Are you being controlled by fear?
Is there something in your life that is stopping you from achieving the next level of success?
In this article we will discuss how fear can manifest itself, in both your conscious and subconscious mind, and how you can retrain your brain to regain control and help you achieve your vision, ambitions and goals.
According to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality, the conscious mind consists of everything inside of our awareness. This is the aspect of our mental processing that we can think and talk about in a rational way. The conscious mind includes such things as the sensations, perceptions, memories, feeling and fantasies inside of our current awareness.
Closely allied with the conscious mind is the preconscious mind, which includes the things that we are not thinking of at the moment but which we can easily draw into conscious awareness.
Things that the conscious mind wants to keep hidden from awareness are repressed into the unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness. Freud stated that the unconscious continues to influence our behaviour and experience, even though we are unaware of these underlying influences.
Freud often used the metaphor of an iceberg to describe the two major aspects of human personality. The tip of the iceberg that extends above the water represents the conscious mind but the conscious mind is just the “tip of the iceberg.”
Beneath the water is the much larger bulk of the iceberg, which represents the unconscious.
The unconscious mind is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response; an automatic physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival. When feeling threatened, the human body’s sympathetic nervous system will discharge, flooding the body with catecholamines and priming the body for fight or flight. Dr. Walter Bradford Cannon coined the term ‘fight or flight response’ in 1932, however this theory has now been expanded to include a ‘freeze’ response, and is therefore now referred to as ‘flight, fight or freeze’.
Experts around the world are adding the word ‘freeze’ due to the fact that instead of fighting or fleeing, sometimes we tend to freeze (like a deer in the headlights) in traumatic situations. The fight or flight response (in its original form) is about survival. It’s about hope. We activate it when we believe there’s a chance we can outrun or outfight our attackers. If the limbic system perceives that there is neither time nor strength for fight or flight, and death could be imminent, then the body will freeze. This freeze response can increase chances of survival if the attacker (animal or human) thinks the person is dead.
The ‘flight, fight or freeze’ trigger can be activated in a heartbeat when a threat is perceived. Daniel Goleman, author of “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ” (1996), uses the phrase ‘amygdala hijack’ to describe the process by which a person’s rational response can be inhibited by the powerful emotional response to danger. Our early ancestors would rely on this automatic emotional trigger to be able to evade danger from predators, ‘will I eat it or will it eat me?’ Throughout human evolution we have retained the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response to danger.
When a negative experience happens to a person they often suppress the emotion that they felt within their subconscious mind, however if they then find themselves in an environment that is reminiscent of a previous experience this can trigger the emotional response from the amygdala. If this emotion is left unchecked it can manifest itself within the person’s consciousness as a fear or phobia. It may be that the manifested fear/phobia may not be linked to the original emotion, however it is the brain’s way of controlling the situation and compartmentalising the fear as opposed to facing the reality.
It is possible to retrain your brain to take control of any negative emotions that may be controlling you. Many highly successful people are working from a position of fear i.e. am I good enough, what if something goes wrong, what will people think of me if something does go wrong? Highly successful people will often look at what could go wrong, focusing on the inherent risks, and then take steps to avoid the issues from materialising. It is this determination to cover all bases that enables the individual to be as successful as they are; however at a point this will start to negatively impact on that individual’s performance as they are working from a position of fear. This may have an impact on the person’s relationships i.e. with their partner, with their team.
This is not something that someone else can fix for you. Although they can provide you with the information to retrain your brain, you will need to take responsibility for developing these new behaviours. You will learn through discovery and be able to visualise what success and fulfillment will look like to you. Retraining your brain will not necessarily remove the emotion, but rather will provide a different, more positive reaction if that emotion is triggered. It will help you look at the unknown as a place filled with opportunities as opposed to something to fear.
In order to retrain the brain you will need to move from a position of unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence, using the process to build new connections in the mind.
Unconscious incompetence The individual is often unaware he/she does not understand or know how to do something. The individual must recognize his/her own incompetence and the value of learning new behaviours, before moving on to the next stage.
Conscious incompetence The individual becomes aware he/she does not understand or know how to do something. She or he also begins to recognize the deficit is significant and it would be valuable to learn new behaviours in order to address the deficit and gain competence.
Conscious competence The individual understands or knows how to do something. He/she can demonstrate the new behaviours but it requires concentration and effort.
Unconscious competence The individual has had so much refining practice with the new behaviours that he or she does not really need to think about what to do. It has become “second nature”.
The process of creating a new habit is an iterative one in which the person learning the new behaviours will repeat a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Instead of labeling something as negative i.e. ‘it is unknown’, the person would have retrained their brain to label the emotions in a more positive way i.e. ‘I am curious’. It is possible to retrain your brain to accept these new positive behaviours in 21-40 days.