“Managing fear is turning emotion into an action plan”


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Are there established guidelines to follow to manage fear?

For me there are six, always to apply to the day-to-day fears that we all have, very specific, especially irrational. Because for more traumatic processes such as phobias, of course the supervision of psychologists and psychiatrists is needed and we leave that aside:

1.- Contextualize and specify, because we usually talk about great things that scare us but that is how it is unmanageable. We have to identify what it is that scares us, beyond the big label like the fear of failure, rejection or change.

2.- Once you know it there are certain signals with which the body it tells you that this is fear, so the second step is to identify them.

3.- The third step, which is fundamental, is define the purpose, in order to alleviate uncertainty, which is the food of fear and activates in our brain all the neurotransmitters related to stress and anxiety. When you identify a what for, you are looking for the best scenario, you generate that motivation we need to face complicated challenges: why are you willing to have a bad time. Because managing fear is not not being afraid; It is being willing to feel fear because you are going to feel it, but with these steps we lower the intensity of the emotion. This process does not assure you that things will turn out well, it assures you that you will continue fighting to get what you want; That the moment you fall, because you are going to fall, you are going to want to get up.

Elena García Donoso loves to dive with sharks that, as she has recognized, “were largely responsible for why I got into this. If being surrounded by them at several meters depth has taught me something, it is that misunderstood fear easily becomes in hatred. And the more you understand something, the less it controls you. “

4.- The fourth step is the one I call “Interview fear” to rationalize the emotion. When emotion goes up, intelligence goes down, so we have to activate all the rational processes in our brain to compensate so that there is both emotion and intelligence. Because when we talk about fears, it seems that there is only one protagonist, which is him, and only one option, which is to flee. But no. What happens is that fear only needs one question to unseat us, which is “what if?” But we can ask you many more questions, which are a rationalization process to specify the fear, recognize it, turn it into an objective, identify which is the best and worst possible scenario and what tangible resources you have to reach the best (times, financial resources , people, networking, whatever you need). While you carry out this process the intensity of the emotion has already decreased because you are not letting it act in chaos mode, but you are guiding it.

5.- Once we close the rationalization part, the difficult part remains, that of decide yes or no. Because normally there is no action without a prior decision. But if not, nothing happens. Being brave is not always saying yes; sometimes it’s saying no when everyone is saying yes. But we have to be congruent, not crush ourselves for having said no, and take distance and the next. And if after a while you have to review your decision, graduate your plan again, perfect. But what helps us to make a decision is to be able to be congruent with our behavior later, because many times we suffer more for thinking one thing and feeling another than for making a decision.

6.- Once we have decided yes or no, the last phase arrives, which is the one that makes the difference: act, because no fear can be overcome just by thinking. Never. In fact, our problem is that we spend too much time in the thinking phase and little in the acting phase. You have to take that step forward. Although it is not necessary, we also usually do a lot, face everything at once. Usually the point of maximum risk is the point of least fear because you are already running. Indeed, it can go wrong, but you will have already taught your brain that this fear was not so dangerous. And that the next time you face a change you don’t have to react with so much paralysis.

So fear is a very misunderstood emotion?

Effectively. We think it is an enemy and we treat it fatal, but it is the emotion whose objective is to make us survive. It is always sending you a signal because the brain detects a possible danger, although it does not have to be real. It depends on you. That is why in that six-step process we stimulate the rational part so that we can compensate. We are all afraid and it is something that I try to naturalize a lot. Do not trust the person who tells you that they are not afraid of anything, because they are still afraid of fear, which is different. Following these six steps does not mean that the fear will go away, because it will not go away and it should not. It is a survival mechanism of the body and if it disappears we are not talking about the brave but the reckless. But you can regulate the intensity of the emotion, although it is part of that process, there are no magic formulas in emotional management.

And has that resistance to change that we all have been accentuated in these difficult times that we have had to live?

The truth is that we have all experienced it so, so, so differently. Because there have been people who have used it to break down their aversion to change precisely because they have had no choice. For me the most beautiful things in life are on the other side of fear; So in times of drastic changes that we have experienced, there were many people who looked to the other side. But there they were not managing the emotion, they did not have that goal to fight for because it was given to them. The motivation has been that they had no other choice. But now that we are returning to the above we are losing that motivation, that strength to face the aversion to change, because we are animals of habit. We have been following patterns for too many years and this has “only” been a year and a half, it is not comparable. Now, when we have to look for that reason, when we have to assume the true management of fear, it is when it is shown if we are really willing to face the fear of change. That is the differential part, because before we had no choice. The truly brave, the person who is really going to learn to manage fear, is the one who takes that step forward having a choice. The person who has made a change will have learned, because in the end the person who is exposed learns.

What are the most common fears in the workplace?

I usually talk about six great fears in life today, but if we apply them to the workplace, they would be fear of change, failure, well-nuanced rejection; there is also quite a fear of success. And then, specifying a little more, there is fear of not fitting in, of having been in a company for a long time and that a day will come when you do not understand why, of not feeling valued, of poorly managed competition; Sometimes there is fear of shining through criticism and mismanaged envy that you may generate, the leader’s loneliness, not reaching results, feeling that what you are doing was not your purpose … They are professional fears, but we really don’t we differentiate between professional and person, so the ones behind are the same.