Facing Fear (part 2)
When facing fear and developing a plan to overcome some difficulty, it is important to use progressions. Setting a plan in motion that allows you to gradually increase the exposure to the fear will ultimately result in greater tolerance of fear, mastery of emotional control, and working through challenges. Though this process can be modified to fit almost any fear, using a specific fear will be helpful to outline how it works.
An example that may be appropriate and easy to identify with might be the fear of driving. Someone who experiences a racing heart, sweaty hands, shakiness, tightness in throat/chest, and difficulty breathing when even thinking about operating or riding in a motor vehicle will inevitably avoid anything to do with driving. They may not even want to talk about driving because it will elicit some of these symptoms.
The first step to solving such a problem is to face the fear at the lowest level. Then identify progressive steps that will increase the level of fear to be faced over time and take these steps one by one. Before progressing from each stage to the next it is important that the current step does not consistently produce a fear level greater than a subjective 3 out of 10. If you move too quickly from one stage to the next, the fear will not effectively and efficiently diminish. Similarly, you should practice each step for a minimum of 20 minutes in order for an effective “dose” of the fear to adequately “vaccinate.”
Progressive steps may resemble the following:
1. Imagine driving (sub-steps might involve imagining particular neighborhood streets before highways or empty roadways before busy ones)
2. Use different media to help imagine driving (pictures, videos, simulators such as video-games)
3. Sit in a parked car and imagine driving
4. Sit in in a parked, idling car and imagine driving
5. Back out of the drive-way and then pull back in
6. Drive down the street (sub-steps might involve doing this at times when the roadways are not busy and then later at times when they are)
7. Drive several blocks (perhaps begin with familiar blocks and later try unfamiliar ones)
8. Drive to the store using familiar roads
9. Drive to the store using a new, unfamiliar path
10. Drive on an empty freeway
11. Drive on somewhat busy freeway
12. Drive on freeway during rush-hour
Approaching the fear in this way allows the person to encounter it in gradually more challenging stages while still keeping it at tolerable and achievable levels. After overcoming each step successfully the person’s motivation, confidence, and self-esteem will increase. Ultimately, overcoming the fear results in mastering yourself.
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