When You Understand the Root Causes of Fear, You Begin to Take Control over Your Fears
The study of a martial art like karate incorporates many facets, some physical and some mental. Ultimately, what you are gaining is an understand of the nature of Conflict. In most cases, conflict is caused by Fear.
Feelings of fear can be solicited by an external threat, but ultimately all fear exists within ourselves. For example, image two people being verbally accosted by the same person. One person might feel threatened and feel the need to run away or prepare toe defend themselves physically; this is known as the “Fight or Flight Response”.
Alternately, the other person might respond to the verbal threat in a calmer fashion, because of how they view the situation: they know the person is “all talk” and therefore will not act out physically, or perhaps they have years of martial arts training and feel confident that they can protect themselves if the situation turns physical.
In either case, the presence or absence of fear exists within each person.
I remember reading an anacronym for the word FEAR:
That really stuck with me the more I began to realize where my fears were coming from. More and more I also recognized that the situation I had built up in my mind that I was afraid of happening was much worse than what the reality turned out to be.
Fear of attack is easy to identify; fortunately for most of us we don’t find ourselves threatened with physical violence. Yet fear and anxiety are two of the most debilitating emotions that we all experience.
So what are we afraid of?
Fear of Failure
What if we try to do something and it doesn’t work out? Many times it seems easier to not even attempt something rather than have to face the possibility of not succeeding.
I remember one day when I was in grade school being picked on by a tougher boy; this was many years before I took up karate. He had thrown me down and was sitting on my chest. I made some half-hearted attempts to push him off me, but I was afraid to put all of my efforts into trying to escape. What if I really tried and still was stuck?
After he had had enough of proving his dominance over me, he let me up but I have always wondered what the outcome would have been if I had committed fully to defending myself.
Fear of Pain
Why don’t more people work out or eat more nutritious meals? If you have ever tried any sort of physical exercise or sport then you know the answer: it hurts! Improving your physical fitness or performance required that you push yourself beyond your current abilities; as a result, your lungs burn from lack of oxygen, your muscles ache – both during and after your workout – and you even risk injuring yourself.
We eat to live but some of us live to eat. Restaurants and grocery stores invest plenty of times, effort and resources into making food taste better to us, while not always trying to make it healthier for us. Choosing healthy alternatives to our favourite foods or limiting the amount of food we eat doesn’t feel good and can even cause us to feel stomach “pains”, that constant reminder that we are denying ourselves of something we enjoy.
Fear of Embarrassment or Ridicule
This may be the most powerful fear of all. This fear stops us dead in our tracks and kills any hope we may have of overcoming a challenge or attempting some new.
I once had a young student whose mother was interested in trying a karate class. The mom came into the dojo one day for her first class, while her daughter watched from the viewing area – a bit of role reversal that day!
The mom had a great time in class! She loved the challenge of the training and got a good sweat on. But the smile that was on her face when she walked out of class quickly disappeared when her daughter laughed at her and told her how silly she looked.
Whether the daughter realized it or not, her comments really affected her mother, who never came back to class.
So how do we overcome our Fears?
To start with we need to acknowledge our fears, to identify what they are and accept that it is natural to feel this way. Putting a name to our fears and understanding why we feel the way we do is the first step to removing the control our fears have over us.
Check out next month’s blog post for more actions you can take to overcome your fears and start to achieve your goals!