Knowing how to conquer fear is crucial when you want to live switched-on.
Because fear and desire are the primal driving forces of our behavior. These emotions are hard-coded into the lower regions of our brain to protect the survival of our species. Hence we seek pleasure and avoid pain.
Gladly, as human beings, we can evolve ourselves beyond the responsive drivenness of fear and desire.
We can develop into our higher selves that perceive potential beyond the immediate necessities of our animal nature. The better we become at conquering fear and realizing our higher self while we can, the less likely we are to face the remorse of not having lived more fully that is so common among older people approaching death.
Looking at the most common regrets that older adults in the last phase of their lives have, there are two common themes for most people: One is related to emotions and social relationships. “I should have been a better spouse,” “I regret not having reconciled with my father in time,” “Such a pity I did not have a better relationship with my sister.” This line of regrets at the core is about not having opened up more to others and having taken oneself too seriously at the expense of more harmonious relationships.
The other and most common regret is not having lived to one’s full potential. “I regret not having chosen the career I wanted,” “I should have taken more risks in my professional life,” I should have listened more to my heart than to others in my decisions.”
Just like the first line of regrets, remorse about not having realized one’s full potential in life is tragic. Fear is the enemy of human potential.
What would you do if you weren’t afraid? – Spencer Johnson
Modern Society Has Intensified Our Fears
Modern society has intensified fears and desires in irrational ways. The instincts that once upon the time, helped us survive in the Savannah have been grabbed hold of by marketing, social media, and the news cycle.
These different external expectations can make it hard to stay in touch with our intrinsic motivations. As a result, many of us spend our lives in a weakened and intimidating state. And living in fear is no way to be if you want to succeed.
Whatever your goal may be, confronting and overcoming what you are afraid of is an elemental stepping stone on your path that we all have to face. Because beyond fear, higher dimensions of freedom await the brave. As a result, we all have to face it because fear is part of our collective memory and evolutionary makeup as a species.
The greatest discovery of my generation is the fact that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. – William James
Fear is Universal and Can Make You Sick
Fear is a humanities’ great enemy. And we are born with fear. There are diverse degrees in doubt. Think about fright, alarm, timidness, sheer terror, and pervasive anxieties and phobias.
Fear comes in two general kinds: First, there is fear that kicks in when there is a threatening situation that endangers your life. Your distant ancestor running away from that saber tooth tiger might be the very reason you are here today. Your ancestors experienced rational fear. This kind of reasonable suspicion is healthy.
Second, there is an unnatural or irrational fear, which has no objective basis in reality. This kind of fear is an illusion.
A moment of thought: Resign yourself, learn to rest content in the moment. Yes, in the moment, the terrible moment. It is not terrible; only your fear of the future makes it so. – Franz Kafka, Diaries. Kafka suffered from anxieties.
In the modern world, the overwhelming percentage of fear that people experience is imaginary. Imaginary fears deplete your energy and cause diseases. Irrational fear puts your body into a hormonal state of high alert as if you were to run away from that wild animal.
But for an imaginary fear in the modern world, there is no imminent threat, so we never take physical action. The result is low vitality, uneasiness, discomfort, disharmony, and, eventually, sickness.
Conquering Fear is Your Doorway to Personal Growth
Without fear, there would be no courage in the world. Doubt exists so you can learn to be courageous.
Panic originates from our attachment to who we think we currently are and to what we believe we have and own. Humans instinctively refuse change because we feel comfortable with what is known. We fear the uncertainty that something new may bring along. We prefer to live in a familiar steady routine and avoid what is beyond the accepted.
Attachment and fear go hand in hand. In the same vein, we fear being alone. In prehistoric times it was dangerous to be separated from the tribe. Staying in the group made survival more likely.
How often have you heard about leaving your comfort zone to grow? Whenever you hit the borders of your comfort zone, you run into some personal fear. It is true.
Personal growth begins outside of your comfort zone. Fear also originates from a feeling of inadequacy, inferiority, and unworthiness.
Not conforming with social norms is scary for many, as being an outsider carries the risk of ostracization and expulsion from the group.
The Ultimate Fear to Conquer is the Fear of Death
And then there is the fear of being unsafe, which derives from the overarching concern of death. Striving to conquer the fear of death is a lifelong quest, and in our final moments, the creature in us is likely to resist letting go.
Inscribed above a door in St. Paul’s Monastery on Mount Athos, Greece is the saying, “If you die before you die, then you won’t die when you die.” This profound mystical realization that letting go of our ego that is separate from the world around is perhaps the ultimate goal and liberation of all fear.
For now, however, let’s assume we stay right in the middle of modern society and life rather than becoming a recluse mystic. So how to starve fear and starve courage so be can develop into the best version of ourselves?
The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek. – Joseph Campbell
There Are Proven Ways to Confront Your Fear
There is a general vantage point on how you can conquer fear: Learn to discriminate, contemplate, and meditate on your worries. And you need to create space between the objects of fear and your thinking, reactive mind. Then into that space, plant the seed of courage, the seed of reacting without a doubt.
But go easy on yourself; re-educating your perception is a life project. From the point of silence, learn to observe the menagerie of your mind. And witness how the mind tricks into fearful reactions to what are mostly non-existing threats.
Proof in point, think back about fears you had in the past. In hindsight, most alarms will prove illusions inflicted unto you by your mind. Indeed, this process of demystifying fear sounds abstract to the anxious mind. And so does develop a more spacious account that results in an expansive attitude. Because, well, it is. It is the general nature of the beast.
Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears. – Les Brown
Fear does not disappear by itself. You have to face your fear, frame it, then learn to control it in its irrational reality with another action superseding it.
Here are four skills that can help you manage your fear and ideally even turn it into something positive.
These methods are highly practical and hands-down work. US Navy Seals learn a variation of them as the Big Four in their training, which army experts widely consider the most rigorous for an elite special force.
Seal Coach Mark Divine calls the four skills “the Big Four of Mental Toughness.” They are goal setting, breathing, positivity, and visualization. The more you use them, the more effective they become.
Conquer Fear by Submitting Your Daily Life to a Goal Larger Than Yourself
Having clear and well-chosen goals sustains the direction of actions, priorities, energy, and motivation. There are various goal setting techniques, and you need to break down a broad goal into micro-goals.
The standard principle here is that the purpose derived from a more critical goal will override the tediousness of the daily grind.
A compelling goal setting technique is to imagine how you want people to remember you at your funeral. Yes, you have already gone west, and the folks who knew you have a chat on the person that was you.
Starting from the end is an efficient goal setting and life planning technique. It is useful because it confronts us with our mortality.
Time is limited, and we better get moving. And as mortality asks fundamental questions, you will need to come up with big answers.
Exercise Arousal Control with the Power of Your Breath
Breathing is magic. Breathing is life. Breathing happens automatically, but you can also consciously take charge of your breathing to control your mind.
The oldest known breathing practices come from Pranayama (Prana = vital or cosmic energy, Ayama = extension, expansion) in the Tantric / Yogic tradition that works with prolongation and restraint of breath.
Breath control in pranayama aims at cultivation energy in the body and still the mind.
Various popular breathing techniques like Buteyko or the Wim Hoff method show remarkable results in improving physical and mental health and confirm what yogis have known for thousands of years.
Training in breath retention in particular tremendously calms the mind and fosters undisturbed rise in the face of adversity. Because every time you do extended breath retention, you simulate suffocation. As a result, you are relentlessly toughening your mind towards fear and stress while reaping amazing physical benefits.
Navy Seals learn to practice ‘box breathing,’ which helps to develop a calm, focused mind that excels at managing stress. The practice consists of breathing, that is inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, holding the breath, inhaling again, and so forth at equal lengths, typically to a count of five.
Working with your breath is fascinating. And practicing breath control is a fantastic tool on the path of self-optimization and conquering fear.
Maintain a Positive Inner Dialogue in the Face of Adversity
What you say to yourself makes a huge difference. Think about a positive inner dialogue as Pythagoras stated in his golden verses: “But above all things respect yourself” or Jordan Peterson in his 12 Rules for Life “Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping.”
Positive inner dialogue can be quite tricky to master, as negative internal conversations can be deeply rooted. And self-talk also can feel strange and almost pathological, at first, but it works. Just start by observing your thoughts and intercept with positive statements. “I got this. Feeling good and having fun.”
Especially talking to yourself in the third person is convincing as this produces a more sound effect, “Poyel will not give in he has finished his mission, and all are excellent.” Try it. You will be amazed at what happens to your fear over time.
Create Your Reality With the Power of Visualizations
Visualizations are mental imagery, aka reality in your inner world that aligns your mind and emotions with the goal you are trying to achieve. Use your thoughts and feelings to create desired realities.
Let’s say you are scared of a presentation in front of a large group of people. Perfectly understandable. Fear of public speaking is common.
Create mental imagery of how you will go about the presentation, what you will do on stage, your body posture, how you will exude confidence. The more details you feed to your mind, the better.
The more emotions go into your visualization, the better. And rehearse, again and again, and see how the reality builds. And as a result, you can control your fear.