Some people say that fear is the opposite of love and others say it is the lack of it. Regardless of the exact relationship between fear and love, they are strongly connected. If we want to have lots of happiness and love in our life, we need to make sure fear will not be there to spoil the fun.
Fear is kind of the devil that casts a shadow on our life. I know many people who are in constant fear. If you ask them what they are afraid of, they are unable to explain. For some, it is just a pressure that they cannot identify and for others, it is more specific, but generally, you cannot fight anything you cannot define.
If we want to get rid of it, we must know what it is first.
Making a list of 100 fears can help you identify the blockages in your life. If you are unhappy with your achievements in some area and you dig deep enough, you will find there is fear associated with achieving more. If there is a destructive pattern in your behavior and you look at it closely, you will see it is rooted in some fear.
I tell my clients that this list is a big part of our action plan. If we want to achieve something, we must clear the way to it of all the things that are blocking us from making progress and fear is always at the source of those blockages.
As you may know from making other lists (see Make a List), writing down is a way for you to recognize what happens in your mind instead of letting it consume you. This is a private list, just for you, so be honest and do not be afraid to face your thoughts and feelings. That is the idea of this list, after all.
How to list your fears and overcome them
- Write everything that comes into your mind quickly and without judgment. Even if it is a statement, a phrase or just a word, writes it down. The faster you write, the more fears will come out of your subconscious.
- Skip old fears. We have all had fears that are no longer there and there is really no point in bringing them back to life.
- If you are angry, your list is going to be different from when you are in a good mood. When we are upset, we are much more fearful (this is why we are upset). In that sense, it may be better to write down your fear list when you are upset. I am not sure everyone is able to do this, but if you can, you will probably find even more distressing thoughts than you normally would.
- Do not be afraid of repetition. If things seem very similar to what you have already written, write them down anyway. This will help you find out what keeps your mind occupied the most. At the end, you can combine them into one big item with their collective importance.
- Go over your life areas and find fears in each of them. What are your fears regarding health? Your health? Others’ health? Money, relationships, career, friends, purpose and emotions (what feelings are you afraid to feel?).
- When searching for fears, remember that anxiety, stress and confusion are versions of fear. Ask yourself “What worries me?”, “What makes me stressed?”, “What makes me feel confused?” At the root of each of the answers, there is some fear.
- Rate your fears. Fears come in different strengths. Some of them are small and others are so big they are overwhelming. It is important to think of how much you are afraid of a particular issue. If you are just a little bit afraid of something, give it a 1. If you are really, really afraid, give it a 10. Rating is a very good technique in personal development that allows you to find the best areas to improve. You may find you have many fears rated 2-3, but the ones that stops you from being happy are in the 8-10 range. Focus on them first!
- When you have completed your list, split your fears into life areas. This will help you discover which area is of most concern for you. Several of my clients wrote many financial fears. Once we worked through those, they all felt very relieved and quickly changed many other things in their life.
- Next to each fear, try to write why you think you are afraid. More than spotting the fear, it is important to know what created it. Sometimes, something painful happened in the past was and you are afraid of feeling this pain again. Other times, your fear may have no connection to the past. For example, some people are afraid of losing their money not because they have lost money but because they have a belief that “good things don’t last forever”. Another example is a husband who is afraid his wife might have an affair with someone else. She has never done it, but he is afraid he may not be good enough (for her). The reason for your fear is important because the solution to the fear of a painful experience from the past is different from the solution to the fear based on a belief.
- Your answers may reveal another fear. For example: I am afraid of Mr Dang. Why? Because he is very angry and I am afraid he will shout at me. Treat the reply as another belief and start over. Why am I afraid that Mr Dang will shout at me? Because I am afraid to feel humiliated. You can continue asking “Why?” until you find the source. In this example, the source can be a belief that kids do not like playing with someone the teacher yells at. So the underlying fear is of social isolation.
- Another important thing you can find by asking “Why?” is who was the source of your fear. Many people find out that their fears were created by something their parents, siblings or other important people have said to them or about them and that they keep holding these fears long afterwards. It is important to find out who started your fears, because peoples’ authority and the validity of their statements fades over time. For example, parents’ words are not as important to a 35-year-old man as they are to a 5-year-old boy. Another reason is that circumstances change and while the original fear was appropriate at the time, it may not be relevant anymore. Even those people change and may no longer think the same way. For example, my parents were very afraid when I chose to start a business with my sister. They had had a bad experience mixing family and business and they did a lot to make me change my mind. At first, I was concerned, but decided to go ahead anyway. After two successful (and peaceful) years in business with my sister, their fear changed. Instead of saying, “every family business relationship is doomed to fail”, they changed it to, “some family business relationships fail depending on the people involved”.
- The third part of asking “Why?” is to think of the circumstances that created he fear. I have a good financial example. While we had to be very calculated with our spending when we were a poor family with 7 mouths to feed, it was no longer the case when I started working and earned lots of money. So there was no point holding on to the fear that the money would run out. I lived in a different generation, I had a different partner, I had a profession, I had lots of savings and I did not have 7 mouths to feed, so I changed my fear to the belief “I have plenty of money. I have enough for a rainy day”. That way, I was no longer afraid of money running out. When you find the fear circumstances and the time it was created, ask yourself, “How have circumstances changed since?” It will help you discover that there is always change. You have changed. You are not the same person. You have more skills, more experience, more support, more resources, etc.
- Find at least one contradicting example that proves to you that your fear is not valid or real. For example, if I am afraid that I will not be able to submit my article to the editor on time, I recall plenty of times when I have sent articles on time to chase the fear away. Sometimes, just one example can shake the strength of the belief.
The process of changing your fears may be long and challenging, but it is very important. It involves recognizing your fears, finding their sources, shaking the fears and chasing them away, then swapping them with powerful, forward-facing and positive beliefs of love and happiness. This process never ends, because the fears never disappear and new circumstances breed new fears. With the list activity, some of them fade and are not strong and debilitating as much as they were before. Do not be afraid to try!
Have a nice and easy discovery process.