Everyone feels fear at some point in his or her life. Fear is a natural and useful emotion. Feeling afraid to pick up a poisonous spider, walk down a dark deserted alley in a high crime area, or walk across a busy highway keeps us safe. However, many people suffer from unnecessary and sometimes irrational fears. This type of fear can keep you from achieving your goals and enjoying life - especially if you have many fears. Some common fears include, spiders, snakes, terrorism, public speaking, dogs, and heights. If you are struggling with fears and you want to learn how to conquer them, I suggest 3 different paths you can try.
The western way – A tried and true approach to reduce and eliminate fears is to use the process known as systematic desensitization. This involves repeated and graduated exposure to the feared stimulus paired with relaxation techniques (deep breathing, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.). For example, if you are afraid of heights you might start by viewing a video taken from on top of a tall building and practice your relaxation techniques until you feel comfortable viewing this video. Once you can look at the video without any fear, you might try going to the top floor of a small building and looking out the window while practicing your relaxation techniques. Continue with these graduated steps paired with your relaxation techniques until you can go to the top of a tall building and feel comfortable. If you have intense fears, you will probably want to seek the support of a therapist to help you use this process.
The eastern way - Meditation can help you reduce your fear response. Scientific research has shown that meditation can change the brain and help reduce fear, anxiety, anger, and depression. Dr. Richard Davidson (University of Wisconsin) found that meditating helps increase activity in the left pre-frontal cortex (part of brain associated with happiness and positivity) and quiet activity in the amygdala and right pre-frontal cortex (parts associated with fear). Regular meditation can also help you connect with your inner resources that help you to feel more calm and confident. To start a meditation practice, I suggest that you start small – try for a few minutes each day and work your way to a length of time that works for you. Remember that meditation is NOT about stopping the brain from thinking! That is what the brain does by nature – it thinks. The key to meditation is to be aware of these thoughts (and they will come) and then bring your awareness back to the present moment.
East meets west - Tap, tap, tap your fears away with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). There is evidence to support this new technique that involves acupressure combined with mental activities to reduce fear quickly and easily. EFT, a particular type of energy psychology, is showing great promise as a quick and efficient method to conquer fears. EFT involves simple stimulation of certain acupressure points in order to reprogram the energy system to have a new reaction to old fearful thoughts and stimuli. Tapping acupressure points while focusing on a fearful memory seems to deactivate areas of the brain that are involved in fear and pain. EFT is something you can learn from a book, the EFT website, or a practitioner and then practice on your own anytime you need it.
If fear is interfering with your life, there is hope. You don't have to simply put up with a life full of fear. Any of the above techniques can help you conquer your fear and move forward with your life feeling more calm, cool, and confident.