Facing Your Worst Fears
Fearing things, situations, persons or certain objects in life convinces us to runaway and avoid the situations which we think may bring us close to the things that we are afraid of. To avoid such encounters, we behave sometimes strange, sometimes aggressively, sometimes we are depressed by thinking that we cannot live a carefree and fear free life as people around us do.
In this article, we will talk about the root cause of fears and how we can manage it.
Fear arises from:
Fear like all other human emotions is a part of normal human psychological make up. But it is actually 'the fear of facing the things we are afraid of' that is troublesome. For instance consider which one do you really fear more? A lion in the cage in zoo or a lion walking in the jungle. Though the element 'lion' remains the same animal in both the situations but we take our imagination to think that "What if it attacks?" , "What if I may not be able to run?" . If you analyze it closely, you would find that fear is actually stemming from thoughts about situations we believe we would be able to handle.
As like for all other feelings arising from our own thoughts, same is true for controlling fears i.e. change your thinking pattern and your fears would be vanished. If we take a review on how and why we start to fear things, we find that:
- People who think too much are more prone to develop dears as they create more situations in their mind which they think they would not able to handle.
- People who lack self confidence in themselves are more likely to have fears.
- People who relate their happiness and joys to external objects and people such as having a good relation ensures happiness and losing one means utter destruction. Such people constantly worry and fear that they may be left alone and then they would be miserable.
- People who do not have firm faith and believe in God that everything is under Allah's will and not even an electron in atom can move if God does not will.
-People who have been exposed in their childhood to some traumatic experience leaving bad memories in their mind.
-Children whose mothers had complicated and stressful pregnancies. Even though the child may not be born physically into the world, stress taken by mother during pregnancy affects the psychology of the child.
How to manage:
The first thing is to 'set yourself free'.
Leave thinking about:
1. "Situations you fear may happen": and you would not be able to handle. The truth is that fear has no existence, it only exists in your mind. Fear is basically increased anticipation and a perception of worst things to happen. If we analyze the situation, as we talked earlier that people who think too much are more prone to develop certain fears. Fear actually lives in past or future and not in the present as in the present situation you are not afraid of anything. When you think of something ahead or behind the present, it is then you develop fearing things. When we actually are facing a tough situation, we are busy in making decisions and not fearing things, hence those questions that we put in front of ourselves such as "What if this happens, how would I manage it?" are never put in front of ourselves when we are facing the situations in present.
Obviously this is not going to happen to you in present life, so why think and waste time on such thoughts?
Let's take an example of a girl who always feared the needle prick and was avoiding the extraction of the tooth as she had to get anesthetic injection. The tooth though was painful but the girl could bear the tooth ache and not the needle prick. According to her she knew that she won't be able to bear the needle prick. When it was asked if she had any experience of local anesthetic injection, she stated that it was her first time. The next logical question was that if she never experienced it before then how can she KNOW that it was going to be unbearable? It's only and only in the mind. When the syringe was inserted comfortably and the tooth pulled out, all her fear was gone as she "Understood and experienced" the actual process and felt happy and relieved both from the dental pain and the psychological agony.
When we actually face the situations that we had thought would be painful, they are never that painful. After passing through that situation, we not only become more bold as we not face the truth but also happier as our own made imprisonment to a happier life breaks down releasing us free.
2. "Things you consider vital for life": Stop thinking about and wishing strongly for the things that you do not want to lose ever ever in life. The more tightly you would try to grip them, more fears will develop in your mind that what if this happens, what if that happens. Let go of all the things that you do not want to lose and you would be set free.
Be neutral and get rid of the desires to hold relations tightly in your hands even if it hurts just because you fear the break up. A girl was constantly being befooled and made fun of in front of her class fellows by her boyfriend, she bore it all because she feared that she won't be able to live happily and survive on her own if the guy left her so she kept on bearing all the painful words and events. Finally they broke up and she claims that breaking up from him was a relief and actually an event that made her more stronger.
3."Past and the future": Leave recalling events of the past or forecasting the future. Only present time is in your hands and 'we only live in present'. Everything apart from present situation has no existence. Past is dead and if you experienced some unpleasant situation in the past, it does not mean that you would have to face it again in the same way with you being 'simply helpless' which you are not. In past you were not as mature and big as you are now but today you can handle things very well. Similarly forecasting future and fearing it in the present life is going to spoil not only your present life but also make you more depressed and introvert.
Remember again when we actually are facing the situation, we are never afraid rather we act wise.
4. "Self esteem": Do not discourage yourself or think yourself as some inferior being. You are created by God so can God's creation be ever inferior? No you are the most wonderful creation and since He created you, He would protect you too and do best for you. It is true that sometimes unpleasant events do happen but think again, have they not brought such vital lesson and valuable experience for us?
When you feel that 'it's gonna be tough' , say to yourself 'there's no harm in trying and everyone does it all the time so am I going to do it'.
Imagine the first man to ever take a journey in aero plane or the man who went in the space? If you were that person, how would you have behaved?
Actually life is to experience different sort of things and if we keep on fearing things, we actually are not 'enjoying life'. " A ship in harbor is safe but harbor is not what ships are made for". So set yourself free.
Tell yourself that you are most strong person, brave and confident. Understand the thing that you think is going to be a bit hard and then start doing in. A thing that cannot be done once or twice can be done in subsequent tries. Remember Edison ( inventor of electric bulb) quotes " I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work" and "If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." So the point is "don't give up, you are meant to be successful and be master of everything, it's just the matter of believing" coz in the end you would win.
3 simple steps to reduce fear:
1. Understand your fear-- Analyze it:
It's nothing more than a thought that you create in your mind. Sit down, completely relax and analyze your fear in detail. If possible, write the associated feelings on paper or draw them on paper to visualize it in greater detail.
One important thing worth mentioning is that some people have more tendency to get upset and anxious and it is attributed to the high levels of sympathetic over activity (part of nervous system describing our behavior in situations involving Fear, Fight or Flight with manifestations such as increased heart beat, dry mouth, dilated pupil etc) for such people, daily exercise will help reducing the sympathetic over activity.
2. Making fun:
Take a paper and pen and make funny pictures of the things or people you are afraid of. Either spoil their faces of appearances or beat them or kill them in the drawing proving the fact that you are more stronger than them. It has been found useful in dissipating the angry feelings as well.
3. Constant and step wise exposure:
Starting from the very simple picture of things that you are not afraid of , proceed to the picture of things you are minimally afraid, keep watching them and when you are over viewing it for instance after 20-25 minutes, switch to the picture of object you are a bit more afraid of than the previous. Keep viewing it, having prolonged exposure to the things will make you customized and you would no longer be afraid from those.
Remember to constantly tell yourself that you are brave and strong. Have firm faith in God and He would save you. Do regular exercise and tell yourself that you are a survivor without the need to depend on false supports. Live in the present and accept life as it is".
Written by Dr. Muhammad Wasif Haq, Islamabad, Pakistan.
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