Since the Buzz Tour I have run several workshops for groups and individuals about overcoming fear. We all feel fear differently at different situations depending upon our capabilities and previous experiences. There is useful fear which gives us fight or flight hormones to deal with emergencies but there is also unhelpful fear that we can develop techniques to overcome.
- Reducing risk
- Using motivating emotions
- Be inspired
- Use habit and familiarity
- Taking care of the physical
- Courage together
Risk is composed of probability and consequence. Simply doing something that frightens you will not reduce your fear of that thing unless it makes you more capable, increases your knowledge/familiarity or it goes well. Doing something badly and having your fears confirmed can be traumatising rather than helpful. The first stage to doing something frightening can be to reduce the probability and consequence of harm. Knowledge reduces the fear of the unknown. Finding a mentor, learning from others and practicing also reduces fear. By becoming more capable and managing the situation to the best of your ability you make the reality less frightening in real terms.
Using motivating emotions
When considering how to grow our courage we are exploring a behavioural change, which by necessity must involve motivating emotions. Develop and use your motivating emotions – gratitude, devotion, duty, love, anger, frustration. Why are you compelled to do this thing that frightens you? Explore and visualise your motivation so it can be recalled when you need courage.
Use the inspiration of others. Who can you use as role models to give you a template for your courage? Emotionally connect with what they did in order to normalise what you are about to do. Human like to follow and copy each other so use that to your advantage.
Use habit and familiarity
Humans have a useful ability to go on ‘autopilot’ and the more we are familiar with a situation the less stressed we are. If you are going to have to do something in a frightening situation can you do the activity hundreds of times so that you can use the habit to do it with little conscious effort? Can you bring familiarity and normality with you into the fearful situation in order to reduce stress levels?
Take care of the physical
Some physical situations will lead to more fear and stress so taking care of the physical needs makes courage easier. Eating (especially carbohydrates), sleeping, keeping warm, not abusing substances, resting and removing stress hormones from your body will all help reduce fear and anxiety.
There are many factors that make it easier to have courage in a group. Our bodies release more reward hormones when we take risks with a peer group than alone. The immediacy of protecting our friends is motivating and you have someone to literally watch your back. The social pressure to perform and conform in front of others and group pride is also a useful tool. For these and many other reasons we must pick our peers with care, communicate our wants, limitations and fears, and take responsibility for each other.
When we have done all we can to reduce our fear, there may well still be a gap that remains, between our courage and what we need to do. Never give in to self pity. When there is nothing left for it, stop thinking, use your motivating emotions and just do it.