Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.
How do you shed light on fear, and see it for what it really is? You question it by asking, “Says who?” Like a boogieman in your mind, you need to stand up to it and let it know who’s in control and the boss of your thoughts. It’s either you or your fear-based thought. It’s important to decide who’s really in charge of your thinking.
Depending on how you’ve interpreted an unpleasant, traumatic, or life-threatening event in your life, fear can play a very important role in how you feel or think about anything that appears, resembles or mimics a similar threat or danger to your survival. In other words, if something happened to you that was frightening—for example, you encountered a snake while you were hiking, and you processed it in your mind by telling yourself something like “I’m not safe when I’m hiking,” you will hold that belief in your mind every time you go for a hike. Or, you may decide to give up hiking altogether on the off chance you might run into another snake.
That’s an example of when a fear-based thought can stop or paralyze you, keeping you from doing something you really want to do. It’s another illustration of when your desires are not in synch with your thoughts. If what you wish for cannot be supported by positive and encouraging thoughts, then you cannot actualize those desires, and they frustratingly remain only a longing instead of reality.
Being aware that snakes are nearby is important, cautious and wise, but if that thought stops you from doing what you want to do in your life, like hiking, or doesn’t allow you to enjoy it while you’re doing it, then that is what happens when a fear-based thought dominates your thinking so much so you can’t let it go.
Sometimes our fears aren’t even based on something as tangible as a snake. Many of us fear new experiences, taking risks or exposing ourselves to ridicule. This is evidenced by that age-old survey that shows that more people fear public speaking than death. This is an obvious demonstration of how a fear-based thought can keep someone from doing something they are convinced will cause them public humiliation. “Why am I so successful?” the legendary Dolly Parton once said. “I worked without fear. So that gave me freedom.”
Holding On To Fearful Thoughts?
Holding on to fearful thoughts can interfere with the quality of your life on many levels. Snakes are a universal fear that a lot of people have, but that doesn’t mean that it stops everyone from being out in nature or enjoying hiking. Some people don’t think about it while they’re walking or hiking in an area where snakes are, and view it as something they’ll deal with if or when it happens.
It’s what you do with your fears, and how you handle them that determine the choices you make and how you live your life, and whether or not you enjoy the things you want to do, or can achieve the goals or success you desire. If you’re someone who genuinely likes to hike, and have encountered a snake which frightened you to the point where it’s put you off to hiking and you have thoughts such as, “I’m not safe when I’m hiking,” you have the choice to question and challenge that thought by using the Says Who? method. By asking yourself, “Does this thought work for me?” you can see how your thought isn’t working for you favorably because it’s stopping you from doing something you really enjoy.
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Everyone has something that frightens them, whether it’s snakes, spiders, public speaking, a fear of heights, etc., but again, it’s how much you let your fears interfere with what you want to do that matters. The thoughts you tell yourself that surround your fears are what determines whether you will succumb to them, and perhaps even be paralyzed by them, or overcome them.
Challenging The Source Of Fear-Based Thoughts
Sometimes our fears aren’t so easy to identify, like snakes or spiders, and they’re buried deeper within us. For example, a fear could be related to an incident that happened early on in your life that involved something like abandonment or distrust, such as when a family is broken up when a parent leaves the home, never to return, through divorce or death. Or it can be the death of another loved one. Again, depending on how an upset or trauma is interpreted and processed in your mind, it makes a significant difference in how you perceive anything that happens in the future that appears, resembles or mimics that similar feeling you had when you first experienced that original disruption or devastation.
We’ve all experienced troubles and some kind of loss in our formative years—it’s part of growing up. However, it’s what you think and tell yourself about those experiences that you accept as real, that becomes a belief. For example, if you experienced abandonment through divorce early in your life, and thought something like, “People abandon you when you get close to them,” or “Marriage doesn’t work,” or “I’ll never be vulnerable to someone else because they can hurt me,” unless you challenge those beliefs, you will continue to hold them as real and true, and they can be what perpetuates your fear and fear-based thoughts about love, intimacy or marriage.
In my life coaching practice I’ve worked with people who have very strong opinions and beliefs about things they experienced in their childhood, and made decisions and choices in their life because of how those events affected them. For instance, I had a client who grew up with parents she believed didn’t really love each other, and made a decision to never get married because she feared that marriage can poison and ruin a relationship.
Even though she has been in a relationship for over twenty years, and genuinely loves her partner, her association to marriage is a negative and fear-based one because of how she perceived and interpreted her parents’ relationship. Her partner has asked her repeatedly to marry him, but she will not take that next step, preferring instead to keep “well enough alone” in order to not, in her perspective and with no real evidence, ruin the relationship—a perfect example of how a stored belief, which may not even originate with you, can alter your reality and even hinder your quality of life.
Have I Heard Someone Say This Thought Before?
Asking yourself, “Have I heard someone say this thought before,” you might realize that you heard someone from your past say a thought you currently hold true, like, “Marriage doesn’t work,” and you took that belief on as your own. And even if that thought is your original thought because of how you perceived a negative situation, you still have the choice to question your thoughts and beliefs so you can decide if they are working for you, and if you want to let them go.
Fear-based thoughts keep our fears alive and very real for us. Unless we want to keep those thoughts as our “fixed” beliefs, meaning that they aren’t going anywhere, we need to change them by questioning and challenging them to find out if they are serving our well being. Says Who? is the very method that will accomplish that.
Even though you might not feel an instant release of your fears or see them vanish overnight the first time you challenge them, over time, a consistency of questioning your thoughts with the method will create something akin to a muscle memory; that is, your beliefs regarding your fears will begin to change, and you will find they no longer have a grip or hold on you. You will start to feel a shift in your whole thinking process, which is empowering. In fact, you will probably wonder why you tolerated some of those negative thoughts you had for so long!
It certainly happened for me when I realized I didn’t have to live in fear that I could have a nervous breakdown like my sister. By changing my fear-based thoughts, I took responsibility for them, which allowed me to take control over them and create the life I wanted.
By questioning your fears, you can find out if they are actually real and based in fact, or a result of how you perceived a negative experience you’ve had and then turned it into a belief. If you want to change a fear-based belief, then you need to change the thoughts that support it.
Questioning Your Thoughts With The Says Who? Method
Questioning your thoughts with the Says Who? method will not only change any thoughts that support negativity and fear, but it will keep you in the here and now, in the present. It will force you to look at what you’re thinking in the very moment you’re thinking it. If your thoughts are fear-based, the questions will challenge them right then and there, and immediately help you change the negative thoughts around them so they don’t escalate into something like anxiety, or even panic.
The method helps release the fearful thoughts that have a hold on you—like avoiding hiking because of snakes, or resisting marriage because of fear of a negative outcome, or avoiding intimacy because of the possibility of abandonment, and replacing them with positive, fearless thoughts that make you feel there’s nothing you can’t do or overcome!
If you want to stay centered and empowered in your life, you must be willing to question and challenge your negative and fear-based thoughts whenever they come up. Do not wait to challenge them because they will only grow stronger in your mind and keep a hold on you!
By drawing upon your strength from within, and doing the daily mental work it takes to have and keep a healthy sense of self, you will begin to see and feel a significant difference in your life, like feeling less fear, having more confidence, and more inner peace. If we don’t take the necessary steps to support and nurture our inner core, then we will forever be at the mercy of external influences and circumstances that will decide whether we feel good about ourselves, instead of ourselves making that decision.
Develop that inner strength first—through a daily practice of questioning your thoughts—and everything else will support it, not deplete it.
©2016 by Ora Nadrich. All Rights Reserved.
Published by Morgan James Publishing,
More than simple "think positive" slogans and inspirational platitudes, this is not just a motivational book; instead "Says Who?" provides practical, tangible steps to tackling a condition that affects us all: negative thoughts.
About the Author
Ora Nadrich, a popular Huffington Post writer, is a Los Angeles-based certified Life Coach and Mindful Meditation specialist. From a very early age Ora has been a seeker of knowledge, with a particular interest and talent in discovering how our thoughts work. Ora has also facilitated a popular Women’s Group for the last several years. Learn more at www.OraNadrich.com