What poses as one fear might not be your real fear at all. Most of us have superficial fears that cover over our true fears. They play a trick on us, but we can outsmart them. What we need is a plan to handle anxiety, which we will illustrate below.
Say you are afraid of walking across bridges. Remember the time your family was on vacation in New York City, and they all went to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but you couldn’t get yourself to walk past the entrance to the pedestrian walkway? What were you really afraid of?
Logically, and superficially, you could say that you are afraid that the bridge would collapse, or that you’d be pushed off the bridge. But did you really believe that you were in mortal danger, or was it just anxiety? Fundamentally, is your fear of walking over a bridge just simple fear of death? Surely seeing the hundreds of people who were safely walking across the bridge should have assuaged those fears. But, anxiety isn’t logical. Fortunately, you can circumvent anxiety with a plan.
What you were afraid of is freaking out. You know how anxious you get when walking across a bridge, and you are anticipating a full-scale panic attack. If you don’t identify the real fear — your fear of having a panic attack on a bridge — you’ll never get past the fear. You’ll never address your fear of your own anxiety if you keep reasoning with your superficial fears. If you want to walk across the bridge, at a certain point you’ll have to accept that you might freak out. You’ll have to devise a plan for handing your anxiety. You’ll have to map out where the benches are, so that you know where you can sit down mid-panic attack. You’ll have to work out a plan with your family for getting you off of the bridge mid-panic attack. You’ll have to tell them how you need them to walk you off, and what does and does not assuage your panic. With your plan in place, you will probably walk over the bridge without having a full-scale panic attack. The human mind likes preparation.
Do not take your fears at face value. When you are afraid, dig deeper. Then plan to handle your root fear.
Exercise: Identify one fear that dogs you. What do you think is the root of that fear? Record your answer in MyMLC.
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