Being scared is a natural response to many things. Well, five things precisely. These five things make up the Feararchy: Extinction, Mutilation, Loss of Autonomy, Separation and Ego Death.
Source of Fears
These are perfectly reasonable fears. Fears form in response to a perceived possible threat. But the problem with fear is that since fear itself is an uncomfortable feeling, we can end up fearing fear, and this secondary fear can be utterly irrational. As someone who used to struggle with making a phone call, I understand how irrational fear can completely grip us, making our heart beat faster and our palms sweat.
The reason that certain experiences that seem different, from your Mum saying “We need to talk” to hearing a noise while walking by yourself at night, feel so similar is because physiologically they are the same process. Sweating, rapid heart beat, short breaths, tightness in the chest, nausea, no matter what the fear is, it will feel the same.
Fear of Fear
Is there any way we can deal with these fears of fear? Yes, and procrastination holds the key. The reason we procrastinate is because of a perceived pain: a pain that we would experience if we were to do the thing we are putting off. However, when we start we often find that we don’t experience the pain that we expected. You can see this in the fact that getting started is often the hardest part of any task.
After a while, we learn that the expected pain just doesn’t get experienced. We can do this with what scares us too. Practice what scares you, and you will eventually find it so much easier. If we are scared of making a phone call, then make five calls a day to random people in the phone book and ask them to make suggestions of a movie to watch. If asking a girl for a number scares you, ask ten girls for their number, and whether they give you their number or shoot you down, you will find it easier. You will find that failure happens less than you think it might, and failure hurts less than you think it might.
The one piece of advice I give to everyone who interviews for Oxbridge is this: Don’t get nervous, get excited. Many of the signs of nervousness are the exact same signs as excitement. The sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, increased perception, all of this is the same in both excitement and nervousness. The only thing that separates them is mindset.
“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”
You can change your mindset through self hypnotism, self-talk, convincing other people, or just thinking around the subject and convincing yourself. For example, if you are nervous about doing a presentation and want to get excited, you can start by telling yourself “I am excited about this.” If someone asks if you are nervous, or even just if you are ready, reply by saying that you are excited. Tell your wife or boyfriend that you are excited, tell your friends you are excited. Eventually you will be excited.
Don’t worry about being scared. It’s natural. Notice the fear, and work alongside it.