What is Fear Really?

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Uncovering the True Definition of Fear…

Have you ever been afraid to try something new? Have you ever feared taking a chance or pursuing a goal but at the last moment pulled back because you felt uneasy or uncertain?

We have all no doubt experienced some kind of fear at one time or another. These fears rob us of many wonderful experiences and opportunities that we never get a chance to experience because our fears hold us back from doing the things that in our heart-of-hearts we desperately want to do.

Back in the days when our distant ancestors were living in caves and hiding from deadly predators looking for an easy meal, it was necessary to be afraid because fear was the one thing that kept us alert and therefore alive. Without this fight/flight response we would fall prey to our hunters and the human race would today be a fleeting memory — never quite living up to its potential.

Therefore fear has no doubt served us in the past and has helped the human race to survive and thrive in this world. However, life is not exactly how it used to be when our ancestors roamed the world. Today there are no predators hunting us on our city streets, and yet we still experience the same fight/flight response to uncertainty that our ancestors experienced thousands of years ago. The only difference is that today we fear speaking in public, asking a girl/guy out on a date, going in for a job interview, and so much more.

How do our modern fears compare to the fears our ancestors experienced thousands of years ago? Or, let me put it another way: Are our modern responses to uncertainty practical given the types of uncertainties we experience in this day and age? Certainly not!

Severe heart palpitations, extreme sweating, heavy breathing and shock are understandable when faced with a life threatening situation, however these responses don’t serve us when we are faced with modern day uncertainties. In fact they hurt us because they prevent us from doing the things we most would like to do in order to get ahead in life.

Given all this it’s clear to see how we use our fear inappropriately in the modern world. Fear should protect us from danger and life threatening situations, and not from the goals or objectives that we would like to achieve.

When we fear something we tend to indulge in catastrophic thinking. We imagine the worst-case scenario (based on what evidence?) and then vividly live and re-live this scenario in our minds without ever experiencing it in the real world. We therefore experience the fear time and again without any practical experience in the real world. Does that even make any sense?

The fear you experience is based on false evidence that you have made up in your imagination about how things will turn out. But the truth is that you don’t know how things will turn out. You are making assumptions. In fact, most of the time things are never as bad as we imagine them to be. We must just take the first step into the unknown and that’s when we will discover that what we initially feared isn’t so bad after all.

Your imagination is very powerful and can turn the silliest of situations into vivid fears that prevent you from taking action. It’s therefore important to catch yourself in the act before your imagination overwhelms your logical thinking processes.

Action Points

The next time your imagination gets the better of you, ask yourself:

  • How am I catastrophizing this situation in my imagination?
  • What evidence do I have that this situation will turn out as I’m imagining it?
  • What evidence do I have to the contrary?
  • Are things likely to be as bad and catastrophic as I am imagining them to be?
  • How else could I potentially perceive this situation?
  • What’s the best case scenario in this situation?
  • What can I do to ensure that the best case scenario comes to fruition?
  • What’s the worst case scenario in this situation?
  • How can I minimize the impact of the worst case scenario?
  • And if the worst case scenario does come to fruition, is it really the end of the world, or could I potentially gain some value from the experience to do better in the future?

Just as your imagination works against you, keep in mind that you can just as easily make it work for you by imagining positive and motivating scenarios that will help you feel empowered the next time you step into the unknown.

IQ Matrix Maps

Here are links to complementary IQ Matrix posters that go into more depth about this topic:

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