Imagine that there is a huge tyrannosaurus rex standing over you. Drool drips from its mouth onto your head. It is hungry, and you are very much on the menu. What do you do? My guess is that no matter what you do, your time on this planet is up. But this is not a scenario to be afraid of. Not unless you’ve just invented a time-machine of course. T-rex’s died out almost 70 million years ago. So this is one situation that we need not fear.
Most people’s fears are a little bit more realistic. Fear of violence, fear of illness, money worries, fear of being alone, fear of death, fear of failure, fear of not being accepted socially, or even a fear of God. No matter what you are afraid of, if you feel fear it can be very debilitating. Fear often stops people doing the things in their lives that they want to do, or makes them do things that they don’t want to do. So what can we do about alleviating or mitigating our fears?
Our first and most important tool is understanding that we have power over our own thinking. Like it or not, we are responsible for how we feel, how we act, and what we believe. The good thing about being responsible for these things is that, if we are responsible we can do something about a situation we find ourselves in. Now this doesn’t mean I am saying that you are responsible for being in that situation. You might be, or you might not be, but at the very least you are responsible for doing something about your situation. Even if that thing is simply limited to choosing how you feel. Viktor Frankl spent several months in the Auschwitz death camp during World War II. And despite this experience he maintained that he could still choose how to feel about being there, to quote Frankl “the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”
We can also seek to rationalise our fears away. Our emotions, including fear come from what we believe. If you can change your beliefs about things that you are afraid of, then you can mitigate, reduce, or eliminate your fears. When I was about nine years old I was afraid that the Loch Ness Monster was going to come down from Scotland to Bradford, where I then lived, and eat me. As my parents pointed out, whether it even existed in the first place or not, the likelihood of it making such a journey was, shall we say, somewhat remote. And as I thought about that even at nine years of age I had to admit that what I believed was a bit silly. Some of our fears can be rationalised like this. Use the sense of feeling fear positively. Notice the fear and ask yourself “What do I have to believe about myself to feel this fear?” bring that into your awareness and rationalise it. For every fear you can think of there is someone else on this planet for whom that thing holds no power over them. Be like them too.
There are some things in life around which a degree of caution is recommended. If you are faced with a situation that you may be afraid of then take sensible precautions before taking action. Do not gamble more than you are prepared to lose. When I cross a road I look both ways first. I am not afraid of crossing the road, but I know that it can be a dangerous activity. So I take some time to make reasonable precautions before I proceed. Do this in other areas of your life too.
Finally remember that you have a built in safety mechanism to help you. This is your ‘fight, flight, or freeze’ instinct, it is hardwired in. And I do appreciate that it won’t always save you, but most of the time it will. Those of you who have been in situations where this instinct has activated will know that you get a dump of adrenaline, and you act. Only afterwards when you are then safe do you feel an emotion. Fear doesn’t protect you, your instincts do. Just maybe not from a T-rex though.
“Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” John Wayne