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Overcoming Fear | Two Critical Things to Understand

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Overcoming fear can seem impossible, especially if you suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder like I do.

Sometimes fear feels so completely overwhelming that we’re paralyzed. Sometimes it feels like fear’s got us by the balls and won’t let go.

What do we do then?

It’s a hard question to answer, especially when your heart is pounding, when your mind is racing, when you feel like you can’t take a breath.

I’m not going to tell you that you can overcome fear entirely, but I am going to tell you that you can fight it.

Fear doesn’t have to completely overwhelm you, but unlike what others have written, I’m going to acknowledge that it can.

There’s a great quote from the book Dune that speaks to the power of fear:

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.”

If that’s not power, I don’t know what is.

How can we overcome fear when it has so much power?

Sometimes, Overcoming Fear Is Impossible

Reading articles about how to overcome fear is what I imagine reading the thoughts of a perfectly unfearful person must be like.

I swear that every one of these articles is written by someone who rarely feels true fear, who doesn’t know what it’s like to have overwhelming fear that’s underpinned by something many addicts/alcoholics or people with mental illnesses have experienced—having your worst fears come true.

I think that these people’s worst fears have never actually occured.

Essentially, I don’t think they know what the hell they’re talking about.

It’s easy to give advice on how to overcome fear when you’ve never experienced the reality of fear coming true, when you’ve never experienced that outcome you’re afraid of.

So what do we do then?

Letting Fear Be What It Is

I’m not going to pretend that you’re going to sit there and think about what it is that scares the hell out of you and that you’re just going to be okay.

When fear grabs me, all I can really do is let it be what it’s going to be anyways. I’m not good at overcoming it, but I can learn how to feel it consciously.

What that means is that I observe the emotion instead of trying to ignore it or make it go away.

How do you observe an emotion? It’s just a series of thoughts.

“Oh shit. Oh shit, what if I die. Okay, I’m afraid right now.”

That’s it. That’s me observing the emotion.

The fear is still there.

What good does that do? Not a whole lot if I’m honest. It’s good to know what the fear is if I’m going to try to fight it though.

Attempting to Overcome Fear Means Fighting Fear

Fear is an infection. If I don’t treat it, it’s going to grow and grow until it’s so powerful I can barely breathe.

That means I have to do something about it once I’ve identified it.

What I do depends on the fear, but there’s one thing I try to do first before I take action, and I suppose it’s an action of a sort. I try to work the 10th step.

It starts with prayer.

Now what I’m praying to isn’t clear because I don’t really believe in a god of any sort, but I know that there’s something that keeps me sober when I work the 12 steps, and that’s good enough for me.

Praying helps. If I’m not feeling lazy, I might meditate too, but that doesn’t happen very often.

The next thing I (try) to do is talk to someone about it.

For example, I get a lot of fear around work. I work for myself, so success or failure is totally up to me.

When this happens, I (try) to call my sponsor and talk to him about it. If he’s not available, then I might talk to a friend about it, or even a family member, though for me that’s rare.

All of it is rare really—I hate talking about my fears to anyone, but I also know that it’s not going anywhere if I don’t.

Then I try to help someone and get out of myself. It helps me clear my head to do something productive, especially if it’s selfless, but honestly, even if it’s just doing the dishes, it helps me to get out of my head.

The last thing I do is figure out a plan to take care of whatever it is that’s causing the fear in the first place (if that’s even possible).

It’s not always possible. You’re not going to overcome a fear of your parents dying, for example, by doing something—there’s nothing to do.

But with the example of work, I can take action. I can try to find new clients. I can do some work and get ahead of the game.

And that’s it. Other than that, what can you do? If you have some ideas or something else that you do to overcome fear, I’d love to hear it.

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Adam Fout

I'm a speculative fiction and nonfiction writer. I have a B.A. in English and an M.A. in Professional and Technical Communication. I'm a graduate of the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop. I'm a regular contributor to Recovery Today Magazine, and I have been published in numerous literary magazines, including December, J Journal, and Flash Fiction Online, among others.

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