What is holding you back from reaching your potential?
Maybe you have a dream that keeps nagging at you in the back of your mind, but you brush it away. It keeps tugging at your heart, but you push it down again and again. What are you afraid of?
3 Big Fears
There are three main emotional fears all humans have in common. See if any or all of these ring true for you.
So, what do you think it is that is holding you back?
... And maybe this list could go on and on.
The Fear Response
Walter Bradford Cannon worked at Harvard Medical School between 1900 and 1942, first as a professor and, later, as the chairman of the Department of Physiology. In 1914, he published a paper in the Journal of Physiology about the effects of strong emotions, such as pain and fear, on the body, specifically, the adrenal medulla. In this paper, Cannon gave us the insight about animal and human behavior that we now call the “fight or flight response.” Citing previous scientific observations that had been made by others along with his own, he concluded, “…thus the emotion of fear is associated with the instinct for flight, and the emotion of anger or rage with the instinct for fighting or attack."
Since then, experts have recognized that adaptive behaviors in high stress or emergency situations include freezing too. So we tend to react to fear in one of three ways, fight, flight or freeze. Or we might react with a combination of these.
How Fear Can Serve You
Did you know that having some fear is healthy? The Fear Response plays an important role in our psyche. Without the fear/flight survival response – the instinctual urge to run in the face of danger – our species would have been hunted into extinction long ago.
Just imagine how well fear served our cave-dwelling ancestors. Before humans rose to the top of the food chain, we would have had to escape much larger predators. A hungry saber-toothed cat weighing as much as 700 lbs with 10-inch canines might view you as her next meal. Fear alerts all of your senses, and you become aware that you’re being stalked. It gives you that little voice that tells you to beware of a lurking threat, “watch out behind you – something’s there.”
However, this is not to say that we can’t use the other side of that survival instinct... fight. Imagine our ancestors running in fear, but also imagine them making a stand, pooling their resources and fighting back, too.
We still need and use this survival/fight response today. Though statistically this is the safest time in human history, fear still serves to help us survive. There are still many physical dangers that humans face around the globe, and so fear serves the survival instinct in these contexts.
But what happens when there’s a reduction in physical threat? We may not fear for our lives in the same way and on the same scale as we once did as a species, but in our modern lives the fear response remains as part of human nature. Fear is still present since it’s a natural condition. It’s when fear becomes so prevalent in our psyches that it paralyzes us from acting on what we know deep down would be the right course to take. So fear shows up regardless. And rather than fighting a tangible foe, we are faced with something intangible produced by our own imagination. What do we have to fight against? When the option of fight is removed, you are left with freeze or flight.
The answer is in becoming self aware and using fear constructively.
An Exercise To Help You
Here’s a simple exercise to help you sort out what is really bothering you so you can overcome fear and use it constructively.
They say that the first step in overcoming anything is to acknowledge the problem. Get a sheet of paper and write your fear at the top of the page. Under it write this question: "What’s the worst thing that can happen if I acted on my dream?" Then write down each answer that comes to mind. Do this for each fear that comes up in your mind.
By corralling your thoughts in this way, you will be able to consciously release the fears that aren’t legitimate.
“I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” ~Mark Twain
And when you see what’s left – your true, credible concerns – you can make a plan to move forward.
Use this exercise as a gateway to taking back your power so you can reach your potential. Take this first step toward manifesting the dream that’s waiting for you to act on it. And then you can take a next step and another. Soon, you’ll be so far into the adventure, you’ll have forgotten the fear because confidence and the joy of making the most of yourself will have taken its place.
Angela Loëb is an author, speaker and self-development consultant who loves to study, teach, and write about mind mastery, spirituality, career, and life purpose. More at http://about.me/angelarloeb