This class is on mastering fear in your life. Healthy fear is our early warning system that guides us to make wiser decisions. A little healthy fear keeps us from making foolish mistakes. For example, it is healthy fear that prevents us from sticking our hand in an open flame and being burned. Unhealthy fear pushes us beyond what is beneficial for us into actions or the lack of action that impedes our personal progress. Unhealthy fear stifles or even paralyzes us with panic, irrational fear and anxiety. In the extreme example, unhealthy fear of fire might prevent us from being able to light a match, even in times of need. Learn to recognize and express gratitude for healthy fear that serves your best interest and to distinguish when fear is at or approaching the unhealthy state. Learn to manage and master your fears to move forward with your plans, hopes and dreams in safety and with confidence.
I. What is Fear?
The Biology of Fear and Anxiety
Fear is the most primal of survival emotions. Your emotional and physical reactions to fear and anxiety are initiated by chemical reactions deep inside your body. To the brain, any threat is a threat to life. The survival brain does not distinguish between biological fear and psychological discomfort. Once a threat activates emotion, fear sweeps away the capacity to think rationally and impartially. The human body goes into emergency mode (the “fight or flight” response). Your body's energy and resources are diverted from ordinary body functions in order to deal with the danger. This instinctive reaction floods your body with hormones to increase your heart rate and blood pressure, boost the volume of sugars (glucose) available for fuel and divert blood to major muscle groups. Your heart has to pump faster and blood pressure must increase during periods of fear and anxiety for your body to get more oxygen and glucose carried in the blood to your muscles. When the chemistry of fear is triggered, it courses through your body in 0.003 seconds, while your ability to react to the emotion takes more than 0.5 seconds. You may find yourself in fear-based thinking (obsessive thoughts of self-doubt, focusing on negative outcomes and an urge to avoid the stressor). Remember, the human body’s response to fear and anxiety is exactly the same whether the threat is real or imagined. It is necessary to separate the biology from the psychology of fear.
The Biology of Fear and Anxiety by Dr. Anthony DeMarco
The Psychology of Fear
Psychological techniques must be grounded in emotional intelligence. The biology of fear overwhelms the thinking process and creates a biological pattern based on the avoidance of fear. Our brain operates on patterns of perception that are based on emotion. These patterns become so familiar that we lose our conscious awareness of them, and they are running in the background like a ram-resident computer program that you don't see at work. Once the brain has established a pattern operating system, the pattern is then running us. If the pattern is based on the emotion of fear, then fear dominates our thinking and affects our expectations of the future. Negative expectations of the future, self-doubt, and the growing impulse to avoid further stressful thinking result from being in this state of mind, and the cycle perpetuates. Managing this aspect of our biology is the first step to long-term success.
How to Stop Fear from Taking Control
Establish a sense of calm authority before you begin. Manage your fear before it can contaminate your thinking. Imagine fear as a freight train. The first thing you want to do is stop it from getting a full head of steam. Learn to interrupt fear’s capacity to cloud your thinking before it causes problems for you. Fear will have an individualized physical signature for each person because fear is biological in its nature.
You can use this signature to begin to manage your emotional state. The physical signature of fear has several components, including a breathing style that supports fear and its escalation, and specific muscle tension.
The following is a greatly simplified process that can be developed into a skill.
Think of a time when you experienced fear, stress, anxiety, or self-doubt.
Now, while it is still fresh in your memory, write down how you were breathing and where the tension was concentrated in your body.
Write down your predictions of the future (expected outcomes) while you were afraid.
All of these body changes and thoughts combined are your individualized fear signature.
Now let’s learn how to disrupt it to accomplish more effective methods of performing tasks. Most people find that they either hold their breath or breathe rapidly when they are afraid. This is part of the biology of the emotion and a barometer of your emotional state. These breathing styles fuel and accelerate the emotion’s momentum – like adding gasoline to a small fire. Tension in your neck and shoulders, gut, and chest is common, particularly when you are holding your breath. The breathing and the tension come from the physiology of fear. However, you can disrupt fear and manufacture a calm state of mind from which to perceive the task impartially.
Let’s take the experiment a little further so you can see the difference in perception between a state of fear and a calm state of mind.
This time you will use a diaphragmatic breathing technique as you bring the memory to mind.
Slowly pull air into your abdomen and then let the air expand to your upper chest. (Imagine that you have a bellows in your belly and that you are pulling air down your windpipe into your abdomen and allowing it to expand into your upper chest.) Practice breathing diaphragmatically a few times and then bring the stressful memory back into your mind. Keep focusing on the memory and notice how easy it would be for the memory to influence your breathing. Continue slowly pulling air into your abdomen and then letting it expand into your upper chest. Stay focused on your breathing so that the memory does not activate the fearful breathing style. Continue doing this for a few more moments.
What do you notice about your ability to manage the escalation of the emotional state and the resulting thoughts?
Most people experience emotional regulation of the fear. They can feel the fear, but it never sweeps them away. After a few minutes, they are able to establish a calm state of mind.
From this calm state of mind, your perception of the fearful task changes. Your decision-making processes change as you interrupt negative fear states and the thinking that comes from them, so, as you establish and maintain a calm state of mind you are better equipped to think impartially and objectively.
Moving Beyond Fear
This aspect of emotional regulation is only one part of a successful psychological plan for dealing with fear.
The calm state of mind is like a launching pad. Once you establish skills to regulate the biology of an emotion, your psychology is no longer being overwhelmed and new skill sets become possible. This new skill, once developed, opens the door to increased realization of your performance (and human) potential. It will not work by itself. It represents a way for you to recognize being afraid before fear sabotages your efforts, and to mechanically disrupt fear’s hold on your thinking. Then you can begin to learn how to call up emotional states such as calm impartiality and courage, to move into peak performance.
Mastering Fear - J. Rande Howell on mastering fear for trading success
From YourTradingEdge mar/apr 2010 www.ytemagazine.com
II. Healthy and Unhealthy Fear
Healthy fear is our early warning system that guides us to make wiser decisions. A little healthy fear keeps us from making foolish mistakes. For example, it is healthy fear that prevents us from sticking our hand in an open flame and being burned.
Unhealthy fear pushes us beyond what is beneficial for us into actions or the lack of action that impedes our personal progress. Unhealthy fear stifles or even paralyzes us with panic, irrational fear and anxiety. In the extreme example, unhealthy fear of fire might prevent us from being able to light a match, even in times of need.
III. What If?
Most fears start with the words "what if?"
We might never try anything new or out of the ordinary if we only follow the indoctrination of the bad things that could happen "if." When our focus is on the negative that could happen "if" our belief lies in the "if." The "if" may not be real; but we make it our reality, and we react to it as if it were real. We react to it before it happens because it is already real to us. If we can see it happening in our mind's eye, then it is as real to us as if it actually was happening.
What if we could change the "what if?"
Most of the "what ifs" we focus on are not based in fact. They are exaggerations. They are worst case scenarios. They may even be completely irrational. What if we give our "what ifs" realistic possibilities?
When you start to answer the "what ifs" with fact then they lose their fear power over you. As long as you leave a ‘what if’ unanswered then it has power and meaning over your life. When you answer the ‘what if’ with a reply and add facts to back it up, it is amazing how quickly it gets turned around. An unexamined ‘what if’ is the most dangerous obstacle to your success.
What If Exercise:
Create a list of your fears.
(Examples: Accidents, change, confrontation, criticism, crowds, dealing with issues, enemies, finances, fear itself, flying, friends, having children, loneliness, losing your job, loss of relationship, public speaking, rejection, responsibility, ridicule, sex, social situations, the unknown, the future, too little money, too much money, your mother, your father)
Select one of your fears from the list.
Answer the "what if" question with real factual possibilities.
List the things you would need to put in place before you perform the item you have selected.
(For example: What information would you need to gather to face the task? What skills would you need? What practices would you have to partake in? What safety nets would you put into place before facing the task?)
Set a goal for when you will face (and, thus master) this particular fear.
Twelve Secrets to Success - SECRET # 7 - FEAR
EXERCISE: Select one of your fears and answer the ‘what if’ question with facts.
List of Fears
(From the book “Mastering Fear” by Steven Bisyak and Michael McDermott)
Legacy Creations – 2004 Deluxe Edition
IV. The Art of Doing "Fear"
Consider how the brain constructs fear and anxiety. In understanding how the brain does this, we can take this same knowledge and re-train the brain to de-construct fear and then to construct something far more useful and productive.
Recall some pleasant experience from your past. Various things will pop into your mind, whatever pops up in your mind, allow yourself to go with that memory for now. If you are unable to find such a memory, then allow yourself to simply imagine a pleasant experience. For some people, closing the eyes helps in this process. Once you have this pleasant experience, permit it to remain in your awareness.
Now that you have this pleasant thought in mind, just notice its visual aspects. As you recall the experience, what specifically do you see? Notice the picture of the memory. If you do not visualize well, then imagine what the pleasant experience feels like. Or, allow yourself to just listen to some pleasant sounds (words or music) and enjoy that kind of an internal pleasant experience.
Now that you have the picture of the memory, make the picture larger. Let it double in size... and then let that picture double... Notice what happens. When you made the picture bigger, what happens? Do feelings from the memory intensify?
Now shrink the picture. Make it smaller and smaller. Allow it to become so small you can hardly see it... Stay with that a moment... Does the intensity of the feelings decrease? Experiment now with making the picture bigger and then smaller. When you make it smaller, do your feelings decrease? And when you make it larger, do your feelings increase? If so, then running the pictures (sounds, feelings) in your awareness in this way functions as it does for most people. However, you may have a different experience. Did you? No big deal. We all code our experiences in our minds uniquely and individually.
Now, put your picture of that pleasant experience back in a format where you find it most comfortable and acceptable.
Maintaining the same picture now, move the picture closer to you. Just imagine that the picture begins to move closer and closer to you, and notice that it will. What happens to your feelings as it does?
... Move the picture farther away. What happens when you move the picture farther away? Do your feelings intensify when you move the picture closer? Do your feelings decrease when you move the picture farther away? Most people find this true for the way their consciousness/neurology works. When you moved the picture farther away, the feeling probably decreased. Notice that as you change the mental representation in your mind of the experience, your feelings change. This, by the way, describes how we can “distance” ourselves from experiences, does it not?
Suppose you experiment with the color of the picture? As you look at your pictures, do you see them in color or black-and-white? If your pictures have color, make them black-and-white, and vice versa if you have them coded as black-and-white . . . When you change the color, do your feelings change?
Consider the focus of your images: in focus or out of focus? Do you see an image of yourself in the picture or do you experience the scene as if looking out of your own eyes? What about the quality of your images: in three dimensional (3D) form or flat (2D)? Does it have a frame around it or do you experience it as panoramic?
Experiment by changing how you represent the experience. Change the location of the picture. If you have it coded on your right, then move it to your left.
Debriefing the Experience
Suppose you could change your feelings by changing how you internally represent an experience? Here you have changed how you feel about an experience by changing the quality and structure of your images, not their content. Thus, you made the changes at the mental process level while leaving the content the same. As we progress, you will come to appreciate just how much more your fears have to do with your own mental processes rather than what is actually happening in your external world.
Consider the De-Structuring of Fear
What would happen to a person if he or she made all of his or her fearful pictures big, bright and up close?
What would happen if he or she made all his or her calm experiences small, dim, and far away? ... [The person would become an expert at feeling fear, anxiety, miserable, unresourceful and maybe even phobic, would he or she not?]
On the other hand, what would happen if a person coded his or her pleasant experiences as big, bright, and up close? Will it not create a more positive outlook on life?
And, what if he or she made his or her fearful experiences small, dim and far away? The negative would have less influence on their life.
Those experiences that have happened to you that generated your fear(s), do you have those pictures far away or are they up close and maybe real big and very bright? If they are up close and big and maybe bright, what would happen if you pushed them way off and made them small and dim? Try it. Experiment.
We have learned to appreciate with a new freshness the depth and meaning of the old proverb, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he . . .” (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).
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Please Note: Hypnosis and holistic modalities are not a substitute for medical care. Consult your physician, therapist and/or other healthcare providers for health-related concerns.
Holistic practices concerned with issues related to body, mind and spirit complement conventional medical and therapeutic practices; but do not replace them.
Copyright 2016. All rights reserved. Mary Catherine Miller NurseHealer.com