Many fears are caused by ignorance because people are scared of what they don’t know. The reason for this is simple. When your brain is only given a few pieces of information it tends to fill in the rest of the details by itself.
For example, when you look at a picture on a computer screen, what you are actually seeing is a series of tiny dots. However, because the dots are so small, your brain fills in the gaps and you see it as a complete picture.
The exact same principle applies when it comes to fear. If you start worrying about something which you don’t have all the information about, then your brain will fill in the gaps, and before you know it, you are imagining things which may not even happen or have no chance of happening.
So in order to stand the best chance of overcoming a fear, you need to find out as much as you can about the thing you fear. This way, you will be able to react on the basis of complete rather than incomplete information.
In turn, this will then prevent you from worrying about things that you shouldn’t be worrying about. It will also help to reduce the level of fear that you experience by making you aware of exactly what could happen, rather than making you imagine or guess what might happen.
For every fear that you have there are certain things which are driving or amplifying that fear. For example, if you are afraid of flying, you are probably not afraid of planes. What you are really afraid of is a plane crashing and you dying as a result.
So to overcome a fear, you first need to identify the drivers of that fear and then systematically work to eliminate them one by one. The more drivers you eliminate, the weaker your fear will become because they are responsible for making you feel anxious, apprehensive or terrified about something.
You can do this exercise for a single fear, or for different fears in different areas of your life, such as those relating to your health, finances, relationships and career.
Next to each fear, write down exactly what it is that you are afraid could happen. For example, you might be fearful of looking foolish, being embarrassed, suffering from harm or even dying. Whatever it is that you feel fearful of, write it down so that you can clearly see the factors that are contributing towards your fear.
For each of your drivers, think about whether they are a real threat to you. For example, if you were made to look foolish in a particular situation, what’s the worst that could happen? Would you be able to recover and get on with the rest of your life?
What you will most likely discover, is that a large majority of the fear drivers that you have identified aren’t really a threat to your life at all. But for some reason, your fight or flight response is acting as though they are.
Logically, the next step is to desensitize yourself to each fear driver. And the better you are able to do this, the better you will be able to overcome your fear. There are several ways that this can be done, and we shall discuss these methods in the next two sections.
But before we do, it’s important that you strongly desire to overcome your fear. As if your desire is weak, you are unlikely to persist in the face of discomfort that confronting a fear will invariably bring.
So for the fear that you wish to overcome, write down why you want to overcome it. What negative impact is it having on your life? How would conquering that fear change your life? The more reasons you can provide, the more motivational energy or courage you will have to confront your fear with.
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