Why Your Fear Coping Mechanism May Instead Be Feeding It

Have you ever been so afraid that it causes you to clam up.

You are not able to move forward because you are afraid of the consequences that might follow. You are afraid of making a mistake. You are afraid of making a fool of yourself.

In short, you are afraid of failure.

And then life takes a spin.

A tailspin.

What’s worse than anger

Apart from feelings of anger, the other emotion that I was experiencing on a regular basis was fear.

Whenever I think of attempting new, I would become frightened. Because deep down, I’m afraid I might not succeed. And if I don’t succeed, then I will be disappointed with myself. But even more importantly, I was afraid of disappointing the people that love me.

There are two recurring patterns that happen whenever fear sets in:

  1. I would do something to distract myself from having to deal with the task that I am afraid of.
  2. I would procrastinate and only deal with it at the last minute.

After much reflection, here’s what I’ve found to be common between the two patterns:

  • Avoid completing the task: Either just don’t do it or do something else instead so as to avoid doing or put it off
  • Move away from the pain: By avoiding it, I’m moving away from the pain associated with the task. This pain could be the pain that comes with completing the task itself or this pain could be the adverse consequences that might occur, like failing.
  • No choice but have to face it: At some point, I have to face it. Either because there is a deadline or simply because I have to deliver on a promise. That deadline could be self-imposed or externally.
  • Rush to complete it: Because of the deadline, or when I’m left with no other choice but to face it, I rush to complete it. Often delivering a quality that is less than expected.
  • I could either get by: The work is just good enough to get by, which then lead me to repeat the process.
  • Sometimes the quality shows: The work gets rejected, hence it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of the negative consequences that I’ve imagined earlier.

Whether you call it procrastination or indecision, the eventual consequence is the same. You end up in a situation far worse than you currently are.

Here is a method that will help you cope with fear

Here’s how I cope with fear now:

1. Acknowledge it

Nothing is terrible except fear itself. ~Francis Bacon

The first step I take when I experience fear is to stop avoiding it. Instead, now whenever I am afraid, I’d say to myself, “I’m becoming afraid”.

2. Embrace courage

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? ~Romans 8:31 (NIV)

The next step is to tap into the different sources of courage. For me, it is to turn to God. For you, it may be the same. Or your sources of courage could come from your past accomplishments.

Here, I took it one step further by reciting this phrase, “I am courageous. If God is for me, who can be against me?” during my daily exercise.

3. Write it down

Next, I bring it to the level of consciousness by writing it down. Instead of playing the consequences in my head, I write down all the possible consequences that might occur, both good and bad ones.

4. What’s the worst that can happen

For all the bad ones, I ask this very important question, “What’s the worst that can happen?” By answering this question for each and every one of the possible adverse consequences, I stop the process of feeding my mind toxic thoughts.

5. Redirect focus on what’s within my control

I then come up with a list of things I can do that are within my control and then focus on those. It helps when this list of things are broken down into really small bite-sized tasks so that the brain doesn’t fight you.

What’s a method that has worked for you?

Share with me in the comments.