WFPF NOTE: We’ve had lots of questions about fear, overcoming it and how to progress. So we asked UK practitioner and writer, George Howard, to give us an insight into how he deals with fear in his own training.
Practical steps to help you move forward in a calm, confident way when faced with fear in any situation.
Everyone on this earth feels fear in one way or another. It’s wired into us from our primal days when we needed a fight or flight response, this fear asked us do you want to stand and fight, or do you want to run. These were “real” dangerous situations, possibly wild animals attacking their homes or dangers they faced when going on a wild adventure to find food.
This fight or flight fear response isn’t needed so much nowadays as we live in a relatively safe world, of course there is danger, but our intelligence tells us what is dangerous and what is not. Back in primal times it may well of been more of an animal instinct inside of us, rather than rationalising through thought. Overthinking things would not exist. It was more than likely just do it, or don’t do it.
Irrational fear like we get in modern day social situations was likely to be non – existent, why would these people fear talking to another human being!? That’s not real danger, they aren’t going to get injured or die, they won’t see those things as a fight or flight response.
For us it’s a kind of evolutionary defect, the things we fear nowadays are silly and meaningless. Because the ego has been developed in us, we fear things such as rejection, embarrassment, and failure in situations that really do not matter if you fail. Mostly these are situations that have no “real” consequences. This isn’t what the animal instinctual fight or flight response was meant for.
What I’m going to teach you in this article are ways to deal with this fear that is ingrained inside of us. I’m by no means going to give you the magic formula that rids it completely from your life just by doing one exercise, but I can give you keys to a new positive relationship with fear.
Ok so we have two types of fear
- Irrational fear – This fear isn’t really needed but still exists as our ego allows it to. Our thoughts and emotions get involved and once you over think a situation, such as one like public speaking then the fear kicks in. The ego is afraid of looking bad, and a feeling of fear rises up inside you. There is no real danger, no real consequences.
- Rational fear – This fear is the one that is of real dangerous situations. There are real consequences involved such as death, and injury. This is the fear that existed back in primal times. Instinctual fear.
In sports such as Parkour which can be considered a “dangerous” sport, the fear we feel when faced with a new jump can indeed stem back to the primal, animal instinctual days.
For me there are another two types of fear in sports classed as “extreme” – the first one is when doing a sport like Parkour you are faced with a new jump you want to do, fear crops up and tries to stop you doing it. But! You know inside of you that you CAN do it. Your instinct is telling you go for it, you can do it.
The second one is when your instincts are telling you – “I have a bad feeling about this one, leave it” this one you can feel inside of you as something that isn’t quite right about it. Our instincts should allow us to distinguish between the two fears.
Ok so now we’ve talked about the different fears let’s move on to how to deal with them. How to have a better relationship with fear allowing yourself to reach your full potential and how to push through the fear you feel in your sport (if it’s the one you know you can do).
Practical steps you can take when faced with fear
- Deep breathing – When we have fear some of you may realise that our breathing becomes restricted or “shallow”, this restriction is causing the feelings of nervousness, and overthinking to progress. Through deep breathing you get out of your head (you stop overthinking), and your awareness comes into your body. When your awareness is in your body, the thoughts that stop you moving forward will clear. To breathe deeply you need to be aware of yourself to recognise you aren’t breathing correctly, stop for a second and breathe either through your nose or mouth nice and deeply down in to your lower regions, and then breathe out. Repeat this, and be aware of how it feels to breathe deeply, clearing thoughts of anything else from your head. Getting out of your head and into your body is very important, try it.
- Visualise – Envision yourself doing the jump or whatever it is in a positive way. Many people in the Parkour community I have noticed think about the worst case scenario of a jump. I can’t express enough that you should NOT do this, it is a form of negative thinking and will work as a blockage to stop you doing whatever it is you want, and could even lead to that scenario happening.
Visualize success. Let’s use a roof gap for example, one that you know you can do, you have that instinctual feeling that you can do it, but fear is still stopping you – So when you are looking at the gap, envision yourself making it. See yourself in each step of the jump, imagine how it feels to land softly on the other side and the great feeling you have about your accomplishment. Bring up all the positive thoughts associated with it, and feel it inside of you. Believe that you can do it. Practice this technique whenever you can.
- Exposure – When it comes to irrational fear such as social situations, talking to an attractive women, public speaking etc.. Most of us feel fear, doing it anyway is where the success lies. Expose yourself to what you are scared of doing, no matter how small. Whenever you can, get out of your comfort zone and do it. Exposure to irrational fears can be seen as “difficult” but do it and you will feel a great accomplishment inside of you. Come out of your comfort zone whenever you can.
- Look bad on purpose – This goes with exposure but when it comes to irrational fear, the ego is what is causing the nervousness. It fears looking bad, being rejected or being embarrassed. What I want you to do is actually look bad on purpose. Yeah I said it. Go out and make yourself get rejected, do something embarrassing. Just do something that exposes you to what you are afraid of happening. This is amazing for realising that none of it matters, when you do these embarrassing things on purpose the ego broken down bit by bit. You stop worrying what others think. It is incredibly freeing.
- Meditation – Sitting meditation which is being the “watcher” of your thoughts (awareness of your thoughts, recognising you are not your thoughts) can be incredibly beneficial. It brings your awareness into the present moment, the only one that exists. The practice of sitting meditation will benefit you immensely in everyday life, it will bring a calmness to you, a new awareness of your body. Things that used to bother you will start to become insignificant through the realisations associated with meditation. Make it a habit to sit quietly for a period of time each day, learn to be comfortable with nothing but you sitting there watching your thoughts, or concentrating on your breathing.
The first two – deep breathing, and positive visualisation (using your imagine to your advantage) work incredibly well in many day to day situations. Being aware of how you think is very important, lots of people are completely unaware of how negative their thoughts are and probably don’t know that they are hindering themselves.
Positive thinking or visualisation if done right will do wonders for you in your sport. They bring up a strong belief inside of you, it is a feeling in your heart like an excitement. This energy is exactly what you need when you want to move forward in the face of fear.
Practice these things, and your perception of fear will change. It will always be there but the way you go about it will radically change, and you will live to your true potential not held back by fear but flowing with it rather than resisting it.
- Meditate everyday even if it’s just 10 minutes.
- Become aware of your breathing whenever you can, and breathe deeply bringing awareness into your body, and out of your head.
- Come out of your comfort zone whenever you can, expose yourself to your fears. Look bad on purpose to free you from your ego.
- Visualise success. Visualise yourself in a positive way. See yourself do the movement, imagine success. Feel the energy of excitement.
I wish you all the best of luck with whatever challenges you may face in your life, and I hope that I have been of help in some way when it comes to dealing with fears.
Practice these things, and I promise you that you will achieve self-mastery, but recognise it is a life long journey not a destination.
You can read more articles by George at his blog, GeorgeHowardInspire.com