New research finds that feeling fear eases it; repressing fear makes it worse

Research has found that repressing fear when it raises its ugly head is a typical strategy people use to manage fears, but it not only doesn’t work, it can actually increase fear to the point of overwhelming us.  When we get really scared, stress hormones pour into our brain locking us into the hyper-vigilant state of fear called fight, flight or freeze, which is an intense state of stress that harms our body. In addition, high stress is also “resource intensive,” meaning it shuts down higher brain functions to fuel the stress reaction, pulling power away from the  brain networks that amplify the IQ and creative insight to solve problems.

So what do we do when fear strikes, paralyzing us? It turns out to be simple, although not necessarily easy, but the more we develop this fear-busting skill, the easier it is to do.

  • Sit in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and allow yourself to feel the fear.
  • Often, the process of allowing fear begins with not being afraid of being afraid.
  • Embrace your fear instead of resisting it, being mindful of your breath. If your fear swells, stay with your breath, breathing with the strong feeling.
  • Drop the frightening story your fear is inventing and and keep letting go of fearful thoughts as they arise. In short, don’t think, just feel.

Some people think that feeling difficult feelings will somehow destroy them, but it is quite the opposite. Things actually begin to calm down and your mental state gradually shifts from contracted to expansive; from painted into a tight corner to seeing new possibilities. Control shifts from the brain’s fear center to the higher brain. You are now able to face the problem and discern with greater clarity what to do about it.