Oftentimes I encounter people who won’t try something new because of the fear of it being a bit scary or unknown. I call this ‘Fear of the Fear’ – it’s not fear of something specific it’s fear about becoming fearful about something specific and it’s something I’ve come up against a lot in my one-to-one coaching practice in Hertfordshire. People think that they maybe have a fear of something – like being fearful of going to the dentist – when actually they’re not fearful of going to the dentist anymore, now they’re fearful of getting the feeling of fear about going to the dentist! It’s fear of the fear; it’s an additional level of fear on top of the original fear. The original fear was of the thing but now they’re not scared of the thing anymore, they’re scared of the feeling of the fear.

Sometimes that feeling of being fearful of fear is bigger than the original fear itself so what we need to do is we need to get some perspective back. Once we get that perspective back we can actually tackle what was the original issue knowing that the extra fear of the fear has gone and there isn’t any risk of any fear emerging.

How do we begin to overcome the fear of the fear? Well, the first thing is you need to set up some kind of internal communication because, very often, the fearful thing isn’t really based on what’s going on in the outside world. There will be a trigger that activates the fear system – the issue is what’s going on in the system. We need to look inwardly and not outwardly. Often we find that people try to control the external circumstances in order to manage their fear (like not going to the dentist) and that might feel good because of the sense of control that it creates, but it’s not realistic for that kind of control to last. Anything where you are controlling something outside of yourself is going to give you a temporary feeling of comfort. It’s a temporary feeling of comfort because whilst you feel like you’re in control you are actually just playing with luck. Outside circumstances can change at any given moment and if you don’t have control over them.

Instead we should be working on the internal system not the external circumstances. You are going to need to be communicating to yourself inside your own head; some people have ways of doing this that are very positive and they can have a good internal dialog and some people’s internal dialogue is very negative and they’re particularly good at beating themselves up and being quite mean to themselves. It’s important that you do not do this – it’s important that you have a better strategy.

There are two ways in which your mind works and sometimes we refer to these as two parts of your brain as your conscious mind (which is there to give up directions and have some internal commentary and is quite analytical) and your unconscious mind (which is responsible for maintaining all of the systems that relate to your body, like blinking, breathing and sleeping, but also maintaining all of your habits, behaviours and automatic reactions). You can change things like habits and automatic reactions like fear by having good communication with you unconscious mind. Your conscious mind is the captain and your unconscious mind is the crew. The way in which you’re going to strike up that communication is via your conscious mind – which is there to give up the instructions. We’ve got to have a good communication between the two of them which all comes from you having good internal self-talk.

Your captain needs to give out clear directions being somewhat sympathetic and understanding about how the your crew might be feeling, and it must come from a place of certainty. If you have something that you are fearful of doing – something that you are fearful of approaching, something that just brings about the fear of the fear – then it’s down to the captain to say the right things in the right way so that the crew can follow through on those directions without any confusion.

An important thing is, as well as coming from that place of certainty, you need to see yourself as being physically greater than the problem. Very often when someone has a fear they will use words like ‘it’s overwhelming’, the fear is ‘huge’, it’sall-encompassing’ – and in doing so they are giving clues in that moment about size or capacity. If they could draw it they would do a little stick man to represent them and then a monster that is far bigger than the matchstick man. The truth is it’s not like that – fear is just a concept. It’s just a thing that exists in your head and the  at the very least you should be shrinking it and seeing for what it really is. At best you should be seeing yourself as bigger and empowered and greater than it. I’m not gonna tell you that the fear isn’t there, or that the fear doesn’t feel real to you – because for you quite possibly does – but if we can put it into perspective it becomes something much more manageable.

Another important thing to do is to remember all of the times in the past when you have overcome fears. Sometimes when I say that to people they feel like they’ve got a mountain to climb, they’ve got a big old challenge that they need to overcome, they feel like they’ve never done anything like that before but the truth is you’ve had that feeling before. A lot! Sometimes we forget that, once upon a time, we were tiny little beings who didn’t have the vocabulary or the knowledge, understanding and concepts that you have now. You are far more clever now than you have ever been at any point in time in your past because you’ve got more life experience now than you ever had back then.

Once upon a time when you were about 14 months old you decided that it was time to brave the stairs. You couldn’t even walk yet and you wobbled there at the top of the very first step and looked down and you thought ‘yep I’m going to do stairs today, I’m going down those stairs’. You might have chosen that you were going to go down on your bottom or that you’re going to twist around and slide down on your tummy but you did it. In that moment there would have been some fear attached to doing that but you were that committed to getting to the bottom of the stairs but you did it anyway. Don’t tell me that you cannot be braver than a baby!

Somewhere along the lines as we grow into adulthood we stop believing – we stop believing in Santa, we stop believing in the Tooth Fairy and we stop believing in ourselves. I want you to give yourself permission to be the captain of the ship, give that captain permission to tell the crew to tell the ship ‘I can do this, I will do this, it might not be easy but I will do it anyway and the more I do it that easier it will become and very soon I will be so much bigger than it’.

It’s not that the fear doesn’t exist anymore, it’s just that it doesn’t exist for you, it doesn’t exist in your consciousness because you choose not to think about it anymore.

By Gemma Bailey