Fear. Unrecognised and unchallenged, it can cause all kinds of damage within your business and home life. In my newsletter I discussed five different types of fear that we may have. In this blog, I take it one step further and look at the different ways in which we can react to fear.
Whilst we’ve evolved into civilised humans, we did not start off this way and the evidence remains in our brains. When we feel fear, the more primitive part of our brain responds pushing us into one of the “fight, flight or freeze” responses.
These days, our fears have changed - it’s no longer about predators. Instead it’s about things like failure, success, rejection, and not being good enough as discussed in this month’s newsletter. We even considered the current term “FOMO” – the fear of missing out. But when we look at how we might typically respond to these, we see the same old pattern emerging.
When we freeze, we find ourselves unable to move or respond in any way to a threat. Ever found yourself putting something off? Procrastinating? Doing the housework rather than that scary task?
Fear can cause inaction. We become unable to make a decision or to carry out our tasks. You might not even be aware that there is a fear – it can be completely unconscious. But if you recognise that you’re avoiding something, it’s a sure sign that there’s a fear holding you back.
Watch a weaker primate who is intimidated by a stronger one and you’ll see them running off in the opposite direction, screeching. The same can happen to us. As fear builds, we remove ourselves from the situation to keep ourselves safe – after all that is the purpose of these primeval responses.
Today, this can show up as going back on decisions. For example, you have a great idea and start putting it into action. Suddenly, you find yourself convinced that it’s a huge mistake and start backing away. You might even arrange to attend an event and then find yourself making your excuses because you just can’t go through with it. Again, fear is stopping you from moving forward.
Okay, so we’re not getting into physical fights in business but we’ve all seen someone lash out when they’re frightened. Again, it is a natural response designed to protect us in times when we did need to fight. But what relevance does this have to today?
Sometimes, a fear can stop us seeing clearly and we continue fighting on without stepping back and evaluating the situation. FOMO, or the fear of missing out, is a classic example. When we see someone else doing something we can be determined to do it too because we get so worried that we’ll miss something vital if we don’t.
We can race ahead with our plans without stopping to consider if it’s the right decision for us, our families and our business or whether it could potentially be damaging.
Whether we respond to fears with fight, flight or freeze doesn’t really matter – the result is often the same. It takes us off track and holds us back from making the progress we want. What’s important is that we recognise when this is happening and start facing those fears.
We’ll cover how you do that in our next blog, later this month.
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