Friday, June 26, 2009

How Your Fear Perpetuates What You Fear

Say, what?

Fears and anxieties usually affect us in a cyclical ways; that means our fears can cause us to do things that reinforce our fears. It can be tough, but certainly it is possible, to break out of these vicious cycles.

It is so important to realize that our self talk about a situation is far more important than the situation itself. You can purposely use self talk to create a positive perception which in effect shrinks the negative reaction you're used to. This PhD word for this process is “cognitive restructuring.”

For example, many people fear public speaking so much that they avoid certain jobs or even careers that may involve public speaking. This selection turns out to be avoidance of the problem – which does NOT make it go away.

The best way to overcome the fear of public speaking, or any fear in your life, is to confront it. Yikes. That is best to do in baby steps. You could practice making a presentation in front of a group of friends to build your confidence.

To work at a deeper level, I strongly recommend identifying fears that may be lurking under the radar screen of your conscious mind. These fears sabotage you when you avoid facing them. Sometimes, in some of my clients, the hardest part is even admitting that one even has fears.

In my personal case, my fear of poverty caused me to panic when I felt my income threatened, or when business was down. I would then react to this horrible feeling by frantically applying for any job I thought I could get, even though I was ridiculously overqualified for it.

Most of the time I would get rejected, employers are not that stupid and they knew that as soon as my panic ended I would stop working at a place that was so obviously unsuited to my background. That rejection would in turn reinforce my panic. Or conversely, I would accept a low-paying job, feel bad, and fall short of earning the income I was capable of making. Fear of poverty gets even stronger.

It took working with a coach to help me recognize this negative pattern in my life – to see my part in what I used to think was “just the way the world was.” What was most amazing was seeing how the simple awareness of a negative pattern in my life - perpetuated by ME - would begin to dissipate as soon as I saw it.

If you dare to admit it, you may be allowing fear to trip you up unnecessarily.