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  • Writer's pictureKirsti Gwynn

Overcoming Fear: The Key to More Courage

Is worrying about what could go wrong keeping you from getting started? Luckily, facing your fears isn’t the only way to overcome them.

There are two parts to fear. When your mind realises that you could get hurt in some way, it sets off a physiological fear response. Primary fear is what happens in your body when you feel afraid. … Like your heart beating fast, your palms starting to sweat, or that knot in your stomach. Once that’s happening in your body, your mind joins in. It zooms in on the situation and tries to understand why what’s happening is happening. Secondary fear is your mind’s analysis of that fear - your mental reaction to it. In order to make sense of your fear, your mind sifts through your memory bank. Ever been through something similar before? Now your brain is reminding you of that time you attempted public speaking, how it didn’t go as well as you'd have liked, and you felt humiliated for days. Within seconds, it’s trying to convince you to avoid the situation by flooding you with thoughts like, “I can’t do this”… “What was I thinking?”… “I’m never going to get through this”… “I’m going to be found out”… and so on. The key to courage is turning down this secondary response to the physical fear. For a second, imagine you were facing a situation that makes you anxious, and all you felt were the physical sensations of that fear. No negative voice. No thinking the worst. Just a fast heartbeat and some sort-of sweaty hands. That would be a lot easier to deal with, right? The reason that some people seem to have so much courage in facing their fears is not that they don’t feel the fear, but that they know how to stop themselves from getting caught up in it. You can’t ever get rid of the primary (physical) fear. That fear is rational, and it’s a part of life. But you absolutely can change your mind’s secondary response. Taking control of how you react when your body has a fear response is an emotional intelligence skill, and emotional intelligence is not inherited - it’s a skill you learn. Learn to tone down your mind’s reaction and reduce your fear from a whopping 40% to 70%. That means feeling the fear and doing it anyway. It’s stepping out of your comfort zone, even though it isn’t comfortable. It’s you in control of the fear, not the other way around. It’s feeling calm and courageous.


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