Cognitive Neuroscience and Fear

How to use Fear to your advantage

Cognitive Neuroscience says behavior is connected to fear

And neuroscientists provide explanations that lead to solutions. Read on if you want to learn how thousands of people successfully overcame their fear and achieved more success in their personal and business lives.

Everyone feels fear from time to time. The people who are never afraid have mental disorders in the majority of cases. Psychopaths are an example for a group of people who often do not feel fear. Interpersonal relationships become difficult for them at a young age and later they often become criminal.

The other kind, sociopaths, often hold high managerial positions. Beside the scientific proof that is pretty convincing for how fear controls our behavior and ultimately decides how successful we will be. For the rest of this post, we will just ignore this tiny group of people and focus on the healthy ones.

No worries. This post is not intended to teach how to become a sociopath but to show how everyone can overcome the fear that is holding them back.

The human race would be distinct soon if we would not feel fear. Fear keeps us out of dangerous situations. Fear can also make us sick and hinder our business success.

When fear takes over it harms our health, relationships, and business success. I in example hold back a lot of good stuff because I am afraid when writing in English (my native language is German) I might sound like a moron. While this is a very light fear and very easy to overcome, I want to show that even when you know all of that stuff you are not free of fear.

Fear is a fundamental color of our emotions. It is easier to make kids afraid than to put them in a relaxed state of mind. Therefore, fear is frequently used for educational purposes and to gain control. By parents, authorities, government and our partners.

Fear is more powerful than Felicity

Fear can crush down your whole body. It can overpower you in a way that makes logical thinking and rational decisions impossible for you.

Fear does not have a good reputation. Admitting fear is considered weak and unacceptable especially for Executives. We try to deal with it ourselves. Also, especially with deep-rooted, strong fear, it is hard for others to understand our situation.

Anxiety disorders are the most common disease in industrialized countries. That can range from procrastinating or sleeping disorders to panic attacks, phobia, and even schizophrenia. Depression is often linked to an anxiety disorder as well. Even eating disorders.

Fear also costs our economy a lot of money. I am not talking about sick days or medical bills but underperformers. People who stay below their potential as a result of their anxiety disorders. It is easy to become a "what if" person.

Fear is also the most powerful enabler

Cognitive Neuroscience and Fear

Some people get addicted to the adrenaline. Overcoming fear makes us happy, proud and feeling healthy. Endorphins rock our body and we just feel great.

Fear can motivate us, push us forward, make us creative and innovative.

The inner system of fear is easy to fool. That is why we feel afraid when watching a horror movie even though we know that it is just a movie. Good to know, right?

Many Fearful people are extremely successful

They know how to turn their fear into their fuel.
A few example of people who were fearful young adults or are still afraid include:
  • Bill Gates
  • Warren Buffet
  • Steven Spielberg
Charles Darwin was afraid of nearly everything. Snakes, traveling, crowds, loneliness.
Barbara Streisand and Sir Laurence Olivier were struggling with social phobia.
Fear can release the energy for extraordinary achievements.

How to make fear your super fuel

So what do these groups of people do differently? The ones who are fearful and become successful and the ones who develop anxiety disorders or even disease and keep procrastinating?
Why is fear a growing problem in our society that has become so much safer than it used to be?

Cognitive behavioral training to overcome fear

The amygdala is an ancient primitive structure and plays a key role in deciding if an impulse is "good" or "bad". That is a very simplified explanation, but it will do for making the point. You actually have two of them. The word is derived from the Greek word for almond, as this is how they are shaped.
If it considers an impulse "bad" (which is often false alarm) it can put the body into a protective mode in an instant. You breathe faster, your muscles become tense, the adrenals release stress hormones, You will not be able to behave and think rational.
Imagine you ride your car. Some tiny bug collides with your windscreen. You close your eyes, right? You probably even push your head away.
Even though you know that you are safe in your car, and the tiny bug cannot crash your windscreen and hit your eye.
The amygdala decided for "bad" and made it impossible for you to think and make a rational decision.
One day, maybe long ago when you were a kid something hit your eye. And it hurt.
Now this was just a silly example. It neither hurts your life nor your career if you blink because of a false alarm.
But the same goes for "false alarms" regarding anything hurtful we ever experienced in our lives. Failing a diet, being left or cheated on, making a wrong business or hiring decision and so on and so on.
Unconscious of it, we frequently react to the past. Not the presence. We let whatever has hurt us or failed us control our existence and future. We write our self-fulfilling prophecies.
Time to change that. Isn´t it?

Retraining your brain is the key

It is possible to retrain your brain so that new neural pathways form that allow you to take control of your behavior and reactions.
How much does it cost you not to make changes? Fear comes with an expensive price tag including:
  • Missed promotions
  • Less success and money
  • Failed business ventures
  • Broken relationships
  • Missed opportunities

Enough theory let´s get factual