During this time of the year, many of us like to indulge in things that get our adrenaline pumping, like watching scary movies and visiting haunted houses. It's all in the spirit and spookiness of Halloween where we play on some of our most basic fears (death, for one - I mean how many skeletons and headstones do you see in October?) as well as some of the most unanswerable, existential fears and questions (think anything supernatural).
Fear is one of the most primitive and powerful emotions we can possibly have. It served an extremely important function during most of human evolution: it helped us survive. If we didn't have fear, we'd walk off that cliff, stand still while the bull charges us, and jump into that raging river. Fear allowed us to stay away from danger and make choices that gave us the greatest chance of survival.
These days, however, a lot of these life-or-death fears have transferred into other areas of our lives. For example, we might fear public speaking, pursing a business venture, or entering into a committed relationship.
There are, of course, many people who face life-or-death everyday and whose fears are entirely based on survival. If we are privileged enough to be in a situation that is not life-or-death and where are fears do not mean bodily danger, then it's necessary to look at our fears and decide what to do with them.
Here are three steps to making friends with your fears:
Knowledge is power, but knowledge about yourself is the highest power. List your greatest fears - the things that keep you up at night and that you want to shrink away from. What do they tell you? Your fears come from somewhere. Did you learn them from your parents? Are they from your society or culture? Are they from an event that happened to you, like a dog attack or getting bullied as a kid?
You've probably ruminated over them millions of times, but have you really gotten to know your fears? Do many of them have to do with money, success, acceptance, or something else? Notice if there's a theme or something that strings them together.
That knowledge can help reduce their grip over you and help you understand what drives you.
Once you've gotten to know your fears and listened to their story, you have a decision to make.
Your fear might feel insurmountable, such as performing in public, which is a very common one. Some people choose to confront this and challenge their fear. Those people sometimes even become actors, musicians, or motivational speakers. Some people will choose a life around not performing in public, knowing full well that it's their biggest fear and they don't want to go near it.
Both are okay. At this point, you have explored your fears and understand where they come from and what they represent. It's up to you to decide what to do with them.
If your fears are avoidable, great! Avoid them. That is perfectly okay. If they're not, or you'd be making yourself miserable trying to avoid them, it's worth making the efforts to overcome them. For example, if your fear is old age, well I've got news for you...
Whatever decision you make (which is allowed to change over time by the way!), have trust in and compassion for yourself along the way. If you understand that your fear is too much to handle right now and it's possible to avoid it, then be okay with having that fear. If you make the decision to face your fear, whether it's making a career out of it or it's just enough to keep you happy and healthy, also have trust and compassion for yourself while you take that journey.
These are three unconventional steps to make friends with your fears. By gaining knowledge, taking action, and having compassion along the way, you develop a loving relationship with them, which will already begin to take some of their power away.