Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it. —John B. Putnam Jr.
Before reading the first item below, please don’t automatically say, “I don’t have any fears.” This itself could be a fear masked by denial, keeping you from confronting your fears. Having fear is not a weakness. The real weakness is going through life as a prisoner of fear.
I’m writing this article because I realized that the vast majority of my recent experiences revolved around the same thing: fear. This issue came into my life so many times that I needed to look inside and organize my thoughts.
Here are the steps I use to fight my fears. I hope they work for you as well.
1. Identify your Fears
The first step in overcoming any fear is to identify and accept it. Fear never presents itself obviously. On the contrary, it hides behind a mask when expressing itself on the surface. It covers itself while leaking into our lives. Our minds play tricks on us, so we stray from the target. We then assume it is not fear but just personal preference. Therefore, it seems like there is no real fear to overcome.
To give an example from my own life, everyone knows me as someone who expresses herself very well. Essentially, even though I can express my thoughts easily, I’m not so good at expressing emotions. In close relationships, my fear is especially strong. This could be seen as just my personality rather than fear, but this personality was not shaped by itself. Negative experiences and observations must have turned into fear, which then rooted itself deep in my mind. This fear used my personality as a mask, proclaiming a lofty mission of protecting me, and restricted me from expressing my feelings. This is obviously not a personality trait—it is fear: “If I express my feelings as they are, I am afraid I will be hurt, misunderstood, or lose the love of the other party. If I show my feelings, I am scared of being mistreated.”
Let me give you another example. One of my close friends has extremely negative opinions about marriage. No matter how good his current relationship is, when marriage is on the agenda, his feelings change and he wants to run away from the relationship. On the face of it, his logic says, “Half of marriages don’t work, so marriage kills relationships, etc.” However, he has never married, so these thoughts are not from his own experiences but rather fed to him from his environment. After talking more about this issue, we found there was an underlying fear of losing freedom. This fear left him living a lonely life, both physically and emotionally. Maybe it’s deprived him of wonderful experiences. Apparently though, there is no fear in his life—on the contrary, there is merely someone who prefers a single life, and he calls this freedom.
Since fear does not manifest itself apparently, to identify it you need to consider yourself deeply and be honest to yourself. Do not worry, fear is extremely easy to trace. Fear often coils itself around the areas where you do not progress well and experience problems. These might be the emotional or financial areas of your life. If you want to measure the depth of your fear, look at your faith and develop it. The weaker your faith is, the stronger your fear will be.
Therefore, to identify your fears, you should look at your life objectively. You should say, “Yes, this area of my life isn’t going the way I wanted it to. Until today, I thought it was because of others or my own personality, but now I realize it is my fear of…”
2. Identify your Paradigms
The second step needed to defeat fear is to put your paradigms in the background of your mind. This is easy and can be done immediately. Take a pen and paper and just write what comes to mind about your fears, item by item. What are your thoughts about your fears? Just write them down without thinking. Let the roots of your fear disclose themselves in a written way. You don’t necessarily need to use proper sentences. Add to your list the proverbs and idioms that empower your fear, and add your negative memories to the titles. If there is a story that influenced you profoundly, add it to your list, even if you didn’t experience it personally. You will have a map of your mind where fear is concerned.
Recently, I read Attract Money Now by Joe Vitale. The first step proposed was to put forward the thought patterns regarding money. To achieve this, the book suggests the method above. Until I applied this method myself, I assumed I had no negative beliefs about money. On the contrary, I thought my relationship with money was extremely good. However, after writing down my thoughts, I saw how much of a negative mind map I have for money and how many obstacles I put between myself and money.
So, you need to express your mind map about fear clearly. This will show you the way to defeat it.
3. Alter your Paradigms
Now, you have your mind map laid out, so the solution is at hand. You should look over the items you wrote individually, sorting them according to whether they serve you or not. Replace the items that no longer serve you with new ones. A point to note here is that the new paradigms should be something you can easily accept and believe, otherwise you may just be fooling yourself.
For example, say you were afraid of loneliness and one of your paradigms was, “No one can be together with me for a long time; sooner or later everyone leaves me.” To change this, you can cross it out and write a new one such as “I give joy to others whom I spend time with” or “I am worthy of loving and being loved.”
Now it’s time to purge the old paradigms that have embedded themselves insidiously and unconsciously in your mind but no longer serve you! Write down your new paradigms on a clean sheet. Read them every day, and they will eventually become rooted in your mind and replace the old ones. One day, you will say, “What nonsense!” when you remember the old paradigms. You can then be sure that the new ones are in effect.
4. Defeat the Fear in your Mind First
This step is very important, perhaps the most important one. You cannot realize something in your life if you cannot even imagine it. Know that everything around you was someone’s dream initially. Therefore, something must be present in your mind before you can make it real.
Imagine that you face the fear in your mind, but this time, you are not someone who submits to fear but someone who defeats it. For example, if you have a fear of heights, imagine that you are looking down from the roof of a high building. In the first stage, imagine you are firmly secured by ropes and extremely safe. After getting used to this, gradually loosen your safety ropes. Finally, you should be able to look down easily without any safety ropes at all. You could even exaggerate it and imagine you have wings, flying like a bird in the sky and feeling the great pleasure it gives.
5. Give Love to your Fears
Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but please don’t be prejudiced, because it has a key role here. Do you know why? It’s because everything in this life is based on duality, such as black and white, day and night, light and dark, and so on. In other words, for everything there is an opposite. The reason behind the existence of something depends on the presence of its opposite. For example, if night did not exist, day would not either. In other words, if it were always day, there would be no need to identify it because it would be the only state.
Many people think hate is the opposite of love, but this is untrue. The opposite of love is fear. Look at the things you fear once again, and you won’t see any love in them. You should dissolve your fear in your love. When you feel fearful of an event, person, or situation, send your love to it. Do it even though you don’t feel like loving it. Fear cannot live where there is love, just as there is no darkness where there is light. Love is the antidote to fear.
Let’s return to the example of my friend who is against marriage because he fears losing his freedom. This person is in a loving relationship. You wonder how fear and love exist together like this. The answer is very simple. Because his real fear is losing his freedom, he sees marriage as a trap, and he thinks he will be confined and limited when he marries. So, he develops fear against it. Instead of experiencing such a situation himself, he sentences himself to loneliness and turns his back on love.
Fear of confinement and limits cannot coexist with true love. That’s why there is fear there. When love is sent, the fear dissolves. The eyes, which were closed by fear, open up and can see the truth. The understanding of human freedom comes from the soul of the man, and it cannot be prevented by anyone else except himself. The largest prison is the fear of confinement. You can imprison the body but never the spirit. The poetry that flows from the spirits of people imprisoned for years is the best evidence of this.
6. Observe Yourself
When you face your fear, just wake up your observer within. On the one hand, you have an awesome experience where you confront your fears, but on the other hand, you are observing yourself. Observe the sensations in your body, such as sweating, flushing, feeling hot or cold, pounding, rapid shallow breathing, and so on. When you are aware of these sensations, you see you can reverse them more easily. You can claim the power coming from your essence, and you will be more resolute and courageous against your fear.
Please note here that repetition is essential for success. At first, you may step back and feel defeated. Don’t let your courage break down. As long as you observe yourself, you will become more determined and courageous for next time. To win the big victories, sometimes you need to retreat a step.
For example, I’ve feared insects for a long time, so much so that it makes my life really difficult. I know this fear is irrational, because bugs are mostly harmless and can easily be killed. When I analyze my fear, which seems like a fear of insects on the surface, I realize that there is a fear of killing beneath it. Killing a living creature gives me remorse. When I see a bug somewhere in my home, I sweat, my heart pounds, and I panic. I hesitate to use the bug killer, but on the other hand I cannot let it live in my home. My state of fear continues even after killing it. If I hadn’t observed myself, maybe I would have never become aware of the fear of killing deep inside.
7. Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help
If you want to overcome your fear, but you don’t see any progress, don’t hesitate to ask for help. This help may come from professionals, or it may come from a friend, family, books, or other source. You could even pray and ask for help from God. No matter where the help comes from, the first thing you need to do is ask for it.
For example, when I realized that I couldn’t progress against my fear of insect killing, I researched it on the Internet. In this way, I learned about the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), which is based on scientific research. You can find detailed information about it on the website (www.EFTUniverse.com). The document at http://www.eftuniverse.com/images/pdf_files/eftquickstart.pdf taught me about the basic application of EFT, which helped me to overcome my fear.
Know that if you have fears, there are also solutions. Even this article was written to help you find solutions.
8. Help Others
What you give to this life is what you will get back. If you want to overcome your fears, help others to overcome theirs. It doesn’t matter if they have the same fears as you. The important thing is to help them. By doing this, you will see that fears can be defeated, and this will increase your determination, courage, and faith.
Believe me, the universe works in miraculous ways. What you give multiplies exponentially before it comes back to you. It never surprises me when people unexpectedly get a boost from the universe because they are helping others with their fears. This boost could be an inspiring quote or a song; it could be an intense intuition, or someone else may help you. Maybe it will be something coincidental. The important thing is that to see and capture it, you must be open and ready for it.
While writing this article, I am both helping you with your fears and opening myself to receiving help with my fears.
After reading my parting words, I want you to look around and observe people, your relatives and even yourself! There are too many people who live their lives in the shadows of their fears, aren’t there? There are so many that they normalize the situation without even being aware of it. They turn their backs to the possibilities that life offers them, choosing to continue complaining. Don’t be one of them. Don’t let your life become a prison built from fears. Let’s make conscious and courageous choices to create a life of endless possibilities.
In skating over thin ice, our safety is in our speed. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Courage is not the lack of fear but the ability to face it. —John B. Putnam Jr.