all of us do courageous things all the time, sometimes daily, but we just aren’t recognized for them because no one else knows about them. For example, finally leaving an abusive partner or spouse, deciding to go back to school, becoming a single parent, refusing to be taken advantage of anymore, having a painful conversation with someone that you have been putting off for a long time but needed to be done, working a job that doesn’t match up to your education because you can’t find a job in your field to support your family. There are so many things that individuals do every day that are courageous but never take the time to acknowledge it. Think for a minute, what have you recently done that has been courageous?
Figuring out if the fear is real or imagined (unfounded)
Here are some questions to ask yourself to find out if your fear is real or imagined:
- Is it inherent fear or man made fear?
- Is your fear based on fact or fiction?
- Is it probable or improbable? Meaning, it is really likely to come true?
- Can anything be done to diminish the risk of the fear? For example, preparation.
- Is the fear personal or impersonal? Are you afraid of your abilities, or lack thereof, or someone else’s reaction or response?
- Is what you are fearing necessary or unnecessary? For example, is it someone you want to confront but are afraid to? And, if you don’t, will the fear continue? Sooner or later the fear must be addressed..
- Is it fear of moving forward? Is it the unknown that you fear and therefore find it hard to move forward?
Having courage to question the fear
If you look closely at your fears you will find that a vast majority of them never come to pass and those that do aren’t as bad as you thought they would be. This is where courage comes in to question the fear. When you are confronted with a fear, the first thing to do is to stop and take some deep breathes. Breathing relaxes the body and removes the tension that the fear is creating.
Now, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where is the fear coming from?
- Is it true?
- Is it based in reality?
- If the fear were to become reality, would the experience really be as bad as you have been thinking it would be?
- Can you reframe the fear and is it possible that the experience may actually help you gain something from facing the feared event?
- Is it possible that if I change my thinking now I can actually create what I want instead of being fearful?
By always thinking about our fear, we actually start creating actions based on our way of thinking. If we can reframe our thoughts about our fear, it will create new actions based on our reframed thoughts about the fear, putting them in a better or even positive light. An example of this would be having a partner but we are always fearful that they will leave us. So, we become controlling, wanting to know their every move and whereabouts. Do this doesn’t actually ease the fear and bring the partner closer, it actually does the exact opposite . . . the fear pushes them away — the exact thing that we are trying to avoid.
If we live our lives with open hearts and great expectations, our actions will reflect that and things that we want will start manifesting themselves instead of repelling them when it is based on fear. It’s like spending time with negative people. When we do, we tend up being or feeling negative ourselves. But, if we surround ourselves with positive people, we become hopeful and joyful and open to all things good. Instead of living in fear, face your fear and be the positive person that other people want to be around!