Overcoming fears

I have a fear of something and I want to face that fear to overcome it, but I don't know how. What can I do?

Cory Ian Shafer LPC
Cory Ian Shafer LPC
Psychotherapist, Jungian, Hypnotherapy

Fears are not that difficult to deal with, first you need to train yourself to relax using some relaxation strategy, once you are able to employ that in your daily life, you then need to start facing your fear, for instance I'll use an example of a man who has a fear of driving over a bridge. We would build a hierarchy of fears, that is a list of fears ranging from least to most, for example the man may want to start by looking at a picture of a bridge while employing his relation technique, then he may want to see a real bridge from a distance while employing that same relaxation technique, then moving closer to the bridge, then maybe standing on a bridge, all the while moving closer to his fear while relaxing, until you come to most fearful proposition which is crossing that bridge, or you can also engage in flooding which is for example, if you were scared of an elevator, go into an elevator until you are not panicking anymore, in the movie Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne who has a great fear of bats, goes into this cave and allows himself to be surrounded by bats until he is no longer fearful of them. Secondly, look at your fears, do they even need to be worked on, some fears are healthy, for example if i was a therapist in New York City and someone came to me and said "I'm scared of snakes", I would probably say that is OK because there are very little snakes left in Manhattan

Hope that helps

C

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Your fear may have deeper roots within your sense of who you are, than you realize.   Fears are sometimes irrational so that logic doesn't get rid of them.

Think about whether you felt secure and confident as a child.  Also, did any major bad events happen to you with other people or situations when you were growing up?

Often these overwhelming situations of childhood stay with us as fears of situations in our adult lives.  If the root of the problem w the fear is from long ago, then probably a therapist who can ask you questions which help you remember upsetting childhood circumstances, may help you to dissolve the current fear.

Another possibility is CBT, cognitive behavior therapy which teaches people short term mantras to do something which is safe, say being a passenger in a commercial airplane, which feels frightening to a person.

CBT is short term and results are limited to specific fears.  

It is a much quicker approach than self-understanding.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Alison Repp
Alison Repp
Anxiety specialist offering short-term therapy for lifelong vitality

Fear is a part of life. In fact, our five main emotions are joy, fear, sadness, shame, and anger. We tend to spend a lot of time and energy running away from or trying to get rid of most of those emotions and the more we do that, the more we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. 

As a result of viewing our human emotions as "bad" or "wrong," we often get caught up in a trap of thinking we have to overcome them or get rid of them before we can do what matters to us. In reality, you can do what is important to you while having your fears! 

My question for you is, what would you do if this fear was completely gone? What behaviors would you have if you were the ideal you? What skills, knowledge, or personal qualities would you develop? What kind of relationships would you have?

I imagine your fear has kept you from achieving those goals because your mind tells you you can't do it until the fear is gone. I challenge you to do the following exercise:

  1. What is a goal you would like to achieve? Example: I would like to change careers
  2. What actions are necessary to complete this goal? Example: see a career counselor to determine my ideal career, go back to school/get a certification, network with others in my desired industry
  3. What thoughts, feelings, or urges might get in my way? Example: thoughts of "What if I fail? I'm not smart enough. I can't do it. I'm too busy to put energy into this." Feelings of fear, shame, excitement. Urges to distract myself through drinking or watch tv instead of taking action.
  4. It would be helpful to remind myself that: example: It is natural to have these thoughts, feelings, and urges but I can take action anyway. I deserve to have a fulfilling life.
  5. The smallest and easiest step I can take now: example: research career counselors in my area and write down their phone numbers
  6. The time, day and date that I will take that first step, is: example: Tonight at 7pm 
At least think through these answers but it is most beneficial to write them down. I hope this helps!
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

This answer could be very different depending on the fear, the degree of it, and what it connects to.

I wonder the following:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how upset, anxious, or scared to you get when you think about overcoming this? If it's more than a 5/10, I would definitely recommend talking with a therapist in your area.
  • A lot of fears that we have come from something that at one time was self-protective and important. Do you know where your fear started? If you think it is still protecting you or helping you in some way, talk with someone (like a therapist) about it.
  • If it is something that you know is irrational (for example, fear of being hurt by static cling from winter clothing), is there some part of that that you are not afraid of?
  • I really encourage you to consider whether your fear has a lot of emotions connected to it or if it ties from something in your past that was very emotional for you at the time. If it does, consider working with a therapist to establish emotional safety before taking away the fear or anxiety that may actually be helpful to you.
  • Also, the fact that you notice that you are afraid of something and you don't want to be afraid of it anymore is a big step in the forward direction.
The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.
Kristi King-Morgan, LMSW
Kristi King-Morgan, LMSW
Social Worker, Psychotherapist

Biologically, fear is designed to protect us from harm. Fear is not always a bad thing, and in fact can be quite healthy and appropriate depending on the situation. 

A phobia, however, is different. You used the term "fear" rather than "phobia". A phobia is an irrational fear - meaning it is not rational for you to fear that thing. If your situation is a phobia, exposure therapy can help. This consists of gradually exposing yourself a little at a time to the thing you are afraid of. Some people with phobias find that the irrational fear interferes with their life and they do need to overcome it. Someone who is afraid to drive over bridges may go to great lengths to avoid routes that have bridges. People who are afraid of elevators may always use the stairs instead, which may not always be feasible. If overcoming a phobia will improve the quality of your life, then by all means, seek professional help to overcome it.

Everyone has fears, or things that make them nervous. Public speaking, asking a person out, fear of failure. Examine what your fear is and try to determine the reason for the fear. When you can get to the root cause of the fear, you can deal with that issue. A lot of times, it is a self-esteem issue. You may be able to peel back the layers of the fear and find out what's causing it and deal with the real issue. 

Some fears are caused by trauma. Someone with PTSD is going to have an exaggerated fear response and will find themselves being kicked into "fight or flight" mode over things that someone without the trauma experience wouldn't notice or react to. In cases like this, exposure therapy would be the wrong approach and could actually make things worse. If there is a possibility that a past trauma is the cause of your fear, I strongly urge you to seek a therapist - not just any therapist, but one who is trained to work with trauma and abuse victims.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Robin Landwehr, DBH, LPCC, NCC
Robin Landwehr, DBH, LPCC, NCC
Mental Health in a Primary Care Setting

Hello, and thank you for your question. Overcoming fears is something that everyone struggles with at one time or another. Sometimes we come across something that scares us, we push through it and suddenly we aren't afraid anymore. But sometimes it can seem like our fears just take over and we cannot overcome them. There are some options:

1. You can go to a counselor and receive some type of treatment. What kind of treatment would depend on the type of fears you are experiencing. For example, if you have a general phobia about something, they may use various techniques to help you manage it. 

2. There are different websites and even some self-help books that you can use to try to overcome your fears. When it comes to overcoming certain fears or phobias, exposure therapy well-studied and proven to work. A therapist would help you with this, but some websites give instructions for how to do it yourself. I am not sure how well it works when you try it by yourself, but here is a link to a website that does offer some tools. http://psychology.tools/anxiety.html

Some colleagues may offer you some other types of advice. Be well.

Robin J. Landwehr, DBH, LPCC, NCC

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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