Overcoming Fear - Five Techniques for Unlearning a Learned Fear

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According to many psychologists, humans are only born with two innate fears-the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises.
Both of these fears are healthy and designed to keep us away from danger while young.
But if they are right, it also means that we have learned any other fears we have.
The good news is that what we have learned, we can also unlearn.
Here are five techniques for unlearning your fears: Accessing a worst-case scenario: In other words, ask yourself what's the worst that could happen.
Often we can remind ourselves that the worst that could happen is that everything remains the same, so trying something new wouldn't hurt.
Be sure to use vivid descriptions when you access your worst-case scenario.
The more vividly we describe situations to ourselves, the more likely our emotions will help us into action.
Study whatever you fear: We are often most afraid of what we don't know.
The more we study a subject the more we can learn to become less afraid.
For example, I grew up in Hawaii, where there are no poisonous spiders.
The thought of being afraid of spiders seemed silly, especially when they do such a good job controlling other insects.
Then I moved to Southern California, a place known for two poisonous spiders-the Black Widow and the Gray Recluse.
Suddenly, I was afraid of every spider I couldn't recognize, wondering if it was the infamous Gray Recluse.
Not until I studied the spider, learned how to identify it and how to avoid it, was I able to overcome my fears once more.
Systematic desensitization: This technique requires that you expose yourself to what you fear in small manageable increments until you can manage the fear effectively.
Usually when we are afraid, we receive an adrenalin rush that makes us feel disoriented.
Our hearts pound, our fingers shake, and we lose all sense of proportion.
However, if you can learn to become comfortable with the adrenaline rush, you can also learn to manage the fear.
In this example, someone who is arachnophobia might force himself or herself to simply look at pictures of spiders until the pictures no longer cause panic.
Next, they might visit the zoo and force to themselves to stand outside the spider exhibit, then in the entrance to the spider exhibit, then inside the spider exhibit until their fears become manageable.
Believe it or not, courage is not the absence of fear, but learning to get comfortable with fear.
Creative visualization: This technique allows people to become comfortable with their fears within the safety of mental images.
To be effective, visualizations need to incorporate all five of your senses.
You don't just visualize the scene; you smell it, feel it, taste it, hear it and touch it, all within the safety of your mind.
Psychologists are finding an amazing correlation between creative visualization and personal effectiveness.
It seems that whatever we tell ourselves often enough, we eventually prove to ourselves.
In creative visualization you imagine yourself in the situation you fear until you begin to feel comfortable feeling the fear.
Once again, you should encounter what you fear in small manageable increments until each encounter no longer produces panic.
Conscious Mind Focus: In this technique, you use the power of your conscious focus to tell yourself that everything will be alright.
As I said before, whatever we tell ourselves often enough, we eventually prove to ourselves.
Usually whenever we see something that we fear, our brains immediately begin to remind us of all the reasons for our fears.
In conscious mind focus, you take control of your thoughts using what I call the SPAR techniques.
Spar stands for: Stop: Tell yourself to stop everything; stop moving and stop thinking.
Physicalize: Give yourself a mental and physical shake; snap your fingers, shake your head, stand up.
Do anything physical that will wake up your conscious mind.
Affirm: Give yourself a positive but realistic statement to say out loud; something like, "This spider is not going to leap across the room and attack my jugular; it is more afraid of me than I am of it.
" Reward: Give yourself a reward for the more positive response, even if all you do is a little happy dance.
If you repeat this technique each time you face your fears, you will eventually be able to face your fears more easily.
In fact, you will even begin to associate that old bothersome adrenaline rush with the reward that you give yourself.
So here's the bottom line on fear...
The emotion of fear has been traced to a chemical release of adrenaline.
Anything new, unfamiliar, or unexpected-whether dangerous or not-causes an adrenaline rush.
Thrill seekers and performers have actually become addicted to that chemical rush, but those same chemicals cause panic attacks in others.
The same cause, but a different effect.
Why? Some psychologists believe that it's our expectation of, and attachment to, a perceived outcome that causes our different reactions to adrenaline.
When people believe that others won't like them the way they are, they become afraid to be themselves.
When people think that a situation will overpower them and leave them defenseless, then that situation often makes them incapable of action and causes panic.
Once people prove to themselves that a situation won't leave them helpless, their panic attacks tend to subside.
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