How to win the battle with fear

Are fears and debilitating emotions keeping you chained to the past? Do you feel trapped and stuck in fear? Do you replay in your mind the worst possible scenarios over and over again?

When it comes to fear, we have a choice about how much of our daily lives we hand over to it. F.E.A.R. can stand for:

False Expectation Appears Real

or

Face Everything and Rise!

The choice is yours.

What are we worried about?

Over 30 years ago I was sitting in a London counselling course when the teacher said, “90% of your clients’ issues will be based in their past and 10% are based in today”.

Just as I was drifting off in the lecture, I was startled awake when the teacher threw down a pile of books and reversed the message:

 “10% of what your client wants to work on today is about what’s going on in their life right now and 90% of it is based in the past”.

 
Real or imagined?

Recognising how we default to past fears in our everyday life is a pivotal concept in the work of Dr Joe Dispenza who draws on neuroscience and epigenetics to describe the way our body and mind are hard-wired to replay worst possible outcomes. He explains that as humans we have large brains that afford us the capacity to think and to imagine; about our problems, past events and how we might envisage our future; all kinds of thoughts that have the potential to flood our body with a cascade of neurochemicals.

When we constantly relive the past or try to control the unpredictable future, we exhaust our bodies and brains. Dr Joe Dispenzer provides hundreds of case studies in his book, You are The Placebo Effect: Making Your Mind Matter (Dispenza, 2014), that reveal the body struggles to differentiate between a stressful even occurring in real time or our memory of it. Either way the body is flooded with fear-fueled neurochemicals as we ‘replay’ these fears over and over again.

Most of my clients want to break the draining and debilitating cycle of fear to be calmer, clearer, happier and freer from the past.

 
Ways to recognise if today’s response is based in fear from the past 
  • Your response to a situation far exceeds the challenges of the event. For example, you become enraged by ‘small life’ frustrations and ‘freeze’ when somebody touches you or you hold your breath as you anticipate someone’s reaction.
  • Just thinking about a person or past trauma evokes a physical response of anger, fear, sadness, shame, guilt or other fear-based emotion.
  • A change of events or unexpected sound startles you and has you feeling in a heightened state of ‘hypervigilance’ for an extended period
  • You ‘shut down’ socially or professionally in response to facial expressions, the mood or passing comments of others
  • You feel drained and/or depleted just simply contemplating the day ahead and interpersonal interactions
  • Throughout the day you recognise persistent irritability, jumpiness, or feelings of being ‘on edge’
  • Even when you think ‘this isn’t rational’, your ruminations and body responses keep you hooked into imagining the worst possible outcomes
  • Having thoughts such as “I no longer feel like myself” or “I have never experienced my authentic self” (common themes I observe in the language of clients)
  • You feel alone and afraid as your brain tells you that you are ‘trapped’ or ‘locked’ in a mindset that can only default to fear
  • You resort to ‘checking out’ of your mind and body by numbing yourself with escalating crutches and vices such as emotional eating, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes and so on.

 

Freedom and choice

Austrian psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, Victor Frankel (1905-1997) reminded us that our worst nightmares and experiences can be our best teachers. Dr Edith Eger (another holocaust survivor) added that “healing, fulfilment and freedom come from our ability to choose a response to whatever life brings us, and to make meaning and derive purpose from all we experience – and in particular, from our suffering". (Eger, 2021, p. 8). In this compassionate way, freedom is a lifetime practice. A choice we get to make again and again each day and “we can’t heal what we don’t feel”.

Freedom lies in our ability to ‘unplug’ from the mind-to-body-fear and find a way to go within and ‘befriend’ the inner child and traumatised parts of ourselves to ultimately ‘re-wire’ our responses to freedom and choice. As Dr Bessel van der Kolk said in his beautiful book: The Body Keeps the Score, "When you activate your gut feelings and listen to your heartbeat – when you follow the interoceptive pathways to your innermost recesses – things begin to change". (van der Kolk, 2015, p. 238)

Freedom and choice are the kind of emotions most people are searching for. I invite you to leave shame, blame, and needing to be right (all fear-based emotions) further behind you as you become curious and courageous to open your heart to new possibilities.

Tried and tested techniques for you to try

 1. Breathing

3 times every hour, aim to practice breathing out for longer than you breath in.

  • Breath in for 3
  • Hold for 4
  • Breath out for 6-7 breaths.

2. Sleep

Aim to get 7-8* hours per night. Good quality sleep not only cleans our brain but it also plays an important role in healing as the brain permits old memories to fade away (van der Kolk, 2015, p.260)

3. Change

Make one small change today. All change takes courage. We only change when we are ready.

4. Self-Talk

"We have a choice" and "that was then and this is now" - good self-talk reminders (Eger, 2021, p. 155)

 5. Growth

In every crisis there is a transition.

 6. Feeling

Healing requires feeling. “What do I feel in my body right now?” Find ways of experiencing your body through movement such as exercise, dance, theatre, yoga, etc.

Remember that what we practice we get better at. We also know from the work of the wonderful authors who have inspired this blog post, that energy flows where attention goes - what you pay attention to grows stronger… The choice is yours. We have a choice about how much of our daily lives we hand over to F.E.A.R. and each of us have the capacity to flip fear to a more loving frequency.

Face Everything And Rise

And if you need some assistance to shift the past further behind you so you can access more energy and greater choices, give us a call to explore your options.

With love for you and your true potential,

Amanda x

 

*The minimum number of hours recommended for adults; younger and older people require more hours than this (Huffington, 2016)

References

Dispenza, D. J. (2014). You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter. Hay House.

Eger, E. (2021). GIFT: 12 lessons to save your life. Rider.

Huffington, A. S. (2016). The sleep revolution: Transforming your life, one night at a time (First edition). Harmony Books.

van der Kolk, B. A. (2015). The body keeps the score: Mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma. Penguin Books.

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