“I want you to hit me as hard as you can.”
Who wouldn’t be crapping their pants if someone said that to them? It’s most likely that the majority of people would. Why? Because they are AFRAID. No, this post is not about how to start a Fight Club or even how to fight. I am writing to tell you how to begin to eliminate fear from your life. Fear is dehabilitating, it’s suffocating, and it’s just plain silly.
As I know, not everyone has seen the movie “Fight Club” or read the book (which is equally as magnificent), and even fewer people have understand what the story is about. So, I will provide a brief synopsis to explain the main points of the story line and also to give my interpretation of the underlying theme of the book/movie.
The main character, who is actually never named, works as an investigator of car insurance claims. He is utterly unhappy with his life when he is first introduced, but not long into the plot a new character arrives: Tyler Durden. Tyler is everything this character is not: good looking, charming, funny, care-free, and open-minded. What you do not find out until the end of the story (or near it), is that Tyler is actually another personality created by this main character to allow himself to do all the things he was afraid of doing. He starts a ‘Fight Club,’ where men come to fight eachother in an organized fashion; here they gain confidence in themselves as does the main character. When numerous Fight Clubs have sprung up, Tyler begins to organize what is known as ‘Project Mayhem.’ With this project, he is attempting to destroy all credit company home offices in order to eliminate credit and put everyone on an equal financial playing field.
How does this plot relate to eliminating fear from your life? The main character had to create an alter ego in order to finally do the things he feared: standing up to people who pushed him around; such as his boss, being a leader among men; as he is with Fight Club and Project Mayhem, and standing up against the financial institutions of the world (could be viewed as standing up to big business in general). Am I asking you to create an alter ego to get over your fears? Absolutely not. I will explain how Tyler Durden can be used as a model for giving up fears, but first I need to explain the three different types of fear:
1.) The first and most common type of fear is simply nervousness. Being nervous is caused by a lack of confidence in yourself and what you are attempting to accomplish. Nervousness affects nearly everyone, and in all aspects of life: work, sports, communication in general, taking tests, etc. It is by far the easiest form of fear to overcome.
2.) Slightly less common than lack of confidence is a fear of the unknown. This does not just apply to fear of what happens after our life here on Earth, but really any type of activity or event that involves some kind of mystery to the person taking part in it. This form of fear is harder to overcome than the first, but is still very doable on your own.
3.) The third and least common type of fear is a phobia. A phobia is defined as: “a persistent, abnormal, and irrational fear of a specific thing or situation that compels one to avoid it, despite the awareness and reassurance that it is not dangerous (dictionary.com/phobia).” Phobias are often hard to combat, as the definition suggests, because they are irrational and even with awareness and reassurance, can sometimes not be overcome. I will explain the best way I know how to fight phobias.
Now that I have explained the types of fears, I will break each one down into its solution and how Tyler Durden can help you:
1.) To fight nervousness there is only one way, that is extremely effective at overcoming the fear: take it head on. Most things you are nervous about involve you overthinking the problem or blowing it out of proportion. It is important to put the fear into perspective and then think about what is really stopping you from doing what you want to do. For example, if you are afraid of heights, just because you think you might fall, contemplate for a second how many people per year die of falling down a hill. Maybe 1,000? Maybe less. So yes, there is a chance, but there’s a MUCH BETTER chance that you will die from heart disease, a car accident, or from crossing the street. Does that mean you should fear eating junk food every once in a while, driving to and from work, and crossing the street to go see a movie? (That’s a rhetorical question). Yes, everyone knows someone who has died tragically in some form or another, but if you think you are ‘lucky’ enough to be one of those people also, perhaps you should start buying lottery tickets, because the odds are nearly that good for you. Beyond looking at statistics, you still need to face your fear head on. How you do this is by attempting whatever it is you want to do. Sometimes this involves practicing what you want to do beforehand as well. Using the heights example; practice going for hikes on small hills, climbing on small rocks, etc. When you have gained enough confidence on smaller hills and rocks, then you will feel much better about tackling larger conquests. This concept can be applied to nearly any fear: talking to girls, interviewing, going swimming… really anything.
Tyler Durden can be used as an example here, because the main character in the story never talks to girls, never brings them home, never stands up to those in authority. Once Tyler Durden comes around, the character starts seeing a girl he meets, and no longer fears his boss. Why? Because he puts the problem in perspective; realizes that it is not as serious as he once believed, and therefore he can challenge it.
2.) Fear of the unknown is handled similarily to nervousness. The main and most crucial step is putting the fear into perspective: is this really a life or death situation? Is death something that really needs to be feared? Consider Tyler Durden’s line in the movie: “First you have to give up, first you have to *know*… not fear… *know*… that someday you’re gonna die (Fight Club, 1999).” For those who fear death; it is scary not knowing what will happen, but if you can tell yourself that we all die someday (and that the life expectancy in America is over 70 years, even though 60% of us are obese), then your life will be a lot more enjoyable. Just focus on making each day as successful as possible (as per my last blog), and you won’t regret it, no matter when you die. As for being afraid of the unknown in other situations: the best way to conquer this fear is to make the situation known. If you don’t know about first dates, interviews, scuba diving, how to play a live musical show, etc, then RESEARCH it! There are so many resources made available to us. Ask your friends. Ask family. GOOGLE it. Go to answers.com. Look up an expert/company in the phone book! If you can’t find advice or some kind of explanation of the situation that you are scared to attempt, then hell, email ME! I’ll find you the resource if you don’t have it. That is the only way you will overcome fear of the unknown; make it known, or accept it and realize it’s not the end of the world.
3.) Having a phobia is something that I have personally never experienced. However, they do exist, and for all I know, those of you reading right now may have one. So I will do my best to give you the advice to begin overcoming it. You must know, no matter how long you have suffered from this phobia, and no matter how much you have tried to overcome it; it still may take time for you to get over it.
A phobia is more than just psychological; it is also physiological. This means that your body reacts to your fear nearly as much as your mind: you sweat, your vision may blur, your blood pressure increases, as well as the mental reactions of clouded judment and rash decision making. The first step to overcoming a phobia is to seek help. There is nothing wrong with speaking with a counselor, if even only once, to find out how severe they may think the phobia may be or become, and what they think is the best course of action. Until you do this, it is important to avoid situations (if feasible) where you may encounter your fear (if your fear is being in public, it will be much more difficult).
Researching your fear in a place that you feel safe is a good way to familiarize yourself with the fear and to attach facts to it. Facts are unbiased and dry. They will begin to remove emotions from the fear. This will help when you begin to either receive treatment or to face the phobia head on. With speaking to a counselor, they may recommend medications, such as anti-anxiety pills to take when you know you will be encountering that fear. This is a great way to condition your brain and your nervous system to the fear; to eliminate the automatic reactions created by your mind and body. Don’t fear the recommendations of the person you are seeking help from; they are or should be a licensed professional, so they know how to help.
It is OK to share your fear with friends as well; because experiencing a scary situation with someone you trust will help you attach good emotions to the situation as opposed to the usual reactions you get. Be careful in who you tell though: you need to make sure they want to help you before you tell them, and make sure that you do trust them, so there isn’t a subconcious fear of the person you are telling; that they might encourage or increase the fear in some way.
To lighten the mood, we will connect phobias to Fight Club once more. Tyler Durden helps the main character overcome his phobia of society and big business by attempting to destroy it. In the end of the story, however, the main character realizes that by destroying society; he himself will also be destroyed. And by overcoming all his fears, he has begun to actually like who he is: he talks to girls, he is a leader of men, he is a crafty businessman. All of these are honorable traits, and not only does the character see them in himself, but he also sees them in others. So, as you can see, the character realizes the extreme isn’t necessary to overcome his fear: he already has by tackling his smaller fears one by one! This is what you must apply to your own life.
Tackle your fears one by one until they are all gone. Seek help if needed, but always remember: keep the fears in perspective- because chances are, it is not a life or death situation, and if it is, we all die someday (although most of you reading this probably won’t for at least another 20-50 years). If you live your life without fear, you aren’t reckless; you are confident and realistic. We all know the saying “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.” That is the truth. Stop being scared, and go find your inner Tyler Durden!