In my last blog post I discussed the types of fear that we deal with. I distinguished actual fear from psychological fear with actual fear being a real threat to our wellbeing such as confronting an armed attacker. I also discussed that psychological fears are those fears that are not a real physical threats but perceived as being so by our egos whose main purpose is to ensure our survival. Please see my last blog to refresh yourself on the details. This week I’d like to discuss how to overcome our psychological fears.
These are usually programmed in our early childhood through adverse experiences and conditioning by our environment. For example, let’s assume that you tried out for your school basketball team and your friends made the cut but you didn’t. There are two ways to deal with such a situation.
You could choose to practice more and develop and hone your skills and try out again the following year. However, you could also create a limiting belief that you are not good enough which could keep you from trying out again for the basketball team, trying out for other teams and attempting other sports and activities out of fear of rejection. The path you choose will depend on your interpretation of the event which led to your limiting belief.
Your interpretation of the situation also depends on the circumstances surrounding it. For example, if you were told by the other participants that you are not a good basketball player, you’re wasting your time and you’re just going to bring the team down, it is more likely that you will develop the limiting belief of not being good enough. This will be accompanied by the associated psychological fear.
On the other hand if the other children trying out encouraged you, gave you tips and pointers to elevate your game and were generally supportive, it is more likely that you will not be discouraged, not develop psychological fear and try to improve your skills for next time. Our environment is an important determinant of how we interpret events in our lives and whether we develop psychological fear.
The problem is that we do not always have control over our environment. The question then arises, how do we overcome our psychological fears? The first thing we need to do is to put our fear into perspective and realize that there is nothing to fear in the first place. Using the example above, our ego has interpreted being rejected from the basketball team as a threat to our wellbeing but is this really what it is?
The fact is that rejection can be painful, however, what is worse than pain is suffering which is what is perpetuated when we let fear of rejection permeate how we navigate our lives. We need to realize that by virtue of being human we will occasionally experience emotional pain. It is unavoidable and should not detract us from pursuing our goals and ambitions. We need to experience this emotional pain fully in order to prevent it from turning into suffering which leads to fear. Please read one of my previous blogs where I discuss this in more detail.
In order to overcome psychological fear you must put it into perspective. You do this by realizing that the negative outcome you have experienced is only one of whole spectrum of possible outcomes and is giving you a deeper message.
Using our example above the deeper message from being cut from the basketball team could mean that you need to practice more and work on your skills. This could be by playing more recreational basketball with friends and classmates, getting pointers from the school basketball coach as to where you are lacking or joining a basketball camp or other training program to get better.
Once you can understand the deeper message from the experience that led to the psychological fear you then need to put that fear into perspective. The fact is that you experienced only one of a whole spectrum of possible outcomes. One possible outcome is that you work on your skills and make the team next year. Another possible outcome is that you go on to enjoy basketball as a recreational activity and not play it competitively. Still another possible outcome is that you find another sport that you can excel in and play that competitively.
By letting a negative outcome colour your perception of all similar future experiences your not only limit your potential but you live a less than extraordinary life. You need to put any negative outcome from any situation into a greater perspective and realize that there is no real threat to your wellbeing, there is greater lesson to be learned from the experience and that there is a whole spectrum of other possible outcomes which can potentially arise from the same situation. You only need give them the possibility to manifest by not avoiding what caused your fear in the first place.
Now look at those things that you currently fear in your life. Ask yourself, are they actual fears or just psychological fears? For those that are psychological fears, put them into perspective like I have described above and you will find yourself gaining the courage to overcome them and reach your full potential beyond any perceived limitations.
Nauman Naeem MD