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False Expectations Appearing Real
Fear is an interesting energy. We all seem to suffer from it from time to time (and sometimes more often…), and even though we don’t like being scared, many people are almost addicted to experiencing fear in their lives. Not a day goes by that they don’t have a thought like “what if…” or “let’s just assume…” or “if I don’t…[something]…then something bad will happen.” The fear seems to be quite real and, in many cases, turns out to produce very real results.
But: is the fear real, or are we making a big mistake about its reality?
My truth about fear is that fear is an illusion. Very powerful indeed, but still an illusion. It’s a mind game. I was told many, many years ago that fear is nothing but false expectations masquerading as real. Fear consists of a set of thoughts in our head. These are thoughts about the future, based on what we have experienced in the past and based on what we think will happen in the future. But do we know what will happen in the future? Obviously NOT. The future hasn’t happened yet. Moreover, the past is also an illusion (makes you think, doesn’t it!). The “past” as such is no longer here. The only thing left from the past is – again – a collection of memories – thoughts of what you think happened. My memory of “the past” is completely different from yours.
The trick is that in order to be scared, it doesn’t matter that the future hasn’t happened yet and the past is gone. Just the thought of an unknown future that might contain more things we’ve already experienced that we didn’t like is enough for our brain to order the release of various neuro-chemicals into our body that make us feel afraid. The thought is an illusion, but the feeling is real. Thoughts and feelings together create our focus, and our focus determines what we will experience in life. This means that if we remain afraid long enough or strongly enough, what we fear can actually become our reality. That’s the power of focus! Or again, in the words of one of my teachers: We are what we think; what we think is what we focus on and what we focus on is what we get.
So what about that illusion? Well, if you can see fear for what it really is – a thought or collection of thoughts about a yet-to-happen future that makes you feel a certain way – then you can take control of your thoughts and create a different future: more pleasant and less scary. If thoughts create feelings, and if thoughts and feelings create your reality, then it stands to reason that you’ll be better off choosing thoughts of a prosperous, happy future, right? This is where the power of consciously choosing thoughts comes into play!
I hear people say: if fear is an illusion, isn’t anything else I think about the future an illusion? Well, yes, it actually is. But if you had a choice, which illusion would you rather be in? The one that makes you feel bad or the one that makes you feel great? I know where I’d like to be!
Set a landmark
First: identify the thoughts that make you feel afraid. What are you thinking and why? What must be the underlying belief about you that causes you to project this kind of thought? When you can recognize your thoughts that create fear, you immediately weaken their influence on you!
Second: For every scary thought you may have, ask yourself: were there times when this thought didn’t turn out to be true? The more evidence you find, the less impactful the thought of fear will be; you are undermining his power over you.
Third: Choose to have different thoughts about the subject you fear. Choose affirmations that directly oppose fear and stick to them. Don’t let your mind dwell on old, scary thoughts. The more you can “decide about yourself”, the less the old thought has you.
Finally: Take Action!! Create new respectful and actionable beliefs about the future with your coach. If fear is an illusion, you don’t have to buy into it! Come up with an action plan where you intentionally do the things you fear (gently!), and take good notes of what happens when you get to the “other side”. Feel pretty good, don’t you? Nothing to be afraid of, right? That’s another nasty illusion gone!
Get me right here: fear can be very functional and a great trigger for action. For example: If I see a crocodile in the water I’m swimming in, boy am I going to swim!!!! Same if I was in a burning house. I’d get out of there right away! It’s functional fear and it’s very useful.
The thing about fear, though, is that a lot of it is based on thinking about possible futures. It’s a dysfunctional fear. And that’s where it gets nasty, because we don’t know what the future holds. We only have (often negative) assumptions and ideas about it. And why would we want to focus on negative assumptions and ideas when we can, with just as much validity, focus on the good things in life?
Go well, think well, feel well and be well.
Marc de Bruin.
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