What do you fear?
Are you afraid of the dark, of spiders or an unknown future?
At work, fear can lead to increased levels of stress, resistance to change, uncertainty and quiet. If the silence is deafening, it may reflect a reluctance to speak up for fear of ridicule or being seen to speak out of turn.
Whatever the source, fear is a powerful emotion to come to terms because of its effect on our physiology and psychology. Feeling afraid keeps the amygdala hyper-alert to the presence of danger and reduces our capacity to access our prefrontal cortex for rational and logical thought.
The old adage “feel the fear, and do it anyway” works to a point, but requires courage and if we are mired deep in our fear, that can be hard to summon. When riddled with fear we become blind to important cues from our environment and less able to think through our plan of action clearly.
But having a plan is important to prevent fear from becoming a permanent shackle.
I’m afraid of failure. It’s common to fear failure, especially when operating from a fixed mindset. The risk here is that it – unless dealt with – results in the outcome most feared to be the result.
I’m afraid of being judged. There will always be those who choose to observe and pass judgement. What counts is your decision whether to grant them permission to do so or not.
I’m afraid of being wrong. If you can’t face up to managing failure it’s hard to create an effective coat of resilience to life’s challenges.
As my friends and family know, I’ve always been afraid of heights. It’s not so much the altitude, rather the drop-off. Vertigo is not my friend.
Over the years having suffered the ignominy and humiliation of getting “stuck” on mountain-sides and ladders I determined to set myself a few challenges to overcome this “nonsensical fear.”
One such challenge was to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Thousands of people do this every year, so it was time to don the suitably stylish grey ‘Teletubby’ suit and book in to do with climb with two friends for moral support, one to walk in front and the other behind.
It was a clear Sydney day and a trifle windy. Oh joy.
By focusing on one step at a time, and not looking up or down, we made it all the way to the top and the guide then suggested we should stop for the obligatory photo opportunity.
Big mistake. All of a sudden the vertigo started to take a hold, the wind was picking up and I was turning green. My friends were trying to say well done, you’ve made it to the top and all I wanted was to get off that bridge, now!
Somehow we did and scuttled off for a quick celebratory drink, except I didn’t feel like I had anything to celebrate.
I had climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but something didn’t feel right. Then I realised what it was.
I had imagined this challenge would finally allow me to be rid of this fear. And I knew it hadn’t. This was something I was going to have to continue to deal with. Yes, I have this crazy fear, which can be soooo annoying, BUT I can learn to manage it.
It’s the same for all our fears. Fear is normal, it’s part of the spectrum of emotion we experience, and it serves a purpose, to keep us safe.
What matters is keeping fear and the associated intensity in perspective. It’s easy to expend and waste a great deal of energy when worrying about all the “what if’s” and potential catastrophes. The human mind is an A grade student in drama.
We all experience fear. What can help is knowing we’re not alone with these.
Will Smith has fears too and in this YouTube video shares what he learned when he did his first Sky Dive. It’s a great message.
Emotional regulation is something that requires attention throughout our lives. When in balance, the magic combination of cognition and emotion leads to high-performance thinking.
Is it time to loosen your grip on fear?
What have you found helpful to manage your fears and phobias?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.