Using Replacement Strategy to Successfully Overcome Fear

"Your imagination is your preview of life's coming attractions." Albert Einstein

Fear is characterized by a feeling of uneasiness or apprehension that carries with it an intense emotional response to a threat either real or imagined. It is a painful emotion linked to the anticipation of impending doom, danger or dread.

Fear can be categorized into four distinct groups:

1) Fear of physical pain. This could be caused by an perceived aggressor but this type can also include the threat of starvation or lack of money to buy necessities to sustain you personally.

2) Fear of emotional and mental distress. An example of this would be the fear of losing a loved one either by breaking a relationship or by death.

3) Fear of physical pain suffered by others. A mother fearing injury to her child is a good example of this type of fear.

4) Fear of emotional and mental distress of others. For example, parents often feel an obligation to protect their children against others who might hurt their feelings.

The faceless demons of fear are ever present in many people’s lives, haunting their successes in the future and paralyzing them from any present efforts toward achievement. They are consistently warning themselves through negative self-talk about all that “might” happen. Does this sound like you? You are not alone. Millions of people suffer the effects of fear which often manifest as severe stress and anxiety.

How Fear is Learned

From early childhood, we develop patterns of fear in several different ways. We will discuss two of those ways here.

1.) We learn from watching our caretakers and others model fearful behavior. This is a useful learning tool to prevent us from having to experience everything ourselves. If we see somebody else get stung by a bee, we quickly learn by watching others to swat and/or run when we hear the buzzing of a bee. Another example: Your father comes home every day from work and expresses his concern about the longevity of his job and regularly worries about how he is going to support his family. You, as a young child, would quickly identify with his grief, witness his anxiety and eventually share his fear even though you did not actually experience the event, which leads us to another way that we learn to fear…….

2.) Firsthand experience. A person who has been robbed at gunpoint or mugged might have an intense emotional reaction to going out after dark because of their negative experience; whereas, somebody who has not experienced such a harrowing trial may not think twice about it.

Replacement Strategy

Using a replacement strategy is a valuable method of changing thought patterns associated with fear and it’s manifestations of stress and anxiety. Changing your thinking process is simple if you know what to do. Start with identifying your fears and your thoughts that follow. For example, you may fear being in an accident. When you get in a vehicle you may think things like, I hope somebody doesn’t hit me today, or, with so much traffic on the road, I’m sure to hit somebody. These types of thoughts will inevitably produce stress and anxiety. These thoughts must be replaced by more empowering thoughts and thus your emotional response will be changed as well. In the above example, when you catch yourself in a disempowering state, choose these thoughts instead: Statistics say that I will not be in an accident today, or, when there is a lot of traffic on the road I am forced to go slower so I am much less likely to be in an accident. The key is to anticipate something pleasant, encouraging uplifting or, at the very least, something more realistic and not something fearful.

When you shift your thinking habits from thinking fearfully about events that are not likely to happen to positive thoughts about events that are more realistic, you train your brain to release the habit of dreading and fearing. Learning to employ this simple replacement strategy will ensure less stress and anxiety in your life and holds the promise of much more confidence and self-assurance in future endeavors.

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