Psychiatry

Conquer Your Fears (Part 1)

{Lake Tahoe, California}

At the request of one of my awesome readers, I am writing a post on conquering our fears.  Being an ENFP personality type (Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving), I interpreted this in a more global, existential sense: getting over the fears and barriers that may interfere with moving forward in life and/or discovering one’s life purpose.  However, others may be more interested in something more specific such as the treatment of specific phobias and social phobia, so I will be writing on conquering symptoms of those diagnoses in future posts next week.

Every psychotherapist has their own style, but the following are questions that I may ask my patients when it comes to conquering some of their biggest fears (if they can even put a name to what their biggest fears are because oftentimes, people are not even sure of what they’re afraid of):

1.   Identify your fear.  Once you’ve identified your biggest fear (ie, when it comes to a certain situation, such as pursuing a new job, finding love, etc), what is the very 1st thought that comes to mind if I was to ask you to close your eyes and think of the following question:  When it comes to _______ (insert goal here), what is the one thing you are most afraid of??

Once aware of the biggest barrier/fear getting in the way of your goal, being consciously aware of this fear puts you more in control.

2.  Origins of the fear.  Where do you think this fear stems from?  Have you experienced a similar, familiar sense of fear in your past or during your childhood?

Having a certain level of fear is normal because the reaction helps identify danger and take action to protect, but when the fear becomes excessive, there’s usually an origin to such fears based on past experience.  Recognizing the connection with your past and how irrational the fear is in the present time can be enough for one to take action towards handling the fear more effectively this time around.

3.  Take the next step.  What small steps can be taken to slowly start working towards overcoming your fears?

For example, someone who is afraid of heights may start by going up to the roof of lower level buildings and working their way up to whatever their end goal might be to conquer the fear of heights (ie, skydiving, looking down while at the top of the empire state building, etc).  Or, someone who is afraid of pursuing their dream career might start out by researching how to achieve the career, reach out to others to get advice, or start submitting applications to obtain the educational requirements or job experience needed to improve chances of getting their dream job.

4.  Be open to disappointments and any challenges that come along the way.  Fear of failure is a common barrier towards taking risks in life.  Overcoming fears takes time and practice, so try to be as open as possible to learning and growing from the process.  Surround yourself with those who support you in your goals and failures, and motivate you to stay on track.  Wanting to give up is a normal feeling (I’ve experienced this numerous times, especially in the process of becoming a doctor) and NOT a sign of weakness.

But each time you get overwhelmed by the fear, ALWAYS REMEMBER and believe in yourself enough to recognize that you have a choice: either have power over your fears, or give power to your fears.  So visualize the end goal, look your fear straight in the eye and say “f*** you, I’m the one in control” (yes, I’ve actually told some of my patients to say this).

4 thoughts on “Conquer Your Fears (Part 1)

  1. Thank you for this post! It is serving as a great reminder (in particular #4) as I start orientation for a MS/DO program this week. Going to keep checks on myself to maintain that right balance as a fear of failure is huge one for me. And as I have come to learn for many of my new classmates.

    Keep up the great work Dr.V, it really helps to feel connected.

    GG

    • How exciting that you’ll be starting soon! Most of us going into medicine tend to be a bit perfectionistic and competitive (or, maybe A LOT lol), so we tend to be VERY judgmental and self-critical of ourselves. Any sense of failure guarantees feeling like crap, but try your best to keep in mind that this whole journey in your degree is a whole process of ups and downs, and learning a lot about yourself and how you adjust along the way…and your degree is this really cool thing you get at the end of it 🙂
      Best of luck! If you have any ques, feel free to email me 🙂

  2. Amazing tips! I took some time and mentally outlined these steps on how I am going to conquer my own. Thank you so much for sharing.

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