Overcoming Fear

By understanding and transforming our fears, we open the channels to a new paradigm for living


This article was originally published in Evolving Magazine in print and online.


Anxiety. Panic attacks. Angst. These are all symptoms that lead to fear. And when allowed to run your life, fear can be crippling—mind, body, and spirit.

You’ve no doubt heard the oft repeated definition of Fear: “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Or perhaps, “Future Events Already Ruined.” Both point to conjuring up troubling, if not worse, situations in our minds that don’t actually exist. And if we follow along these trains of thought, we can shut down, become immobile, and lose the ability to clearly see things for what they really are in any given situation.

But once we understand the root and function of fear, we gain an essential tool to overcome our fears and chart a new conscious paradigm for living.



What is Fear?

According to author, public speaker, alternative medicine advocate, and prominent figure in the New Age movement Deepak Chopra in his article, Fear Not: Better Ways to Deal with Anxiety, “Modern life brings more stress than ever, and a natural reaction to stress is anxiety. It’s a multi-dimensional response that originates, physically speaking, in the lower brain, where the fight-or-flight response resides, an inheritance shared by almost all animals.”

The second dimension, he says, is emotional, originating in the part of the mid-brain called the amygdala, ultimately moving into the cerebral cortex where anxiety is transformed into words and concepts.

“Although every dimension of anxiety causes some region of the brain to ‘light up,’” Chopra says, “you are the ultimate controller of your responses. In the connection between mind, body, and spirit, much of the anxiety response is open to change—once you understand how.”

Dispelling our Fears

Todd Farchione, PhD, Research Assistant Professor at Boston University and the Director of the Intensive Treatment Program at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University, says that fear is a natural emotion designed to protect us from danger and essential for our survival. But, if left alone without some good checks and balances, our fears can limit and stop us from doing things we find important, and from living the life we most desire.


“For some, fear occurs more frequently or intensely than it should, or it happens in situations where it’s less adaptive or just doesn’t seem to make sense,” says Farchione. “The treatment of choice for mastering fears and phobias is exposure. Exposure treatment can occur in different ways, and may be supplemented with other therapeutic techniques, but it always involves some level of prolonged confrontation with the feared object or situation. … It may take some time, but ultimately the fear will diminish.”

Farchione suggests several remedies to help keep the big, bad, “Fear Daddy” at bay:

* Create a “fear ladder” to ease into facing our most frightening situations.

* Challenge our thoughts before, during, and after facing a frightening situation as a way to adaptively manage our emotions.

* Change how we typically respond to something that frightens us, i.e. resisting the urge to avoid situations that make us afraid.

* Stay in a situation long enough in lieu of running away to allow the space for possible lessening of our fear, among others.


The Mind Body Connection

Understanding the link between our thoughts and how they affect our body is a critical component to overcoming fear. That is why many medical professionals, holistic practitioners, and others say that an integrative approach can create numerous benefits—mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

Tom Jacobs, former Benedictine Monk and Founder/Director of Timber Creek Retreat House in Drexel, MO, one hour south of Kansas City, uses deep breathing, meditation, yoga, affirmations, and other mind-body practices to help people align their thoughts with peaceful, rather than fear-based habits.

“Fear can minimize, or fear can motivate,” says Jacobs, “so we should always make the choice that’s opposite of fear’s limited thinking, by doing what the voice of fear says you cannot do.”

According to Chopra, fear is defeated by the part of the mind that has learned how to confront fear and emerge the victor. This means we really can overcome our fears and chart a new conscious paradigm for living.

“Anxiety is multi-dimensional, but so are you and I, which gives us the ability to acquire emotional resilience, to learn new responses, to learn from others who serve as a model, and to find the core in ourselves that fear cannot disturb.”


This article was originally published in Evolving Magazine in print and online.

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