Knowing how to overcome fear can be what makes the difference between leading a life limited to the comfort zone or launching into the goals that can really make us win in happiness. No change for the better comes without effort, and part of it must be oriented towards overcoming those thresholds of uncertainty and doubt that impose so much.
In this article we will review some simple guidelines that will help us to overcome fear and that, while they will not eliminate it completely, will cushion its effects.
Overcoming Fear in Everyday Life
Fear is one of the basic emotions of the human being, and its importance is due to the fact that, in many situations, it is useful to us. As unpleasant as it may be to experience in first person, this psychological phenomenon is what leads us to avoid many situations that carry a real risk, either because they carry a high possibility of producing physical harm, or because they can harm us in any other way.
Of course, fear does not have to be a mechanism that allows us to perfectly guess which situations will really harm us, but this is inevitable. That’s not the problem. The bad thing comes when we unconsciously use fear as an excuse not to leave our comfort zone, or when, due to certain learned dynamics, we internalize the idea that we should be afraid of certain things that do not carry such a high risk .
What to do in these situations? These tips will help you.
1. Learn the logic of emotional memory
Much of the fear we feel is explained through emotional memory. This is an information storage system that has to do exclusively with emotions , and not with concepts that can be easily explained with words. It is known that emotions are processed in a different way from, for example, our memories of what we had for dinner yesterday, and this means that sometimes they are associated with new experiences despite the fact that we have “memorized” them in totally different contexts.
Therefore, be clear that it is not your fault that you are afraid. This is part of a brain mechanics that is unconscious and that we cannot control directly . Our efforts should be directed at creating the possibilities that fear is no longer associated with certain situations that are not really dangerous, or are not as dangerous as we perceive them.
2. Get closer to what you fear
This is the logic followed in the psychological treatments applied to phobias , but it also serves for non-pathological fears. To know how to control your fear you must be clear that you will have to suffer a little, but only just.
This means that you will have to make progressive approaches to those situations that you fear, in order to gradually go towards more difficult situations for you. At first, you will approach these environments or actions a little, then go a little further , then even further… The difficulty curve always has to be upwards, but you will have more and more preparation.
It is good that in advance you establish a gradation, ordering those situations from those that cause less fear to those that generate more fear, and that you establish deadlines in which you must achieve each of these objectives.
3. Let yourself be helped
As we have seen, fear is nothing to be ashamed of, so there is no reason why you should avoid getting help. Given the irrational nature of these fears, it never hurts to count on the security that the presence of others can give you , and their assistance or intervention in specific cases.
Think that although this emotion is powerful, you have the power to modify your environment to achieve your goals even at times when you think you are losing control. Establishing the necessary alliances for others to help makes us help each other indirectly, creating tools to solve problems at the moment when our ability to think clearly fails us.
This is one of those tricks to overcome fear that many people use , because they believe that the psychological is dealt with through individual work or through introspection: nothing is further from reality.
4. Learn to recognize if you need therapy
The line between pathological and non pathological fear is not always clear, but you should be clear that if the fear you feel is very extreme, you may need professional help to progress. Fortunately, these kinds of psychological problems are relatively easy to treat if you go through psychotherapy, and the results can be seen in a matter of weeks.
Of course, fear will never go away completely, but it will no longer paralyze us or prevent us from getting close to our goals. This is partly positive, though. Doing something that feels partly like a challenge makes us feel better about having overcome it.
- American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-IV. Washington, DC.
- Bracha, H. (2006). “Human brain evolution and the “Neuroevolutionary Time-depth Principle:” Implications for the Reclassification of fear-circuitry-related traits in DSM-V and for studying resilience to warzone-related posttraumatic stress disorder” (PDF). Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry.
- Olsson, A.; Nearing, K.I.; Phelps, E.A. (2006). “Learning fears by observing others: The neural systems of social fear transmission”. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.