Understanding what is fear and how to overcome fear is essential to change bad habits, dependencies and addictions. Fear is an emotion that can help us or hurt us, though the object of our fear is just in our mind.
To generate a lot of controversy I would simply say that fear is not real… it’s all in the mind. However that is not quite right… or at least the full story. Fear is an emotion and has its benefits and disadvantages.
Back in prehistoric days fear served as a survival mechanism to help keep us from putting ourselves in harm’s way. We experienced the emotion of fear concerning things that we believed could hurt us (savage animals, falling off cliffs etc.). The response to the fear stimulus and associated adrenalin release was typically one of flight (we ran or moved away), fight (we defended ourselves by being aggressive), or freeze (we remained very still or hid until the threat passed). A lot of people don’t realise the freeze response existed, though a lot of animals (and humans) still commonly use it to survive dangerous or scary situations. Yes, in those early times fear was definitely a good emotion to have to protect us.
Even today feeling fear or being afraid serves us, especially when young and we don’t fully comprehend how everything in the world works. It is good to have a healthy amount of respect and caution for things that are known to harm us if not treated in the appropriate manner e.g. electricity, vehicle traffic, chemicals, strange dogs etc. Also unfortunately in today’s world children have to be taught to be wary even of other people that they do not know well. So the emotion of fear is still an important tool as we progress through our early learning years, as long it is replaced by understanding and more appropriate responses based on that understanding as we get older.
If the things we were taught to fear as a child (or we developed due to our own young perceptions), carry over into adulthood they can affect our beliefs, reasoning and decision-making in all areas of our life. We can become stuck and limit ourselves from achieving great things by fears that are not serving us as adults. In these cases fear becomes a distinct disadvantage to us.
Indeed ‘understanding’ is one of the main keys to unlocking and releasing our fears and is one of the topics I cover more fully in my book Alcohemy and the associated self-help video alcohol treatment program. In that material I reveal that fear is not a tangible, physical thing that is outside our control. Although a real emotion, fear is always just a state of mind, and it is made up of the thoughts we are currently having and therefore completely within our control. The only thing we have to fear is the emotion of fear itself, as the object of our fear is not actually real, rather something we think ‘might’ happen in the future. This fear is often based on outdated beliefs and conditioning that we were taught or we adopted many years ago. When people are fearful of doing something, it is not the ‘doing’ that is the issue; it is the imagined negative consequence if it doesn’t go well. We would all love the thrill of doing new things if we knew it would be a successful and happy experience. What we fear is confronting the worst result that we imagine may happen.
I have heard and seen it written that it is the unknown that we fear most. I disagree with that concept, and believe it is what we replace the unknown with that causes our fear. Most people would gladly attempt challenges if the outcomes were likely to be successful (or even unknown), as long as they wouldn’t be worse off. The majority however, tend to paint the picture of the unknown destination with images of the worst-case scenarios they have conjured up in their minds, and therefore don’t commit to the challenge. Think of a time when you balked at a challenge you would have loved to be successful in. I bet it wasn’t the visions of success that made you reluctant; it was the thoughts and visions of the worst outcome that held you back.
I could go on, as I have devoted a good portion of a chapter in my book Alcohemy to it, though the topic of fear is too long to discuss in full here. The reason I give overcoming fear so much devotion is because my own fears were major obstacles for me to stop drinking alcohol and committing to changing to an alcohol-free lifestyle. I also know fear is a major obstacle for many others desiring to break an alcohol addiction or change bad habits in their life; and it is easier than most would imagine.