Whether it is a niggling warning in the pit of the stomach or a debilitating anxiety that stops you cold in your tracks – fear can sometimes be so prevalent in our lives that it feels normal. But if fear keeps you up at night, prevents you from pursuing what you want or stops you from having healthy relationships then it’s time to examine how much emphasis you place on it. In her book Fear Is Not An Option author and psychologist Monica Berg says we should all try to dispel some of the illogical emotions that are associated with fear and we can do it only with the right tools. Her book lists them all, but here are seven questions the book answered for us (paraphrased from Goop) about fear and if you have not guessed it, we highly recommend this book as your Read Of The Month.
No. There are three types: Illogical fear, healthy fear and real fear. Healthy fear keeps us safe, it’s the kind that prevents us from stepping out onto a busy street or making a harmful decision. We need this type of fear for survival and protection. Real fear, like its name suggests, is reality-based but the difference is that when we feel it we’re not in any physical danger. If you fear losing your mate if he/she is ill, that’s real fear or if you ’re getting older and worried about not pursuing your dreams that’s also real. This fear exists because we acknowledge that life is a terminal condition and that events like death, change, and pain is part of our existence. Real fear is not all bad. Their associative emotions can motivate us to grow, to push past our comfort zones and to transform. The understanding that life is impermanent may be scary at times, but it also fuels some of our greatest achievements and most powerful relationships.
Illogical fear is when you are having a fear response to something hypothetical or totally non-existent. An illogical fear almost always follows a “What if…?” It keeps you worried, frantic, and insecure. It can hinder your experience of life in a variety of ways and can lead to emotional distress, and anxiety disorders; it can manifest physically as well. For example, people who experience extreme fright can develop painful migraines just hours after being startled. Unlike healthy fear or real fear, this is the type of fear we want to work to release.
Yes but you can nullify illogical fear, it takes commitment and mental work, but it can be done.
It releases us from a self-made prison. A life lived without fear is not only something we all deserve, it is something that is completely possible for all of us, without exception.
There are many ways to release fear but it really begins when you decide that irrational fear is no longer an option. Nothing happens in our lives until we decide; I have found this to be true consistently throughout my life. Once you decide fear isn’t an option, you are left with only the choice to change—to shift your consciousness, or to take action. Think about it this way: What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
I don’t think it’s possible to ignore fear. I think anytime you feel fear, instead of ignoring it or trying to hide from it, acknowledge it and identify what is behind it. Identifying the fear and understanding why it has arisen is the first step in eliminating it.
One woman I know was plagued by anxiety at night. She was recently divorced and found herself awake all night, often a couple of nights a week. She lay in bed, unable to sleep, with the irrational fear that someone was trying to break into her house. Every sound became the footsteps of an intruder. She spent hours paralyzed, too afraid to even get up and turn on a light. This was obviously debilitating, from the sleep exhaustion alone, never mind the emotional toll. She attended a lecture where I talked about fear not being an option. When you take away the option of fear, then you have to act. I asked her, “What steps can you take to stop your fear response?” She thought about it and three days later, spent money at a hardware on door and window alarms—and slept like a baby. That was that: Now that her house was alarmed, she didn’t need to be.
At times, in fact many times, the only thing providing your fears sustenance is you. You feed the fear every time you give into it. When you feed it, it becomes stronger, and its appetite grows. Once you make the decision to give your fears the boot, they no longer have a place in your mind, and, therefore, no place in your life.
In the absence of the fear, your life will begin to unfold in incredible ways.
Excerpted from Monica Berg’s book “When Fear Is Not An Option,” and a Goop interview with the author.