There are things in life that make us feel safe and secure and usually it is with relative ease that we undertake these activities or situations; and then there are those things that make our body freeze, our entire nervous system shut down and our mind goes into “WTF!?!?!?” We freak out, freeze and find ourselves crippled by the “F” word – fear.
Clammy hands, shortness of breath, breaking out in a sweat, maybe difficulty swallowing are all signals from the body we are in a state of fear. It is gripping, it can be debilitating and in some cases life altering. We are frozen and often unable to use reason or logic to rectify the situation. I know the spider is not potentially life threatening, that it is really only the size of a golf ball (not basketball like when I retell the story) and that more likely than not, it is more scared for it’s life than I am.
So why then do I freak out, scream, run out of the room and refuse to go back until the massive spider is removed? Fear. I am gripped by fear, somewhere in my subconscious I hold the belief that spider = death. (Dramatic I know but it is often true!) The spider represents a threat to my life, the one thing I hold near and dear and instinctively try to protect at all costs.
Think about other fears that can and do have a large impact on our lives; not asking out the cute guy at the gym for fear of rejection (although he smiles and chats to you every time you see him); not asking your boss for a raise even though you have worked your arse off and secured a massive project on time and under budget; not taking the salsa class….it can be from the mundane to the massive. All of these situations are controlled by fear.
So what happens when we find ourselves feeling like a fish out of water and unable to breath? Or perhaps the signs are not even that noticeable but rather we find ourselves justifying why we can’t do something – “he won’t say yes anyway” (think cute boy at the gym or the boss situation). Each of these is a sign, a loud and clear signal that we are entering into our no go zone. We have stepped outside the warm and cosy and are venturing into unknown territory. We freeze, we justify, we stop. And head back to the known, the easy and the predictable.
Physiologically something real does happen – our brain senses some form of danger (real or perceived) and the amygdala goes to work. The flight or fight section of the brain that protects us from harm. However it will not filter the reality of the harm. It works on perception. Think to a time where you thought you saw a snake/shark/intruder (any kind of scary person or thing) and how you reacted – your heart rate quickened, your breath got shorter and more shallow, maybe you had sweaty palms. Basically the body is getting ready to flee, or stay and fight.
When you realise that the threat is in fact a piece of rope/a shadow/a breeze (in other words not real) your body will rest down. These examples are obvious, but in the same way we begin to protect our physical body from perceived threats, we also protect our emotional body from harm. We fear rejection, or criticism, or failure so we play it safe and stay inside the zone. We succumb to our fears and allow them to dictate our lives.
In reality, what is the truth? We may in fact get “rejected” as we see it, or, maybe the cute guy at the gym says “thanks but I have a girlfriend”. We might feel a bit embarrassed, but in reality is it so bad? What if he says “yes I would love to go for a coffee!” Then bonus!
With fear it is crucial to apply mindfulness and awareness –
- First and fore most, start with the calming the body – move, breath, make sound and notice what is true.
- Stop and think – what is stopping me from …..?
- What is the worst thing that can happen?
- What is the best thing that can happen?
- Can I live with the outcome of 2 or 3?
- Dive in and have a go if the answer to 4 is yes.
Often when we look at our fears, we can see there are some common patterns. Fear of failure, of looking stupid, of what other people might say is typical. But in reality, fear of actually succeeding can be even stronger. We are often afraid of our own greatness.
Don’t allow your life to be dictated by fear. DARE to live and be the best version of you.