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Fear Is "Just An Emotion"
Let’s talk about FEAR, shall we?
To be honest, I have the impression that this year of 2020 will be remembered as the year of facing our biggest fears. But if I had to choose one particular type of fear that I was struggling to deal with since March I would choose the FEAR OF UNKNOWN. Yeap, the fear of not knowing what will happen next.
I don’t know about you but I am not a fan of not knowing how my reality will look like the next day. It’s stressing me out. It makes everything harder. You cannot even set proper goals because who knows in what reality we will wake up tomorrow. Call me a freak but I’ve started to create my daily schedule using a pencil, just in case I need to change my plans and pivot my goals.
As human beings, we don’t like to be unsettled. We don’t like to not know what is going to happen next. We prefer stability over change (even potentially positive change). We prefer order above the chaos. Furthermore, most of us intrinsically think that order means “good” and chaos means “bad” but the truth is life is a mix of order and chaos we just tend to ignore it. Well, we used to ignore it because with the COVID-19 outbreak now a pandemic, the world became so chaotic and turbulent that we cannot even hope to predict what is going to happen next.
The future is unknown. But if you think about it, the future is ALWAYS unknown. We all try to plan out on life and control every aspect of it but the truth is, we truly never know what is going to happen next or what is meant to be until it surprises us. We create this illusion of having everything in life under our control because it gives us this positive feeling of certainty. But at the end of the day, we know that it’s an illusion. We just refuse to admit it.
Fear is a basic human condition. Which of course does not mean that you should live in a state of permanent fear. What I mean is that it’s important to detect the cause of our fear, identify the message that it has to offer to us and take intentional action to use it to our advantage. And to help you with that, here are 6 simple steps to deal with FEAR successfully. You got this!!
1. Identify What's The Message
Fear is just an emotion. And like any other emotion, it can build up if you indulge in it or it can drop in intensity if you use it to your advantage. It’s all a matter of choice and all the choices are yours. But to be able to make the best possible choices you need two things; knowledge and strategic approach. Without it, you will not be able to understand what message your FEAR has to offer to you. Because there is always a reason why you’re scared. You just need to figure out that reason. Just like any other emotion fear provides valuable information to you, a coded message that you need to understand. This is the first step in the process of dealing with fear successfully. So make yourself comfortable, take a deep breath and ask yourself these questions:
- Identify WHAT the EMOTION you are currently experiencing really is. Is this FEAR that you’re feeling? What type of FEAR it is?
- Ask yourself WHAT are you afraid of. Write everything down.
- Think about WHAT valuable message this particular emotion has to offer to you.
- Ask yourself HOW you can use this emotional message to your advantage.
2. Acknowledge Your Fear
We tend to label our emotions as „good” or „bad” based on how they affect our mind and body. But the truth is, there is no such thing as „good” or „bad” emotion. Every emotion is pretty much neutral. Furthermore, every emotion you feel is important and valid.
True, emotions have different roles, functions, and purpose but they are all needed. Some like anger, fear, and anxiety protect us, others like joy, happiness, and pleasure help us to make social connections and create relationships. So if you think that some emotions are negative and others are positive you’re wrong. You just need to learn to use them as a tool, observe, interpret, acknowledge and accept them.
Emotions are natural to human nature. They are like a signalling system or information carriers providing important coded messages. Your role is to decode the message they have to offer to you using your conscious mind, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. So don’t try to suppress, ignore or deny your emotions only because you don’t like how they make you feel. Instead, take some time to detect what they are really “telling you” and let them guide you.
Every emotion is a call for action (especially FEAR) to either change your perception or change your behaviour. That’s why it so so important to acknowledge and accept your emotional state, whatever it is. So don’t beat yourself up when you feel something you don’t wanna feel. Instead, try to understand what your emotions are telling you about yourself and the situation you’re in. Try to decode the emotional message your subconscious mind is sending you. Ask yourself how you can use THIS particular piece of information to your advantage. And act accordingly.
- Analyze NOT Overanalyze
- Think NOT Overthink
- Simplify NOT Complicate
How do you know that you are overthinking, overanalyzing and overcomplicating decoding the message that FEAR is trying to offer you? Well, probably at the moment when you stopped experiencing fear and you slowly entering a full-blown panic mode where the ONLY possible scenario is the worst-case scenario. So be mindful of your inner conversation. Observe without judging. Analyze without overanalyzing. And respond instead of emotionally reacting to what’s happening in your life.
3. Explore The Meaning Of Your Fear
We create meaning. Yet nothing has meaning alone. We create meaning and we bring it to life. Things are just ordinary items and people are just random social beings before we give them a very specific meaning. That’s why our interpretations of the seemingly ‘same’ things are so different.
We create stories and narratives to make sense of the world. We create words to describe our experience. We create our storytelling that directly affects our state of mind and personal well-being. This basically means that stories and narratives we make up to describe what we perceive through our five senses can trigger pleasant emotions like joy or happiness or unpleasant feelings like anger, fear or sadness. As pleasant emotions tend to do no harm even if they have nothing to do with the real situation (the present moment) the trouble starts when your dramatic storytelling causes negative emotions that create suffering that wasn’t even there at the beginning. Sounds crazy right?
So what is the lesson here? Well, probably that we should always pay attention to the vocabulary we use to describe a particular experience we have. Because the same situation can be described in many different ways. You can use the same situation to create a horrifying or quite neutral narrative. It all depends on your imagination and intention that you have. I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about.
Having the power to create meaning makes us in control of our whole life experience. But to use this power to our advantage first we need to realize that.
So when you experience a particular emotion ask yourself what is the message behind THIS emotion. Get curious about what THIS emotional message has to offer to you. And most importantly HOW you can use it to your advantage.
For example, when you are scared you SHOULD ask yourself these questions:
- WHY I am scared? (WHAT caused fear?)
- WHAT is the message behind my FEAR?
- HOW can I change my perception of the situation or my current behaviour to turn a negative situation into a positive one?
- HOW can I use FEAR to my advantage?
- HOW can I deal successfully with this mental state before it will turn into action
4. Use Your Past To Your Advantage
We have an amazingly selective memory when it comes to remembering past events and situations. And that in itself is not a bad thing. However, most of us remember ONLY the bad things that have happened to us completely forgetting about all these precious moments we have experienced. Which demonstrates that for some reason we feel the need to uphold the memory of moments of pain and suffering while we keep forgetting all these little happy moments that could actually empower us to live a better life. Why is this happening? Maybe because we’ve been programmed since birth to focus on negatives. There is a reason why bad news dominated in headlines…
But I digress, I’m sorry, what I was intending to say was that we all have a past and we all experience difficult times in our lives. This means that we can use our own experience to our advantage every single time we need it. For instance, if you feel disappointed right now you can return mentally to moments from your past when you were experiencing the same feeling and make use of the knowledge you have gained in that particular situation. The same goes with pretty much every emotion. Of course, situations, event or people that trigger particular emotion can differ but the emotion itself and a message that it offers to you it can be quite similar. It’s up to you whether you want to delve deeper in your own experience and use your past to your advantage or not. Personally, I find this approach incredibly effective and quite beneficial.
You can deal with pretty much everything that happens to you, all you need is the right mindset and the right approach. So have an honest conversation with yourself, ask yourself the right questions (not the comfortable ones) and you will find the right answers to your questions.
- I CAN deal with it
- I KNOW how to deal with it (because I remember the time in the past when I was dealing with a similar situation, state or feeling)
- I REMEMBER how good it feel to be able to deal with difficult situation
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5. Train Your Courage Muscle
“Life is like a business, 20% of what happens to you is 80% of how you react.” Furthermore, you can use this 20% of things that happen to you to your advantage or disadvantage. It’s your choice. “The fact is: You are not a manager of the circumstance, you’re the architect of your life’s experience.” So when things don’t go as expected, don’t just accept your fate. Do something about it. Don’t be a passive observer of your own life. Don’t wait for things o happen to you. Don’t allow your problems, challenges or fears to defeat you. You are stronger than that.
Sometimes, unforeseen obstacles, unexpected difficulties and major problems can be the best thing that ever happened to you. I mean it. Because when life doesn’t go as planned, it can be an incredible opportunity to rethink your choices, upgrade your life plan and maybe even re-evaluating my values. Not to mention that you can always manipulate the probability of favourable outcomes in so-called random life events. It’s all up to you. The way you overcome challenges depends on your mindset and attitude. Your mentality is everything.
They say that it takes courage to act despite fear. And I completely agree with that. But what they don’t say is that we all have our courage muscle some of us just don’t exercise it. And the truth is if you want to boost your ability to „act despite fear” you need to practice it deeply. It’s like forming a new habit. So when problems appear, the joy of daily life disappears and fear wraps up the situation, it’s time to act. It’s time to act despite fear. You are ready. You are already prepared mentally so all you need to do is to create a plan of action, take a deep breath and act. Act despite fear.
6. Act Despite Fear
I am sure you know this expression; Nothing will change until you change. Or more precisely, the situation you’re in will not change until you change the way you perceive it or the way you act. Sometimes you need to change both. Because with the wrong (negative) mindset and attitude you cannot expect positive results. It’s not going to happen. It’s just impossible. You’re just wasting your time and energy. Both of them are limited resources that’s why you should use them wisely.
When you feel bad, hopeless, demoralized and desperate, there’s no way you will find the energy to turn negative (or difficult) into positive (good) one. To be able to actually do that you need to put yourself in the right mindset, adopt the right approach and take intentional action. In other words, you need to take control of your current reality, create a plan of action and start shaping your destiny before others do. Seems difficult? Actually, it’s easier than you think and it’s all up to you.
When bad or good things happen you HAVE a CHOICE; you can either passively OBSERVE external events or you can TAKE ACTION and change the course of these events in a positive direction. It means that you can either remain a passive observer of your own life or you can become an active participant of your current reality, use it to your advantage and start building strong foundations for your future.
The first option will MOST LIKELY make you feel powerless and hopeless. Not to mention that you will miss the opportunity to make a tough situation meaningful, develop your innate abilities and grow as a person. The second option is a lot more beneficial because when you decide to take action you automatically regain control over your life.
Being scared is normal especially if something bad is happening. This feeling, however, provides important and extremely valuable information. It’s a CALL OF ACTION. Your fear literally screams to you that you need to take an action. If you refuse to act, your fear will only build up until it completely overwhelms you. And I bet you don’t want to be paralyzed by your fear, right? That’s why when you are scared you need to make a decision and act otherwise you will get even more frightened. So instead of indulging in negative thinking and inventing an infinite number of the worst-case scenarios, you should take control over your mind, make a plan and take intentional action. Don’t overthink, just do. And by the way, you don’t need to have everything figure out before you take action. You will find all the answers you need along the way.
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Use your FEAR to your advantage!