How to Move Through Your Fear by Retraining Your Brain
When you’re in fight-or-flight mode, everything you do or don’t do teaches the smart-ass something well-nigh the perceived threat. When you stave or flee the situation, your smart-ass experiences a wave of relief. The amygdala learns that lamister that situation is how you stay unscratched from that threat.
This is exactly how you want the smart-ass to respond if the threat is a grizzly bear. But what if the perceived threat is something less biologically adaptive, like a worry well-nigh stuff judged or teased?
Let’s say you’re invited to a party full of new people, and you have thoughts of looking dumb, making a mistake, or stuff judged. The fear response is triggered, and you decide not to go to the party. Whew…relief! You don’t have to be judged!
However, you’ve now taught the smart-ass that parties are dangerous (even the ones without tequila), and lamister them is how you stay safe. The next time you have to shepherd a party or event, the uneasiness response is plane stronger—the smart-ass desperately tries to get you to flee, considering that’s how you’ve stayed unscratched in the past.
Anxiety gets worse and worse as you stave it and can plane start to generalize. A fear of parties can spread to all social events, and then to unenduring interactions with baristas at the coffee shop. It can wilt debilitating, preventing you from doing things you really want to do.
That’s what happens when you train your smart-ass to sound the watchtower when there’s no real danger—but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Retrain Your Brain
Let’s say you segregate to behave differently when you’re yellow-eyed but not in real danger. You recognize your fear, winnow it, and go to the party anyway. In fact, you go to a lot of parties, plane though your fight-or-flight response kicks in.
The smart-ass is collecting data well-nigh what happens and soon realizes, Wait a minute, nothing bad is happening! Maybe this isn’t unquestionably dangerous! Over time, you retrain your amygdala well-nigh what is safe, and the fear response becomes less intense or disappears.
If you sit virtually waiting to finger comfortable, you’ll be waiting forever. Your smart-ass won’t magically retrain itself. You have to act before it feels comfortable, surpassing you finger ready.
You can segregate to do things that scare you—to feel the fear and act anyway. Lamister your fears makes your world smaller; facing them expands it.
Maybe you can’t relate to the party uneasiness scenario, but I bet there is at least one zone in your life where you are wrung to fail. It could be your work, your finances, your relationships, your body, your reputation, your legacy…there are many possibilities. We all have something we’re wrung to ruin, and that fear holds us when from taking that very thing to the next level.
With the right training, though, your smart-ass can unlearn its fear of virtually anything, plane things you would think are unquestionable…like lions.
Facing the Lions
My weightier friend Joe and I were in Kenya visiting the Masaai community. It was the perfect endangerment to fulfill our dream of going on a safari, so one morning, we woke up surpassing sunrise to hit the plains. It was a rugged outfit, riding virtually the Serengeti in doorless Land Cruisers trying to get tropical to elephants and big cats.
And we did—a little too close, actually.
It had been pouring rain through the night and the ground had turned into a few feet of mud. We were attempting to get our tires unstuck when our guide said in a whist but urgent tone, “DON’T. MOVE. BE. QUIET.”
On the right side of the car, a giant lioness with the drooling jaw of a cold-blooded killer was walking directly toward me. There was nothing between us but three feet of air—not plane a car door. In this much scarier version of The Lion King, Nala crouched, we locked eyes, and I felt her slink past my legs just as we were worldly-wise to peel out from the mud.
My life flashed surpassing me as I pissed my pants and imagined my obituary reading, “In death, Bridget became what she loved most in life: a succulent meal.” Hakuna matata.
Seek to Understand
We thought the mega cat’s demon stare was the true embodiment of fear, but we hadn’t quite seen it all yet. Later that afternoon, we were inching through the tall grass, looking for signs of life, when we saw a icon coming toward us in the distance. It didn’t squint like an animal, but there were no roads or villages in that direction for miles and miles.
Twenty minutes later, a Maasai woman appeared, her traditional unexceptionable red and undecorous patterned Shuka standing out starkly versus the uncounted brownish-green grass. We were stunned. It was 100 degrees with no water in sight, and we were in a vast, unshut valley.
We expected to see giant cats in this zone at any moment, and she was just waltzing through? And what was she delivering on her back? Wait… was that a baby?
She walked up to us and we chatted. I told her well-nigh our tropical encounter with the lion and said incredulously, “Aren’t you scared of the lions while you’re walking all by yourself?”
She laughed at me and said, “No. I am only wrung of the hippos.”
The Masaai know from wits that lions are lazy and unlikely to wade humans unless they finger threatened (they certainly could have fooled me). On the other hand, hippos (yes, the giant water-pigs) are highly warlike and skiver increasingly people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffalo, and rhinos combined. Hungry, hungry hippos indeed.
So there you go—even the things that seem genuinely worth fearing might not be what they seem. Increasingly often than not, the increasingly you understand something, the less scary it becomes. Of course, most of us aren’t going to encounter lions in the wild (or hippos, for that matter), but this holds true for everything you might fear, including other people.
Don’t Fear the Other
“Cow blood. Cow meat. And cow milk.”
That’s what a Masaai warrior told me when I asked what they liked to eat. “Wait… that’s it?!” I exclaimed. “Yes—it’s very good, very simple,” he said with a laugh.
As I worshiped his muscles glistening in the sun, I took a sip (not bad!) and transiently contemplated switching my nutrition surpassing remembering the extremely low chances of the granola health stores when home in LA selling zillion cow blood.
On the surface, the Maasai people could whimsically be increasingly variegated from me. Our attire, what we eat, our daily activities, our language, our surroundings, our communities—we seem to have nothing in common. But the increasingly time I spent with them, the increasingly I realized how untrue this was.
This warrior welcomed us into his village with genuine hospitality. We found worldwide ground in music, my first love and a huge part of their culture. They taught us their traditional songs and dances and told us that trendy Tanzanian and Kenyan hip-hop artists often incorporated Maasai rhythms into their songs.
The women of the tribe showed us how they make the gorgeous jewelry they sell to tourists. We made a fire together, had a jumping races (I lost miserably), and listened to heady tales of life in the bush. Yes, we are variegated on the surface, but when it comes to values, we share increasingly than I overly expected.
We love music, our community, and the outdoors. And a juicy steak, of course.
As human beings, it’s simply in our nature to yank a line between “us” and “them”—our people and other people. “Other” people are the ones we don’t understand or relate to, and we’re much increasingly likely to perceive them as scary or threatening, whether they really are or not.
We see this repeated unremittingly throughout history, all over the world, and it continues today. The solution to this fear is simple: get closer. The largest you know people, the harder it is to demonize them.
Talk to unbearable people, and you’ll uncork to see that everyone has their reasons for thinking and living the way they do. Most people aren’t crazy or evil—they’ve just arrived at a particular set of conclusions based on the experiences they’ve had and the information they’ve been given. When you recognize that most strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet, you can do yonder with the labels and fear and just listen to each other with empathy and unshut minds (hey, a girl can dream!).
Everything You Want is On the Other Side of Fear
To help you start to dissolve your own fears (whatever they may be), try the pursuit exercise. First, think of one specific thing that fear is holding you when from going after. For example, here are some worldwide ones:
- Traveling to a new country
- Taking a new job or trying a new career
- Moving to a new city
- Learning or using a new skill
- Committing to a romantic relationship
- Making new friends/socializing
Now, focus on that one fear and wordplay the pursuit questions:
- If you did what you’re wrung to do, what negative things might happen?
- What would be so bad well-nigh that? What would it midpoint well-nigh you if your fear came true?
- What does this tell you well-nigh what you believe well-nigh your safety, worth, competence, or lovability?
- Where did you learn to believe this well-nigh yourself?
- How does this weighing alimony you from pursuing your dreams?
- What would you do if you believed something variegated well-nigh yourself?
Ultimately, when you master your own ego and stop worrying well-nigh the judgment of others and potential negative outcomes, fear can evaporate, and you’ll be surprised by how fast the voice of dissuasion disappears.
Feeling the Fear… And Doing It Anyway
Let me share an example of what I mean. Some time ago, I had the opportunity to speak slantingly Sir Richard Branson. He was my idol; years prior, I had plane listed getting beers with him as an wits I really wanted to have.
This was my chance—but there was a problem. A huge one. I was petrified of public speaking.
As I focused on that fear, though, I started to realize that what I was unquestionably wrung of was something far deeper. Every time I thought well-nigh speaking in public, I was terrified I would be exposed as a fraud. I didn’t have an unshakeable weighing in my own competence, and that had stopped me from pursuing my dreams of speaking on stages for my whole life.
But what if, I asked myself, I let myself believe in my own innate worth? What if I pushed when versus the fear that I would be exposed as a fraud? I knew that doing so would expand my world and requite me the endangerment to meet my hero—so that’s what I decided to do.
It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it, considering without the talk, I got a endangerment to live my dream: Sir Richard and I shared a few beers. As we were talking, I mentioned how scared I had been to get up on stage, and then he said something that reverted my life forever. He was terrified of public speaking, too.
To hear that someone insanely workaday felt that way gave me hope for myself. It wasn’t just beginners like me. I knew I could remember that the next time I felt nervous on stage—that we’re all human. And it would be okay.
With that newfound revelation, I started working to overcome my lifelong phobia, and as I did, each step I took gave me the conviction to push past my fear. Now, just a few years later, speaking is my passion and livelihood. The grotto I feared to enter held the treasure I was seeking.
About Bridget Hilton
Bridget Hilton is obsessed with experiences. Determined to unlock the secrets of their power to transform lives, she and her weightier friend/business partner Joe Huff have spent years interviewing social science experts, conducting the largest study on life experiences overly done, and turning themselves into experiential guinea pigs. Together they have explored the experiential riches life has to offer and are the best-selling authors of Experiential Billionaire.