We’ve all got something that we’re scared of. Whether it’s fear of public speaking, getting on an aeroplane or social phobia, it gets in the way of our goals, feeling impossible to overcome (it’s not). If there’s something that’s holding you back, and you’d rather it didn’t, here’s how to conquer your fears.
It may seem counterintuitive but recent research suggests that the only way to conquer your fear is to face it. Typically it’s the last thing that we feel like doing when we’re afraid. Let’s take a look at what science has to say on how to conquer your fears.
Small steps to conquer big fears
By experiencing the thing that you’re afraid of in small doses, you slowly begin to reduce the fear. As the old saying goes, you can’t eat an elephant in one sitting and that’s the way to approach your fear. If you have a social phobia, for example, attend short social events to begin with. If it’s a fear of public speaking, begin by attending meeting and then build up to saying one thing in each meeting. Work up to a short presentation. Known as ‘exposure therapy’ it has powerful results.
How to conquer your fears with science
In this New York University Study researchers decided to test the efficacy of facing your fear. Participants were given a small electric shock (ouch) each time they were shown a blue square. Not surprisingly, the sight of the blue square alone eventually produced fear in the participants who feared the accompanying shock. Sounds familiar? you’re right, this is the same kind of experiment that was used on Pavlov’s dogs.
The researchers then reversed the experiment to see if it was possible to unlearn those fears and that Pavlovian response. The square was shown without the shock this time. Eventually the fear began to dissipate and the participants learned that the blue square would not be accompanied by an electric shock. Their fear disappeared.
That’s how it is with our fears. The only way to conquer it is by facing the fear and doing it anyway by slowly exposing ourselves to the thing that we’re afraid of.
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