Facing Fear

I’m in my final year , of high school and today I got one my quizzes back (worth around 2-4%). I realized I had gotten a 60% and a 69% on two different parts. At this time, a realization struck me: if I continue on like this (exams in just two weeks!) I’m going to get less than an 80% on my Calculus course, making me ineligible for many of my favorite university programs.

It’s not like this quiz matters on the long run, I understand that. I remember my first few quizzes and a test where I did miserably, and my mid-term mark was remarkably an 80%. I started getting 90%’s on the next few tests and quizzes, until the summative task (basically, worth 10%) where I got a 65%on the first task (worth 5%) and 67.5% (worth the second 5%). This scares me.

Its not that I don’t study and practice either. I guess I’m just frustrated and tired, and want to figure out a way to deal with this. The fear of failure is pretty difficult to deal with. I’m an honors student, with 5 extra-curricular activities. I’m used to 90’s, and thinking that one course might just screw my dream up for a better education really scares me.

Help me deal with facing these fears. D. T

To Face Fear attack it with a process of Self Inquiry

First is the practical part: Are you spending enough time to learn and master the material?   As an honors student, let’s assume the mental horsepower is there. But “being smart” doesn’t mean you master. Learning takes time and practice.  Math is a skill you learn, not something you can rely on being able to do because you have a talent you are born with.

Second, if you aren’t spending the time on it, then maybe you need to consider what you are doing with your time. Are 4 extra activities really what you want to be doing?  Sometimes trade offs have to be made. You can only give up sleep during the week for so long.

Third: dealing with the emotions of fear that come up require an internal self reflection process of looking at beliefs. This I will spend some time on here.

One of the big problems when facing fear is that we fail to scrutinize what we are really afraid of. One of the first steps to get free of fear is awareness. Self awareness begins with ruthless self inquiry into the beliefs standing behind the fear we face.

For starters, I suggest dissecting the fear of failure. By leaving it in such a large massive general block it is tough to break free. Break it down into small pieces. What is failure? It’s not being a success.

Is success the same for everyone or does each person have their own version? Obviously each person has their own mental version.

That means fear of failure is not meeting my own mental version of success.

Will this still be your version of success when you are 35 or 50? Probably not.

So fear of failure is not meeting your temporary mental picture of success?

I then suggest scrutinizing the details of the personal version.

You can go further with this but should have the idea by now.

By breaking it down, the small failure of a calculus test no longer means the end of our life dream. The exaggerated consequence of life failure is the result the mind had drawn earlier when you left the fear in one giant block.

Does that one score on one hour of testing, based on one aspect of your intelligence determine who you are and what you are going to do the rest of your life?

Well if we put it this way, perhaps not.

Exaggeration in the mind is dangerous when we are not aware of what the mind is doing.

(By the way, failing to achieve one of your temporary life dreams might just mean the opportunity to dream up a better more enjoyable one.)

When facing fear it is also critical to inquire into what creates the emotion. Events in our life don’t create emotion. Our interpretation and what we believe about events is what creates emotion.

With fear it usually is related to avoiding something we perceive to be painful. Maybe “failure” is a term that when applied to ourselves results in self rejection. Belief in our internal dialogue of self rejection results in emotional pain.

In this case failure really means not getting what we temporarily imagined we wanted. The real fear is that we will believe it will result in an internal dialogue of self rejection and the painful emotions of low self worth.

In this case we are more afraid of what we will believe about ourselves than the performance on a test. The test is just a trigger for the real cause of pain wish is a belief in the mind. In this scenario success (avoiding the trigger) looks like a way to avoid this perceived pain of self rejection.

In my book passing the test isn’t success. This version of success is just our fears driving our behavior to succeed as a compensating strategy to avoid the imagined emotional pain of self rejection. When fears are the source of our success they aren’t likely to be very sweet.

All of this rambling may not apply to you, but it’s just an example of the mental and emotional stuff that is often below our conscious awareness. People talk about facing fears but that usually isn’t enough to make them go away. You need to engage in self inquiry into the core beliefs behind fear to dissolve the emotion. Without that kind of attack, facing fear usually just turns into stalemate. Stalemate is a condition in chess where nobody wins.

Awareness is the key out of these dynamics. A process of self inquiry is the active way to create self awareness of the layers of beliefs behind the fear. Self inquiry is one of the approaches that can get you out of the emotions of fear.

Anyways, I’ve been wrought by fear in my mind before and found this process to work for me. It takes some practice, but if we plan on really living you might find the return on investment worthwhile.

For practical steps in learning this self inquiry process to face fears and dissolve other emotional reactions listen to the material in the self mastery course and practice the exercises.


Related Material

Podcast on Overcoming Fear