When I was in the hospitality business, one of my customers was a world champion kickboxer at the time. We would often converse about martial arts and related topics. One day, I asked him how he overcome his fear when he stepped into the ring. To my suprise, he said he didn't. He stated, "I need my fear," "It helps me stay focused on the threat of someone trying to kick me in head and knock me out."
He told me it is not about overcoming your fear but learning how to control it to your benefit. We all battle with fear. Moreover, we often experience shame that we are afraid. Maybe, you read inspirational quotes regularly about courage and overcoming fear but feel inadequate that somehow you cannot achieve this goal.
Fear is necessary
The reality is we need fear; it is a core emotion that is adaptive for our survival. It is not something to be gotten rid of but managed. When we are unable to do so, we become frozen and unable to take effective action. Core emotions are sources of energy and information. They are neither inherently good or bad. It is the meaning we place on them that determines our reaction to them.
There is a term in psychology known as meta-emotions. These are our feelings about feelings. You may feel sad and feel ashamed about being sad. You could feel guilty about having anger towards someone. I find that people often feel ashamed about feeling afraid. Some even feel guilty towards God when they experience fear. They believe God is disappointed in them for not trusting him more.
The founder of American psychology, William James, once performed an experiment regarding fear. He wanted to determine if we encounter a bear in the woods do we run because we are afraid, or are we afraid because we run. What James discovered is we are afraid because we run. Nature gives us the energy to run away from the bear to safety. Once we are safe, this should be the end of the story. What continues to cause us to have fear is the meaning we place on the feeling and event.
Fear is a resource
At its core, fear is not a foe to be defeated but a resource to be harnessed. Emotions are energy and information, pure and simple. When experienced fully they unleash what is referred to as an adaptive action. When this energy is blocked from doing so, it remains in the body and has a negative impact on your physical and emotional health.
In the case of trauma, a considerable amount of energy is generated to face a survival threat. When this energy cannot be expressed in an effective action and remains frozen in the body and nervous system, it results in the formation of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
Regulate fear and release it into effective action
If you are currently struggling with fear, identify the source of your fear, develop strategies and resources to regulate it, then focus your fear into an effective action to address its cause. Furthermore, work to remove the meanings you place on your fear, such as feeling weak or ashamed for experiencing it. Remember, it is only energy to be used as an adaptive resource. There are no good or bad emotions.
If you encounter obstacles to managing your fear effectively, obtain support from others to help you do so. The thing that will most help you accomplish this goal is secure emotional attachment. Being securely connected to others will regulate your nervous system more than anything else.
Learning how to focus your fear is an essential skill on the road to success. When you master this ability you will develop an increased capacity to make effective decisions and take action in your life. Don't allow fear to rob you of the life you could be leading. Take the time to master it and unlock its positive potential in your life.
John Hawkins Jr., M.S., L.M.H.C.
John has helped thousands of clients overcome the hidden internal blocks which had kept them from achieving their maximum potential. Furthermore, he has assisted them in gaining clarity of their true life purpose, identifying their gifts and talents, and developing lives of greater meaning and significance.