I’m also sorry that this post isn’t on one of the topic’s you’ve suggested. I’m still trying to think of what to say (or to find some hashkafic idea involving snow!), so I decided not to wait another week, and just to post on another thing that’s been on my mind recently—overcoming fears.
There are two types of fears- the logical, ‘I’m-so-nervous’ kind. The kind that usually are accompanied by a reason, and can be worked out. Then there is the second kind- illogical paralyzing fear. (Fear of bugs will not be covered in this section, as everyone claims there’s a logical reason- that they’re creepy. Sure. Right.)
I don’t know how to explain without giving an example. Until last week, I was deathly afraid of shots. I had no reason- I knew they didn’t hurt, and weren’t dangerous- but I couldn’t get over it anyway.
Astute readers (okay, that means all of you) will notice that I said last week. What changed? I did.
Here are some tips for getting rid of fears.
- Daven. It sounds so obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway. It doesn’t help much to daven “Please help me get out of doing X,” but try to change it to “Please give me the strength to be able to do X.” Hashem doesn’t want you to be upset or afraid, but He does want you to learn from the experience. There is no more empowering feeling than facing your fear and coming up on top- but as always, you need Hashem’s help.
- Logic. Ask yourself- why am I afraid? In my case, I realized that as pathetic as it sounds, I was afraid of rubbing alcohol. In all my memories, I could keep myself calm until then. It wasn’t that I was afraid of rubbing alcohol- it was just that the strong smell brought back all the memories of the times I was afraid, and I got wound up, and because I was all stressed out, it was awful. I worked through it until I could pinpoint the exact thing that made me scared- and then I attacked it from all angles trying to work out why. When I realized that truly, there was no why, it helped calm me down.
Instead of letting whatever it is that is scaring you become a huge overwhelming mess, take it apart in your brain until you realize exactly where the fear is coming from, and then try to decide what really is so scary about it anyway.
- Talk it out. This is a two part trick, which uses two of the body’s self-help mechanisms. Every night, before you go to bed, say to yourself ‘I am not afraid of X. I am more powerful than my fear. I have nothing to be afraid of.’ This works for two reasons.
a. Confidently saying something to yourself as if you really believe really helps you believe it for real. You hear yourself calmly talking about your fear and it helps you feel as though you really aren’t afraid.b.Overnight, your brain processes everything that happened to you that day. That is why, even though cramming doesn’t work, reviewing your notes right before you go to bed can help them stick. Actors use this trick to help memorize their lines. As well as for studying, it can help when you’re trying to convince yourself something.
- Act it out. Not literally. I suppose the best word to use would be visualize it. Imagine yourself calmly facing your fear. Imagine yourself calmly speaking and acting the way you wish would you could on the day. Convince yourself that you really can.
In my case, I knew that there were things I could do to make it easier for myself to relax and make it more painless. But if I was a ball of stressed nerves, I couldn’t do anything. So I imagined calmly sitting there, legs folded, answering questions in a normal voice and acting the way I wanted to act. I did this until on the day of, I didn’t have to calm myself down all over again- I just followed the script I had set up for myself and did exactly what I had planned to. I planned for all eventualities- so that I could even say ‘No, I don’t want to put it off,’ when offered. I knew that if I did, I would never be able to face my fears again.
An important part of your visualization is that is has to have an after. You have to remember that no matter how bad and endless the moment might be, there will always be an after. You will still graduate at the end year and have a future beyond what happened. Think about what you are planning on doing next, and imagine calmly finishing what’s happening and moving on.
- Give yourself time. It might take a while. It took me almost three weeks to get from the starting to when I was sure that I could be as calm as I was, sitting on my bed imagining it as I would be when it happened. It took time an effort. Don’t push yourself or you could make it worse. Sometimes you will need to stop and think about something else. It helps to have a deadline, an actual date when you will have to act on your work- it helps with the imagining the after bit, and it’s good to have just a little bit pressure. Give yourself at least a month. To be safe, a month and a half.
Hope this helped. Feel free to ask me for more details. Good luck (you won’t need it!), and get to work!