self improvement

Why 10 “Tips” to Overcome Fear Usually Don’t Work

Most people experience fear frequently.  Sometime the fear is minimal and we call it apprehension or mild anxiety.  Sometimes the fear is intense and we call it terror.  But far too many people experience some level of fear much of the time.  This fear is usually attached to something specific, like the fear of failure.  Sometimes, however, there is just a “free floating” anxiety.

Because some type of fear is so common, personal development bloggers have written hundreds if not thousands of posts with “tips” on how to deal with or overcome that fear. Unfortunately, most of the techniques recommended do not work, as blog readers have discovered to their dismay.

Why is it so difficult to overcome our fear, especially the fear that keeps us from taking action?

Most solutions ignore the source of the problem

Most of the techniques designed to deal with this anxiety are focused on the symptom itself, namely the fear.  So we are told to breath deeply as a way to cope with our fear, focus only on the present moment and try not to think about the future, try to realize that what others think about us doesn’t really matter, realize that it’s okay to fail, etc.

Some of these approaches might reduce our anxiety for the moment.  But most of them don’t ultimately help because they don’t deal with the source of the fear, namely, beliefs and conditioning.

People do not experience fear because, as some people claim, it is just part of human nature.  Fear when there is no threat to our survival is learned and is caused by beliefs and conditioning.  The reason the fear is so common is that so many people have formed the same limiting beliefs early in their lives.

The real cause of our fears

We fear taking actions because we have beliefs like mistakes and failure are bad, if I make a mistake or fail I’ll be rejected, I’m not good enough, I’m inadequate, and what makes me good enough and important is having people think well of me.

Can you see that anyone holding these beliefs would be afraid to do something new or different if he had these and other similar beliefs?  That he would be afraid of failing?

In addition to beliefs, conditioning is another cause of fear.   Early in life many of us are conditioned to experience fear when we don’t live up to the expectations of others or when we are rejected.  If those circumstances automatically make us experience fear, then starting something new that is not guaranteed to succeed is likely to produce fear because we might not live up to the expectations of others or because we might be rejected for our failure.  (Read how stimulus conditioning is formed and how to de-condition that conditioning so that it will no longer cause fear.)

Eliminate the source of the fear and the fear will stop

So instead of trying to cover up your fear, or ignoring it, or acting in the face of it, eliminate the beliefs and conditioning that cause the fear.  When you do that, the fear will stop.

Here is a summary of the steps of the Lefkoe Belief Process.  Use it to eliminate the beliefs that cause fear in your life.

How to use the Lefkoe Belief Process

First, find the source of the belief.  You didn’t have the belief when you were born.  What are the earliest events that led you to form the belief?

Next, realize that, even though your belief is one possible interpretation for those events, there are other possible interpretations that hadn’t occurred to you at the time you formed the belief.  These other meanings could explain the events just as well as your meaning (your belief).  At which point you realize your belief is “a truth” and not “the truth.”

Then the crucial part of the LBP comes: Put yourself back into the events that led to the belief and, as you look at them, ask yourself: Doesn’t it seem as if I can “see” (the belief)?  The answer for visual people will always be: “Yes.  And you would have seen it too if you had been there.”

Then ask yourself: Did I really “see” it?  Because if you really saw it, you would be able to describe it: color, shape, location, etc.  When you realize that you can’t describe it, you immediately also realize that, in fact, you never really “saw” the belief.  You only saw events; the meaning of the events—in other words, the beliefs you formed about the events—has existed only in your mind.

At this point, for most visual people, the belief is gone.  It existed and resisted being extinguished because you thought you had seen it.  As soon as you realize you never saw it in the world, that it existed only in your mind, it will no longer be something you thought you discovered and saw in the world.

As the final clincher, ask yourself if the events that led to the formation of the belief have any inherent meaning.  Did they have any meaning before you gave them a meaning?  By that I mean, can you draw any conclusion for sure from these events?  You will quickly realize that the events that led to your belief have many different possible meanings; there is no one meaning that is inherently true.  So, while the events might have had consequences at the time they happened, they have no inherent meaning.  Any meaning exists only in your mind, not in the world.

At that point, for predominantly visual people, the belief is permanently gone.

Emotionally kinesthetic people are slightly different

The scenario is slightly different for those people who are not visual, who are primarily emotionally kinesthetic.  If you are one of these people, you don’t know reality primarily based on what you see; you represent reality with your feelings.  If you feel something frequently, it must be true.  You think: Why would I be having a feeling over and over if there weren’t something in the world causing it?

These people—when asked: Didn’t it seem as if you saw (your belief)?—answer: “I don’t know what you mean by seeing it; I felt it.”

Here’s how to get rid of a belief if this describes how you function.  Ask yourself if the events that caused the belief made you feel (the words of the belief).  The answer will be, yes.

Then remind yourself that you had said earlier that the events had no inherent meaning and ask yourself: Is it possible for events that have no inherent meaning to make you feel anything?  The answer, of course, is no.  So if the events that seemed to have caused the feeling didn’t cause the feeling, what did?

The answer is simple: the meaning you had previously given the events.  In other words, the feeling is the result of the belief you had formed.  If you had originally given the events a different meaning, that different meaning would have produced a different feeling. The way to prove this is to imagine the earlier events, observing them as a participant, and then give the events one of the alternative interpretations you had given the events earlier in the process.

When you do that the “feeling of the belief” is gone.

It becomes clear that having the feeling of the belief repeatedly tells you nothing about the validity of the feeling, because the feeling was not caused by events in the world.  It was caused totally by you, by the meaning you already had given the events.

When you say the words of the belief at that point, they will sound meaningless and silly.  The belief will be gone.

It is possible to live a life without fear.  Eliminate the beliefs and conditioning that causes your fear and experience what it is like living a life without fear.

Copyright © 2014 Morty Lefkoe



Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.

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