Emotions like fear and anxiety are just physical reactions to unfamiliar situations. They are chemical reactions to unfamiliar conditions and do not need to rule what we do or who we are.
When I experience one of these emotions, I seek to understand that it is often because I am about to do something new and hopefully great. I also seek to recognize that everything good to ever happen to me has been a result of embracing changes.
I am happy in most cases that when I am experiencing reservations, fear or anxiety that it may bring awesome change with it. Without doing new things, we will never improve ourselves – as the saying goes, no risk no reward.
The human brain is an amazing machine. Just because it has your safety in mind though (yep… a pun!) doesn’t mean that it is looking after your best interests.
Our brains control all of who we are and are more powerful than most of us truly realize. It manages all thought and processes the crowd of information that we are presented with in every moment of our life. It is the basis of all of our thought and as the popular theory by Sigmund Freud illustrates, our conscious mind is only around 10% of our brain’s capability.
The reptilian brain
Present within the brains of all animals is the structure that has allowed us to survive for thousands of years. This is often referred to as the reptilian brain. This is responsible for the most basic parts of life such as balance, the senses, and instinct. This is the part of the brain that is present in all species. This includes those that spend most of their day finding food, eating food, digesting food and then sleeping so they have the energy to find more food tomorrow.
It is responsible for our most basic functions like blinking and breathing without thinking about it.
This part of our brains also takes care of our physical safety by offering reactions such as fear to situations that have resulted in discomfort, either real or perceived, in the past.
The control of the chemicals that initiate fear and anxiety are also managed by this part of our brain. In many situations these reactions are simply our body saying “hey, this is not something that I am familiar with, maybe you should be careful”.
Fear and hesitation are good, but not always appropriate
One of the primary purposes of the brain is to keep us safe by making us stop and think before launching into danger. Being the central part of our consciousness, it stores all of the things that we have ever had an issue with and knows how to best make us stop and consider situations.
Fear and anxiety are part of a primal defense mechanism. It works by advising us that the thing that we are about to do is outside of our ‘safe’ comfort zone. This does not always mean that it is a bad thing, just something that we are unfamiliar with.
It is through the continued approach to recognizing these feelings but continuing to challenge ourselves that we also expand our comfort zone and achieve our goals.
How do you overcome fear?
Our body’s defense reactions were so important to our ancestors when they were chasing dinosaurs for food and living in caves. These reactions are not as relevant now as they once were though.
For general safety, it is still important that we are aware of what is going on around us. It is fairly unlikely that we will die though if we stammer a few words in a presentation.
My main approach in the management of unreasonable emotions such as fear or anxiety is to review how insignificant the result of total failure would actually be. Although it is probably a bit cliché, I feel the best approach to be to simply ask “What is the worst that could actually happen?”