I recently attended an after-work talk by one of my colleagues. I like this kind of event (perhaps because they tend to be in pubs!). In fact, I used to run quite a few myself through websites like Eventbrite and Meetup.
This particular talk was on the Psychology of Fear.
As you can imagine, a talk like this attracts all sorts of people… from the athletic Aussie lady who loves hurling herself out of a perfectly good aeroplane at 10,000 feet, but won’t use the underground because of the mice… to the bespectacled young man who has a very specific phobia – a phobia of just one town. Unfortunately for him, it’s the town where his house is, which he’s been unable to visit for more than 2 years now.
As a hypnotherapist, I encounter this kind of fear every day because the simple truth is: fear is irrational.
That’s NOT to say that fear has no purpose, of course…
If you get back to your hotel room after a nice seafood dinner and there’s a spider the size of a suitcase lurking in the corner then there’s only one smart thing to do… time for a quick trip to reception and another caipirinha!
Fear does have some usefulness… so how do you get a healthy balance?
If you suffer from fears and phobias then you know how important it is to have balance… and perhaps you’ve wondered why your mind responds in this way? Book a 30-minute telephone call and we’ll explain exactly what’s going on
To begin with, I want to say that I’m not a big fan of the whole idea of ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Why? Because it means the fear is still there. Again, I’m not trying to say that you should never do scary things. That is a good idea. In fact, you’ll probably find life a bit dull if you never do anything scary. But, when it comes to a huge, irrational fear like a phobia then forcing yourself to face it is often counter-productive.
Now, I know that a lot of therapists out there tell you to do exactly that… but the reason I know this is because quite a few of my clients have tried it and only managed to reinforce their fear. So before you head out there and tackle your fear head-on, here’s the first thing that has to change:
You need to change how you talk to yourself about fear. Think about it… there is a big difference between all of these statements
- I have a fear of spiders
- I am afraid of spiders
- I am a spider phobic
In my experience, most people use the middle one, which is not the worst choice. If you’re ‘afraid of spiders’ then you can change it but it’s not immediately obvious how…
Some people use the last one. This is not a good idea because, if you are ‘a spider phobic’ then something about YOU has to change. You make it part of your identity if you use this version, and it’s really tough to change your identity.
The best one to use is the first one. If you have a fear, you can get rid of it much more easily. I have a pair of ray-bans but I can easily get rid of them by leaving them on the table of this coffee shop (again!).
However, the truth is, all of these ways of talking to yourself make beating a fear or phobia tougher than it needs to be. An alternative (that you’ll probably never hear someone say) is: “I feel fear when I see spiders”. It’s a better choice because when you start breaking down the fear you ‘have’ into a process that you ‘do’ it’s a lot easier to beat.
Give it some thought: what are you actually doing on the inside when the fear, phobia, panic, or anxiety builds up. What do you say to yourself in that moment, what else happens…?
The reality is, that although we sometimes feel like helpless souls at the mercy of our emotions, tossed around from anxiety to panic and back again, your emotions are the result of predictable and reliable processes in your mind.
For example, if you have a phobia you NEVER forget to do it… you don’t get halfway up a skyscraper and then suddenly remember that you’re afraid of heights. It’s 100% reliable because there’s an internal process that governs it.
It’s possible to discover your own process and the first step is to start thinking about the WHAT you DO (rather than the reason ‘WHY’ you have a particular fear). Because, when you’re aware of your process you can even change that process, which is what makes it possible to conquer a phobia in just a handful of hypnotherapy sessions.
So when you start thinking like this and taking action it means that there is no need for YOU to live your life at the mercy of your own mind, arranging things around your fears and making excuses. If you simply stop thinking of your fears or phobias as something which you have (or even something that defines you) then you greatly empower yourself to beat them.
AND if you can conquer your fears then there is literally nothing that can hold you back. They are the only limitation of your life right now. Think what you could do when all of the irrational barriers to living up to your full potential are gone. What can you achieve in your own life? And what can you do for the people around you?
I believe it’s our duty to live up to our potential. I believe that we live our lives for this purpose, to inspire those around us on to their own greatness. It starts by changing your thinking… only then do you find out what’s really possible for you.
About the Author
Matt Cullen is a Clinical Hypnotist, Speaker, Author and the Founder of Unchain Your Mind. His techniques and philosophy of personal development form the backbone of all the change work that happens here.