Muhammed Hussain Sufi
What is your deepest fear? I decided to speak about fear because I have realized that, this is the only thing holding us back from what we are otherwise made for and are capable of achieving. Every one of us has a fear of one thing or the other. Fear of water, fear of heights, fear to be the center of attention, fear of open spaces, fear of a particular person so on and so forth.We have been told many stories about how to negate fear, we have been told it is fake, we have also been taught how to overpower fear. We have been told to repeat quotes like “do it anyways”, “just do it” to push us beyond our limits. In a situation where people are coming to kill you, you can’t “just do it” with a rifle or a sword you don’t know how to use.
To any given situation our brain produces a conversation related to it. How you react to that conversation is your response to fear.
In a sudden threat, response is voluntary and is triggered by our fight or flight hormone epinephrine, norepinephrine and dozens of other hormones resulting in:
1. Heart rate and blood pressure increase.
2. Pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible.
3. Veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups
4. Blood-glucose level increases.
5. Muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goose bumps, when tiny muscles attached to each hair on surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling skin with them)
6. Smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs.
7. Nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
8. Trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from).
Fear of losing someone you love is considered the most dreadful fear. It can cause a severe mental condition, leading to trauma or a broken heart syndrome also called stress-induced cardiomyopathy, which causes angina (chest pain), arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) or cardiogenic shock a condition in which suddenly weakened heart muscles cannot pump enough blood to meet body’s needs. Broken heart syndrome can cause death. It may look like a heart attack, however broken heart syndrome is different, it is more psychological, more emotional in nature caused due to weakening of heart muscles and heart attack is caused due to blockage in blood vessels connected to heart.
Lets us confine ourselves to the fears we can handle on our own. Fear, which does not need medical intervention. The common quote, which you can find about fear on Internet these days is False Evidence Appearing Real, which is incorrect. Fear is very much real; we have already discussed its effects on our body. It can wreck havoc with our body starting from our nervous system, with this in mind we can move to the next step towards our understanding of fear. There are different types of fear, we believe we are born with our fears, that they are deeply encoded in our DNA and that we can never get rid of them. But we are actually born with only two fears – thefear of falling and the of loud noises.All the other fears are learnt later on in life from our adults, teachers in schools, colleges, and then in offices from colleagues and partners. Then we go on extending our legacy of fears to our own kids and kids of others. The question is can we overcome our fears? Is there a need to overcome our fears? Is it our enemy, does it render us disable? Well, the answer to these questions is“yes” if we talk in a general sense.
If you want to talk to someone and you cannot because of some conversation going on into your head. If you want to open your own business but you do not because of some conversation going on into your head. If you want to go on vacations but you do not because of the conversation going on into your head. It is clear that this conversation is limiting you, this conversation is story of fear.Fear is not a notion it is real, we do not need to overcome it, rather feel it, accept it, understand it and then learn to respond to it without panicking. In a fearsome situation we can either panic and do nothing or else we can acknowledge the fear and still hold control of our brains. We can save ourselves from panicking.
If you are in a building and it catches fire, if you have not experienced it before, chances are you are going to freak out, scream like other people around you and wait for your death. You may even go to the extent of jumping out of the window from 12th floor because you logic fails to respond in situations like these. Now if we consider a similar situation, the building is under fire and you are under fear but this time you take time to understand it, accept it and vow to deal with it. You look for options to save yourself and others too. You will start looking for a fire exit, a fire extinguisher, water, some item which do not catch fire, a rope you can use to enter the floor beneath you, some kind of grip to take you to adjacent apartment. What you did is, you changed the conversation in your head. You didn’t panic; you didn’t allow your mental faculties to fail. You took a proactive decision to take yourself out of accidental situations. You are aware of your fears, and your want to come out of it, and you did come out of it. Responses to these fears are generated from our reflexes, usually fast and involuntary. However from now onwards because you have read this essay and you know there is another way to react to any situation. You will stay proactive.
Public speaking or stage fear is the fear almost all of us share in common. That may be the reason why only handful of people make it to the top viz. celebrities, politicians etc. When masses are under fear and you show little courage and started speaking to the gatherings, you are bound to gain recognition far and wide. The saying goes “practice makes a man perfect”; nowadays the proverb has been changed a little to “perfect practice makes man perfect” if you are learning a musical instrument and you are practicing consistently and you are not achieving desired results, chances are that you are not following the correct method to practice. Similarly if you want to be a good speaker, you have to spend some time to practice speaking. You can do it correctly by following a correct method to practicing speech. Otherwise you may not be satisfied with the way and manner you speak with. To begin with you have to imagine yourself on the stage, feel the temperature, sense the people around you, the lights, the desk, the mike. Imagine yourself clearly, waving hands, explaining, changing facial expressions, opening mouth, see you from audience point of view, sit there and see yourself speaking. Now, get little real, practice your speech, read and re-read it, mirror it, read about the topic you have chosen and research about it extensively, grab relevant books, make necessary Google searches and equip yourself with information.
Extensive research and practice will help you to deliver your speech and you will be able to use fear to your advantage, with injection of adrenaline into your blood stream you palms sweat, you blood vessels constrict and your pupils dilate and if you hold yourself still for some time, tension eases out and a satisfying and encouraging voice whispers you to continue, that you are doing good, you become comfortable in your own skin. Stage fear may not vanish altogether, you may feel similar fear in similar situations again and again, but that is okay. You know now it does you no harm and after a while everything becomes okay. This is themantra tolive with your fear, achieve what you are capable of achieving, and is applicable to almost all other fears.
—The author is a lawyer at the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @sufi071