Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fighting Fear

I've known a number of people who adopted what they found to be successful strategies for countering fear.

A few of them may overlap and not everyone uses the same approach every time, but here are the techniques:

Mindless Optimism. This is Mr. Micawber's "Something will turn up" method. Its popularity is due to the fact that often - almost miraculously - something does turn up. Never despair, Copperfield.

Indifference. These practitioners know that the party that cares least controls and that fear thrives on a lack of control. They remove fear's oxygen. Not Caring = Control = Lack of Fear. Many of us have seen the wisdom in this attitude when we look back at situations that once sparked grave concern and wonder, "What was I worrying about?"

Going on the Offense. This technique turns fear on its head and dedicates energy to making the other side worry. They want to scare us? We'll teach those weasels to feel fear! ["Wormer? He's a dead man!" - John Belushi, Animal House]

Distraction. Rather than stewing over concerns that cannot be controlled, these fear-fighters shift their attention elsewhere. I recall a friend of mine in law school who, while the rest of us worried about upcoming exams, would go off and fly model airplanes. Each year, he went to Mardi Gras. He may have known something that the rest of us missed.

Focusing on the Immediate. This is the old "Be courageous one minute longer than the other guy" technique. You reduce your fears by breaking them into small pieces. You focus on the next ten seconds and then the next ten. You don't let your thoughts get too far ahead. You curb your imagination.

Which one is best? The answer is easy. Whichever one works.


Cultural Offering said...

Focusing on the Immediate while hoping that my general Mindless Optimism (such a loaded option) proves out; if it doesn't, at least I've addressed the fear with some concrete actions.

Jeff said...

Michael -

Having faced the ultimate fear, I can tell you that achieving success in business or in health, or overcoming deeply troubling times, takes a bit of all that you list.

And somewhere, buried between the lines of that list, is that ability to see the end point, the thing you desire the most, the place you want to be.

Sheer determination and will. I'd like to add that... :)

(And never, ever, lose your sense of humor!)

- J.