When we're born we only have two fears that are imprinted on our DNA--the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All the other chronic fears and anxieties that we feel have come from our past experiences and how we've stored and categorized those experiences in our subconscious minds. Think of your subconscious mind as a vast storehouse of data. Every event, every image, and every feeling that you've experienced is stored there. These snapshots don't always bubble up into your conscious mind, but there are times when sights, sounds, or smells can trigger these deep-seated memories.
Consider a soldier who comes back from war and is suffering from post-traumatic-stress disorder. If he hears a car crash in the street, it triggers his memories of one of his friends being killed in front of his eyes. He relives the powerful adrenaline of fear coursing through his veins, even though the sound he just heard is a minor fender bender in the street and the drivers aren't hurt. His body is reacting to a stress-fear trigger.
What is Fear and Why is Healthy Fear Important?
Most people experience fear as a very unpleasant feeling. Your mind gets overwhelmed and you feel a sense of wild panic. Your heart races, your skin gets cold, and your breathing gets shallow. The daily anxieties and fears you encounter can be categorized as very minor or absolutely terrifying. Everyone has some fears and it might not even be possible or healthy to eliminate all the fears you experience. However, when fear or anxiety cripple your daily life or detract from your personal or professional growth, it's time to take stock to see if you need to work on changing the patterns living deep within your subconscious mind.
Healthy fears keep you alive and safe. It's dark outside and you're walking through an empty parking lot to get to your car. The security lights have been burned out and you feel uneasy. You feel a clammy, cold sensation on the back of your neck. You decide to go back inside until several people are going out of your office at the same time. You feel that your behavior might be overly cautious, but the next day you find out that another co-worker who left an hour after you was ambushed in the parking lot and robbed. Now your previously irrational fear based only on a level of intuition that you can't define has been "proven" by events that took place. The sensations, sights, and sounds that you experienced get translated into fear and anxiety and are stored there in your brain. Now multiply that scene over and over and you can understand why some people become so afraid that they can't leave their houses at all during the day.
Curing Negative Thought Patterns that Create Fear
If you have a phobia, a persistent pattern of fear that seems uncontrollable, you're not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 8% of the US population has at least one or more phobias. For example, many people aren't fond of spiders, but if you're so afraid of spiders you won't go out at night because you fear that one might crawl up your arm, you have arachnophobia. A phobia is a fear that has become so intense that it impairs your abilities either psychologically or physically.
The 10 top phobias, according to a survey completed by the NIMH, are: fear of public speaking (glossophobia), fear of death (necrophobia), fear of spiders (arachnophobia), fear of darkness (myctophobia), fear of heights (acrophobia), fear of socializing or crowds (sociophobia), fear of flying (aerophobia), fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia), fear of being unable to escape an open place (agoraphobia), and fear of thunder and lightning (brontophobia).
In order to cure or lessen a fear to the point that it's not debilitating you, you need to transform your subconscious mind. If you're afraid of flying, you can't simply create an affirmation such as: "I see myself as an airline passenger. I'm calm as I look out the window into the clouds. I enjoy the experience of being on an airplane." No matter how many times you say this to yourself it won't cure your aerophobia, because your conscious mind will reject these affirmations.
Using Positive Affirmations
Think of your subconscious mind as filled with computer files that you want to overwrite. Your negative thoughts and feelings can be replaced by new positive thoughts and calm, happy feelings. If you want to work at overcoming your phobias, you can begin by writing down some positive affirmations that are customized for yourself. Here are some examples:
"When I know my subject, I enjoy presenting the information to an audience. I feel a sense of excitement and joy when the audience loves my speech." (public speaking)
"I'm completely calm looking out of the window on the 20th floor. It's a beautiful day and I feel on top of the world." (heights)
"When I hear thunder and lightning, I'll stay indoors for safety, but I'll feel calm during the storm. I like the intense sounds of a thunderstorm and the clean, serene air afterwards." (thunder and lightning)
You can use these affirmations by repeating them to your conscious mind throughout the day but your transformation will move more quickly if you use a variety of techniques to change your subconscious mind.
Using Hypnosis or Self-Hypnosis
You can work with a hypnotherapist to transform your subconscious mind or you can use self-hypnosis. To hypnotize yourself takes practice but is well worth the effort. Find a place where you can relax and remain undisturbed for at least 30 minutes. Begin by relaxing all the muscles of your body from your head to your toes. Tell each part of your body to relax and let go. Take long, slow, deep breaths as you visualize positive energy coming into your body and negative energy being released. You'll be just on the edge of falling asleep but yet you'll feel intensely aware and focused. Once you're completely relaxed both mentally and physically you can repeat your affirmations and also use visualization to re-program your subconscious mind.
Using Subliminal Audio
Another technique to help you transform your mind is subliminal audio. These audios are prepared so that the affirmations can't be picked up by your conscious mind but are recorded at a level where your subconscious mind can absorb them. There are audios available for most of the more common fears. Listening to them over a period of several weeks helps you transform your thoughts and beliefs about the events that make you feel fearful.
Using Visualization Techniques
Combining the audio techniques you're using with visualization techniques produces a powerful method for overcoming your fears. As you listen to calming music or a subliminal audio, visualize yourself within a scenario that formerly caused you distress. For example, if you have a fear of socializing or crowds, see yourself at an exciting concert enjoying your favorite band with a huge crowd of like-minded fans. Imagine that instead of feeling fear or anxiety, you feel pleasure and joy when the band begins playing some of your favorite songs. As you visualize different scenes, over and over, where you feel happy within the context of large crowds, your fear will eventually dissipate since you're replacing your old negative, fearful images with new, positive, upbeat ones.