“Scardy cat, scaredy cat” I heard my classmates chant at me as my tiny elementary school frame trembled at the mere thought of crossing the monkey bars. I suffered from an acute case of Acrophobia.
The paralyzing fear of heights was strong in me, and it wasn’t until several years later that I came to love climbing. A fear of heights is normal if it stays in proportion. It was a fear that kept me safe from falling from a significant height.
Did you know that all human beings are born with only two fears? These are the fear of falling and loud noises. Think of a newborn. These are the only two things that will cause a baby to startle. As babies grow, their brain develops, experience new things, and adds things to fear to that list.
A lot of our fears come either from biases our parents instilled in our culture. Other concerns stem from events we experienced as children. Besides those, well, scientists are unsure how we get. While healthy fears keep us from harm, these concerns can grow out of proportion and instead of protecting us, they cripple us.
Irrational fears can keep you from living your potential and trap you in a prison cell of anxiety. There are so many irrational phobias out there that pose little to no real danger to your life.
In Which Categories Do Your Fears Reside?
Most irrational fears are sorted into four categories. The fear of animals such as insects, spiders, snakes, dogs, or mice. Then, there are irrational fears tied with a natural phenomenon like the dark or severe thunder storms. The third group is situational phobias or phobias triggered by a particular event or place, like claustrophobia.
Others fear to cross bridges or fly on planes. The fourth group of phobias is the fear of injury. Irrational fears here may be getting your blood drawn, going to the dentist, and so forth. An irrational fear will convince you that it is entirely possible for the bridge to crumble, a spider to bite you, or an audience to laugh you off the stage during a speech.
While it’s possible, it isn’t very probable. So how can you overcome these irrational fears?
1. Grab the Bull by its Horns
Identify your fear and give it a name. You can’t overcome something you deny exists in the first place. Once you can accurately give a name, you can gradually increase your exposure to your fear.
Start small, where you feel slightly anxious but not crippled. If you fear heights, try stepping up on a stool first without getting dizzy. Slowly increase your exposure to height without panicking.
2. Ask Yourself, “Is it useful or is this irrational?”
Unless your fear is serving a useful purpose, it is irrational. An irrational fear washes over you, filling you with anxiety, and dread. An irrational fear is a fear of what might happen; it is a fear you cannot do anything about.
I’m sure most of us can relate to the childhood fear of monsters under the bed, or for me, it was monsters under the stairs. When I would switch the light off in the basement, I would run full speed up the stairs at the thought of what might be under the stairs.
My young mind knew that there was nothing there but the fear still lingered. As an adult, I had to name this fear and recognize what my response to it was (in this case a racing heart and pulse). I didn’t let the fear take over and instead was able to work through my reaction, forcing myself to walk up the stairs normally.
As adults, we face much more severe fears like the loss of a loved one, identity theft, or the loss of a job. But regardless of what irrational fear you are experiencing you cannot let it control you.
3. Identify Your Physical and Emotional Response to Fear
The first step is to identify your fear and determine if it is serving a useful purpose. The next step, determine your reaction to it and work through those feelings instead of automatically reacting to the fear.
Ask yourself, “what can I do about these negative thoughts”? If there is nothing you can do, then you must let go of your illusion of control. Fear sometimes makes you feel you are in control.
If you’re worrying you’re doing something right? There is a famous saying that says, “Fear is like rocking in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but you’re not going to get anywhere”.
4. Be Proactive
So get off the rocking chair and do something proactive about your fear. Put yourself in the driver’s seat, proverbially speaking. If you fear to become the victim of identity theft, for example, there are many proactive and positive steps you can take to reduce your risk.
- Check your credit reports a couple of times per year
- Set up a fraud alert with the credit bureaus
- Freeze your credit
- Use programs to monitor your finances
5. Take It Slow
You’re not going to conquer your irrational fear in a single day, and your brain will continue to tell you that you are in imminent danger, trying to force you to overreact.
So take it slow and practice daily. Remind yourself of where you want to be and work towards that goal. If you’re persistent, your anxiety will fade. Replace that fear with something enjoyable and form some new hobbies to take your mind of anxious thoughts.
You don’t have to do it alone. You can always ask a close friend to help you work through your irrational fear or enlist the help of a counselor.
Get a Grip
Never forget that you are the one in control though. It is you who permits fear to flick on the auto-pilot panic mode. Force yourself back to rational thoughts, reasonable proactive responses, and a commitment to kick irrational fears out the door for good.
Please Share With Your Friends and Family!
Featured Image Courtesy: Crosswalk (crosswalk.com)