Recently I was invited onto the set of Studio 10 to discuss some scary things, like peanut butter, buttons, holes and the scariest of all, clowns!
Our topic for the channel 10’s program panel was fear, as this is something all of us must face in life, I thought it was worth further exploration.
There are literally thousands of phobias in the world, some of them, like fearing inanimate objects, like a button, can seem irrational to some, compared to a fear of things that can bite like a snake or spiders.
It is though not the object or creature that is the cause of the fear, it’s what it represents.
As humans we have been ‘meaning making machines’ since we first drew breath, anchoring meaning to experiences which become the blueprint for patterns of our thinking and behaviour.
If a child has a bad experience, say nearly choking on peanut butter or a button, this may be the grit that the pearl of the phobia wraps itself around.
This meaning making also lays at the feet of our ancestors, with research suggesting that humans come hard wired with some common natural fears, such as:
– fear of dying
– fear of social rejection or abandonment
– fear of humiliation
– fear of losing control
Whilst many of us share the commonality of these fears, it is also the case that the vast majority of our fears are born from the experiences of our own lives.
Fear itself is not a bad thing. It is there to protect us from making a dangerous decision and a key reason to the survival of our species.
This ‘fight or flight’ hard wiring has proven to be a great device in the armoury of human tools. The problem is that our ‘fight or flight’ mechanism now kicks in for scenarios or situations that are not as dangerous as our amygdala may suggest:
- A Difficult looming conversation with the boss is not a battle for survival with a sabre tooth tiger
- Dealing with issues in our relationships are not as dangerous as being pushed out of a tribe to fend for ourselves into the wilds of the Savannah
These fight or flight responses are a core part of who we are. They are why when you get intimate with someone, the idea of vulnerability, can create the urge to run, or when crammed into a crowd heading through a darkened tunnel you have this almost uncontrollable urge to scream.
Aaron Sholz, who joined the panel discussion on Ten to bravely share his own story his battle with Agoraphobia, which manifested in a fear for him of leaving his home.
This fear was traced back to a single moment on holiday in Europe, where Aaron had choked and panicked, this experience leaving him a sense of dread that something terrible was going to happen whenever he was out of the safety of his home.
Aaron’s created fear is not unique with 1 in 3 people suffering some kind of extreme reaction to a phobia, with the rest of us all having to fears to face at some point in life and here are some tips to help you through, regardless of the scale of fear:
- Normalise it!
All fears, however irrational they may seem to others, are rational to you for a reason. Fear is very real to the individual and it is important to not view our fear as weird, if someone does poke fun at it, let them know how real that fear is to you. By considering your perspective they are more likely look at your fear with more care and compassion.
- Accept the fear!
As a speaker I am asked regularly to help people deal with the dreaded ‘stage fright’. What would be more accurate is to say that I help them manage it. When we speak in public nerves are natural. Accepting this and learning that those nerves serve, not hinder you, is the key to overcoming the fear. When you can accept the fear, it can become an ally rather than an enemy.
- Take a new perspective!
Words such as ‘always’ or ‘never’ don’t serve us well when dealing with anxieties and fears. Cars don’t always crash. Snakes don’t always bite. Sharks don’t always kill. Relationships never work out. By softening our language and looking at scenarios objectively, grounded with logic and emotion, feelings become less significant and positive perspectives can be formed.
- Know the cost!
Decisions are often made in response to two outcomes: possibilities or consequences. At times it takes feeling the pain, the cost in our world, to be motivated or inspired to take action. Aaron paid the price of severe anxieties for 3 years, until he realised the cost was too high, and then made the decision that enough was enough. What are your fears costing you?
- Choose personal development!
Arm yourself with skills to deal with your fears. When your senses are stressed and in a heightened state, to overcome you will need to find other avenues for your energy. With Aaron he put in place a program of continual development. Set a routine around training and exercise, put time into his studies and meditation. Personal growth builds confidence and helps us to overcome our fears.
- Make fear fun!
It sounds counter intuitive, yet it works. On the Studio 10 panel Joe Hildebrand asked the question, did the movie ‘IT’ increase ‘coulrophobia’ (fear of clowns)? Of course, it was one scary clown. Some circuses have cleverly broken down such fears by allowing people with a phobia of clowns to go through the process of becoming one themselves. By turning things we fear into something playful or funny, that will help us overcome, so get creative!
- Yell for help!
Dealing with stress and concern is an enormous challenge. There is no need to battle this alone, the starting point is a willingness to seek help. This is what Aaron did, he bravely reached out to someone he did not know well for help, me. That started a journey of recovery that has helped Aaron to overcome his fears. There is power in a collective, to know that you are not alone, so what are you waiting for, yell for help today.
In my first book ‘Ignite Your Potential’ I share the perspective that it feels like there are hundreds of emotions, which there are, but laid out on a see saw weighted on either side are the two most powerful emotions: love and fear.
As Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-American psychiatrist said, “All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear.”
Love or fear. That is the decision that defines you. When your fears, learnt from prior experiences, are restricting your world perhaps it’s time to tackle them head on.
- Fear is blame based. Love is accepting
- Fear drives a desire to control. Love allows freedom and detachment
- Fear kills passion. Love enlivens and ignites it
- Fear is the saboteur. Preventing you from making positive changes
- Love is the superhero. That makes everything possible
- Love is the energy that expands. Fear is the energy that contracts
- Every life event is an opportunity. To choose love over fear
Because something happened once before, it doesn’t have to mean it always will or rule over you.Listen to your fear. Work with your fears. Work through your fears. Do not be defined by them.
You can unlock the program inspired by my work with Aaron in my online academy with a free profile by using the bespoke code: Freedom