“You’re not alone.”
How many of us have heard those words and felt an instant wave of relief? To know that others have shared our fear, our embarrassment, our quandary, is to know that we are okay.
And, to know that we are okay is to know that we belong. To know that we belong is, of course, fundamental to our human experience.
Message of Assurance
Taylor Clark’s excellent book, Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool, was one big, “you’re not alone” message of assurance for me.
Through an engaging presentation of real-life examples of famous individuals who have felt and faced their fear, and interviews with noted fear authorities, Clark introduces the reader to the technical aspects of fear, shows us where fear lives in the brain (Hello, Amygdala!), and provides Calls to Action for surviving the often debilitating effects of fear.
Fear is Our Ally
For anyone who has ever struggled with fear–whether fear of heights or fear of an audience–and this includes all of us (to be human is to fear), it will come as a welcome relief to know that fear can not only be our friend, it can be our savior, warning us of dangers and directing us to alternative courses of action.
Doing What We’re Afraid to Do
Perhaps one of the most exciting take-aways from Nerve for me was to learn that one of the surest ways to calm our fears is to expose ourselves as much as possible to the very thing we fear.
By doing so, we are in a sense de-conditioning that part of our brain responsible for the fear reaction, letting it know that although we appreciate its valiant vigilance, it is no longer needed in that particular situation.
Once we let our fear rear-guard know that we’ve got a situation handled, the rational, thinking part of our brain can resume its starring role.
And the thinking part is where so much of the stuff that makes life worth living resides.