How to be Brave in the Face of Fear
by Brisbane City Psychologist Kate Day
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear”.
Fear is uncomfortable. It can lead your heart to race, your palms to sweat, your stomach to churn and your thoughts to scatter.
Fear is supposed to be protective; a warning sign to tell you to stop and think before you expose yourself to something life-threatening. It is like a smoke detector – fear doesn’t tell you that the house is burning down or if you’ve just burnt some toast. It lets you know that there is smoke, you should check it out and then decide if you have to start breakfast over or if you need to get down low and go, go, go!
Sometimes you may find the feeling of fear so aversive or overwhelming that you actively avoid doing things that have the possibility of leading you to feel afraid. You may make excuses or procrastinate, allowing the fear to build in your mind. The more you avoid instead of investigating, the more convinced your brain is that there is something dangerous that needs evading. Your brain wants you to survive this dangerous world, and so it looks for more and more clues that something you fear could occur to try to keep you safe. Your brain starts to see signs of cataclysmic disaster everywhere – in your thoughts, in your feelings, in your surroundings. Fear can leash you from engaging fully in life.
The Fear Antidote: Bravery
Fortunately, there is an antidote to the paralysing state of fear! Being brave is a skill that can be acquired and mastered. It’s all about learning how to tolerate the feeling of fear; to stop and consider if the house is actually burning down, or if the smoke detector has just given you a bit of a fright. It is the capacity to function despite feeling afraid.
The following tips may help you in your journey to becoming braver.