The only thing to fear is fear” said Franklin D. Roosevelt, a great American President who was disabled by polio. If we can battle with fear and win – then we are indeed well on the way to securing the richest blessings that life can offer. Fear can be fought, and can be conquered by all.
Our fears vary tremendously from one
person to the next. Some are vague and indeterminate. Others are all too
painfully clear and real. Some are of an intensely personal nature – fear of
some particular individual or imminent circumstances in one’s own domestic
life. Some are wider, and may indeed embrace the whole of mankind – fear for
example of nuclear warfare.
Whatever our fears may be, they have
much in common, and the method of facing them and conquering them is broadly
the same. Here then are five tested ways to deal with fear:
1. Face your fears:
Those who say glibly, “Put your fears
behind you” do not understand very much either about fear, or about human
nature. To try airily to dismiss your fears is not only well nigh impossible
but also highly dangerous. The effect of the attempt may be only to drive the
fear more firmly into the subconscious.
2. Assess your fear:
When fear is faced frankly and
openly, recognizing the fact that we are afraid and refusing to pretend that we
are not, then we are in a better position to see exactly what is the nature and
force of our fear.
Some fears will indeed seem to have
been not worth worrying about. I remember waking up in the middle of the night,
when a child, with the dread sense that a bat was flying wildly about my
bedroom. Fortunately a light switch was close at hand. The bat was in fact only
That is typical of many of our fears.
Imagination magnifies our fears until we examine them in the cold light of
reason. This is why worries and anxieties which seem so formidable at three
o’clock in the morning fall into a more reasonable perspective when we face
them the following day. This process of assessment, of trying to see our fears
for what they really are, may have the effect of dispelling them altogether.
Some of our fears will be real enough. Our examination of them will
only lead us not to dismiss them but to
take appropriate action.
3. Share your fear:
Once the reality and nature of
certain fears are recognized, there is often a good deal to be said for telling
someone else about them. One level of
this process of sharing is that of some intimate friendship.
Those who are ministers, doctors,
psychiatrists or social workers know from their own experience how mere
listening can be of tremendous help to those whose minds are haunted by fears.
Many a fear seems to lose its grip because
it has been put into words publicly.
This sharing may need to be on a
different level from that of mere friendship. At times expert guidance and
professional help are needed. For example, some people carry about with them a
secret fear that they are suffering from some incurable disease. The fear may
be groundless, but only a medical expert can say something authoritatively. A
fear shared is a fear halved.
4. Disable your fear:
Ralph Waldo Emerson truly said: “Do
the thing you fear, and the death of fear is certain”. One man tells how for
months after passing his driving test, he never ventured in his car into the
centre of the city where he lived. One day he had two calls to make at opposite
sides of the busiest part of the city. The obvious thing was to go through the
city from one point to the other. Time was short and this was an additional
spur. But over all this was the sudden realisation that once he had done it he had conquered his fear not only for
that once but for all time. So it proved.
To do the thing we fear to do, and to
do it now is the surest way of disabling and disarming it.
5. Replace your fear with confident, positive thoughts:
Nature abhors a vacuum. This is true
in the mental realm as well as in the physical. True, for rest and relaxation our minds need to be
cleared of tense, irritating, disturbing thoughts. But the process is better
thought of as one of replacing rather than of emptying. Disturbing thoughts are
to be driven out by filling the mind with thoughts of peace and tranquillity.
This is what is sometimes referred to
as “the exclusive power of a new affection”. The mind can only normally cope
with one idea at a time. Thus, if a thought strong, positive, confident enough
can be put into the mind, it will drive out weaker, disturbing thoughts, and
take possession of the mind.