A few years ago there was a popular TV show called, “The Fear Factor.” It put people into scary situations where they had to overcome their fears in order to win a large sum of money. They would go through obstacles elevated over cliffs, experience break-neck speeds, and have total reliance upon their bodies and minds as they were tested to exhaustion. The one thing that always got me was the eating of the bugs and other nasty living things. I often thought, “I could do that,” but then I’d see the bugs, “Nope. Wouldn’t do that.”
I wondered where these people found the motivation to complete these tasks. Was it the money they would get if they won? Was it the fear of ridicule they would receive from their friends if they gave in to their fears? Was it peer-pressure from the other contestants? Or was it their “15 minutes of fame” that motivated them? What happened to them after the show? Did they return to their previously fearful nature, or did they go on to accomplish more because of learning how to face their fears?
Have you seen the “Fear Not” stickers on some people’s cars? Have you wondered what it means? It’s actually from the Bible,
“Fear not, and know that I am God.”
Fear is just a feeling. It is a very powerful feeling. When we fear something, sometimes we can’t move past it. Other times fear consumes us and controls our thoughts, our actions, and our reactions and can cause Anxiety and Depression.
In the movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” the cowardly lion is fearful of the flying monkeys and he closes his eyes, stroking his tail, he repeats, “I do believe, I do believe, I do, do, do believe.” He is hoping somehow that by believing in that which he fears (flying monkeys), he will somehow overcome his fears. To believe in the fear gives it power over you, it doesn’t make it better.
When I help my clients understand their fears, often it is merely a shift in their perspective that makes the difference. I tell them to, “Get the flash light out and look under the bed. It’s not the boogie-man, but a dust bunny under there.” We can be paralyzed with unrealistic fear for years, afraid of the “what-if’s” that play over and over in our minds.
The beginning of change happens when you can identify the level of danger appropriately. Not all things that we are afraid of have life endangering consequences. We can be afraid of harsh words, additional work, judgments, and criticism. But when you understand the consequences of another’s actions can create unrealistic fears in you, you have a choice to receive or reject those consequences. Understanding you can say “No” to the consequences can be empowering. Are your friends really your friends if they are hurtful and manipulative? Is your husband’s displeased expression enough to keep you from speaking your truth? When your children stomp their feet in a store demanding a toy, do you just give in to stop the embarrassing moment? You can choose better friends, you can speak your truth and improve communication, and you can remove your child from the store without the toy. When you are proactive the fear goes away. You choose a decision to address the situation and not run and hide in fear of the “what-if.” In other words: You can control the fear or the fear will control you.
The Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, and the Scarecrow were terrified of the witch and her flying monkeys until Dorothy stood up against them and showed her three companions the evidence of their abilities over the fear, they were transformed from fearful to fearless.
Look for the evidence to be afraid, and if there isn’t any, let go of the fear.