Fear can take on many forms in both business and in our personal lives. Sometimes it arises out of circumstances that we cannot control but at other times it can arise from our own choice. With the former, and in a business context, quite often a logical way to deal with the fear can be accomplished as I have written about before: https://www.pamwarren.co.uk/personal-blog/the-monster-in-the-cupboard/
Can you push past fear when it is irrational?
However, the more emotional, irrational fear of things where the reality of the situation is unknown to us, or where our minds leap to a highly unlikely outcome or consequence is much harder to tackle and that is what I want to deal with here. The only consequence I want to come from this article is you seeing that pushing past this type of ‘gut’ fear can only lead to an easier and more pleasant outcome.
Push past fear, my experience
As you are no doubt aware I survived being terribly burnt and almost killed in one of the worst train crashes ever to happen in the UK. Many years later, after my recovery, I began to work again and the work I had chosen involved travel. The most frequent type of journey I faced was from my home base up to London and the easiest way to get there was to travel by train again. I avoided it. I was too frightened to contemplate the train again. There was no way I felt I could push past the fear of train travel.
I found alternative modes of travel (ie. driving) and, though that caused me extra headaches and stress with traffic, parking as well as the costs associated with both, I rationalised that I had a very good reason for being frightened of catching the train and if there were other options I could employ that was just how it had to be.
Towards the end of 2015 it struck me that my fear was holding me back. It was making my life far more difficult than it had to be and I was coming up with excuses to justify me not facing my fear. In a fit of ‘I’m not letting fear rule me anymore’ I decided that I was going to confront my fear head on, I was going to push past it.
I had a scheduled appointment to keep in London and I bought a train ticket.
When you push past fear it releases you
The morning of the appointment I walked onto the station platform and heard, smelled and saw the trains coming in and out and my fear took control. I began to shake, sweat, feel sick, my vision went blurry and I imagined I could feel the heat of the fire hitting me again. In my mind’s eye I played out the journey which culminated in the train I was on crashing head on with one coming the other way. Within minutes of walking on to the platform I was a quivering, shivering, weeping wreck – I turned tail and fled from the station. My ability to visualise the fear with such reality meant my body literally could not push past the fear.
Once back in the safety of my car I gradually calmed down and then started to berate myself. An argument went on in my brain between ‘you total wimp’ and ‘it’s as bad as I feared I am never doing that again’. Once that argument had sated itself I reminded myself of all the very sensible reasons as to why I wanted to overcome my fear and how it would improve my life.
I decided to try again.
On the second attempt I consciously refused to think about the first failure. On the platform I rode with all the emotions and imaginings the trains were evoking muttering ‘this will pass’. I got on the train still muttering the same mantra with my eyes closed throughout the journey and eventually I alighted at Paddington. To be fair when I got off the train I was physically and mentally exhausted but that was accompanied by the thought ‘stick that in your pipe and smoke it Fear.’
You have to keep pushing past fear
Since that day I have forced myself to keep catching the train time after time. Initially I had the same violent reactions, but these have gradually lessened as each time I push past fear its hold on me weakens. On average I am catching the train at least once a week and recently travelled by train to the north of England with its various changes and hours spent on platforms and trains.
I don’t think I will ever enjoy catching the train, (in the back of my mind I am aware how things can go terribly wrong) however I refuse to let fear dictate what I do or how I travel, and it has made my life immeasurably easier.
And that is my example of pushing past fear. Sometimes it is best to face fear head on and bulldoze your way through it even if you can think of alternatives or ways to avoid dealing with it. If tackling your fear is going to make your life easier, less stressful or better in any way then my advice is: Go For It!