Facing Your Fears: Laugh it Off!
Welcome back, Dear Readers! I hope this day finds you well. This second installment of my series on overcoming fear is brought to you by the monster under my bed. That made you chuckle, I hope, and that was actually my aim. Today I’d like to share with you how you can use memory and humor to help you overcome your fears.
Psychologists say that 90% of our fears never happen. That’s a pretty big margin of error for the mind’s prediction of what next horrible thing is around the corner. Even as humans gifted with a prefrontal cortex, we are frequently looking at the world from the seat of our “reptilian” brain. This is the part that is in charge of the fight of flight response and is always on the lookout for threats. In this day and age we don’t need to worry about the lion eating us for dinner. We spend most of our energy worrying about psychological threats such as making a fool of ourselves public or being rejected by our peers. The good news is that since the threats are mostly imagined (or at the very least, not life-threatening) we can learn to change our thinking and make things less scary from the inside out.
Here are two ways that you can feel relief from fear in any situation that isn’t life-threatening:
1. Remember a fear that you have overcome:
Were you ever afraid of a monster under your bed? Scared of standing-up to your parents? How about the fear you felt when you were falling in love? Are you still afraid of those things now? I’m going to bet that you’re not and you are probably eye-rolling. Well, at some point in your life, you were actually afraid of those things. What happened? Did you get up one night and look under the bed? Did you yell at your parents and discover they still loved you? Did you let yourself fall head over heels? And you’re still here. Fit and well enough to be reading this article with your morning cup of coffee. You didn’t die. It’s empowering to notice things that you have overcome; especially if you’re feeling scared. I call this finding alternative evidence. Sometimes when your mind is racing, your brain will find “evidence” that you have every right to be scared. It will bring up memories of past scares, and predict future ones. Challenging that kind of thinking by finding evidence to the contrary has a magical way of taking the wind out of the sails from whatever fear you’re currently in the middle of. Try it the next time you’re feeling the pang of fear!
2. Use humor to help break the tension:
Have you ever had one of those visions where you picture yourself doing or saying something really ridiculous by accident? I have. Many times when I’m walking onstage I have a fear that I might forget my speech (or song lyrics). What do I do to combat this? I play a mini movie of myself falling off the stage and ending up with my dress over my head! I imagine a cops and robbers type foot chase coming through the middle of the venue while I stand behind the podium. I then laugh at what would be a funny story if any of that DID happen. Usually, that laughter carries me on stage and I’m smiling at the thought of possible mishaps. Using humor in this way breaks the tension and helps me recall that I am capable and composed and that the chances of my fears coming true are a lot lower than my reptile brain might make it seem.
So there you are Dear Reader, the next time you have to do something and you’re feeling scared, don’t forget to remember that you’ve overcome fears before and then laugh in the face of those fears before setting off to conquer your life!
Do you have a topic you’d like me to weigh in on? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer your question in my next column!
Laura Klain is a Certified Life Coach and the owner of Bud to Blossom Life Design LLC, which is located at 92 Main Street, Suite 104, in Downtown Nashua. She has been helping people build better relationships, change careers, increase creativity, and successfully navigate life’s curveballs for the past seven years. You can learn more about her at: www.budtoblossom.net.