Cavemen were afraid of things that threatened their physical survival. Afraid in dangerous situations that really did have a potential for death e.g. attacks by wild animals or other humans etc. They saw the animal coming towards them and expected an outcome based on past evidence. In turn this generated the reactions that enabled them to respond most effectively with the danger – fight, flight or freeze. This response was however only short lived and only so long as the danger was present.
In modern times there are real dangers too e.g. we get into cars most days and join others on increasingly busy roads, we take up extreme sports, guns and knives are more common than most of us would like and alcohol and drug abuse can lead to many crimes being committed. So there are still real dangers where fight, flight or freeze are appropriate responses. Again these dangers pass – the speeding car narrowly misses you or you land safely with your parachute.
Today we also have a fear of many things that aren’t dangerous and don’t threaten our survival. Fear of: failure, success, public speaking, vulnerability, of being hurt emotionally and so on. Yet they still generate the same fight, flight or freeze response in us. Unlike with real danger, we often sustain the fear for extended periods and this takes its toll as our body is on standby, often for months, to fight or flee.
So how do we release the impact these fears are having on us? There are a number of techniques that enable us to go back to when we first learnt the fear and release it there in the past. Another suggestion is to remember that in these examples F.E.A.R simply stands for False Expectations Appearing Real.
If I stand up in front of an audience I can expect that I will forget my lines, everyone will laugh at me or I’ll fall over or even pass out but these generally have no basis in reality. So the fear generated is not based on reality and very rarely based on evidence either.
So next time you feel the fear write down your expectations or share them with others. Doing that will help you understand the expectations you’re reacting to and help you see how unlikely and unrealistic they are.
One book I regularly recommend that assists with releasing fear and a whole load more is ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers.