Busting Fear: What’s The Worst That Can Happen Really?

If you walk through life only fearing logical, real danger you’re lucky. Many of us are always thinking we’re in mortal danger. We’re driving to work when the horrible thought of “Did I remember to lock the door?” comes to mind. We’re home from work and wonder if we finished an important assignment, or if we clocked out.

The key to busting fear is to get back into reality. Evaluate the situation and ask yourself “What’s the worst that can happen really?

The Reflective Function

The reflective function is defined by Tom Bunn on Psychology Today as the ability to observe and think about our own thought processes. The idea “How can I bust my fear?” is an exercise of this function. You’ve realized you’re afraid more than you should be, so put into motion measures to curb that. Good work!

The reflective function only forms when we are around three years old. Before that, we can’t really tell our imagination from reality. This is why little kids become convinced that there a monster in their closet. It doesn’t matter how many times you show them an empty closet, they think the monster they imagine is real.

We Act As if It’s Actually Happening

As we grow, we get better at reflecting. However, when we are stressed, we regress. We go back into that child-like view that the fear we imagine is actually real. Some people actually think their airplane is falling from the sky. Others actually think they’re always being followed. It goes on and on.

The Normal Response

A normal way of perceiving the physical world involves probability rather than anxiety. If you consider the number of airplane crashes vs the number of safe airplane trips, the difference is huge. Odds are you’re safe.

However, any anxious person knows that simple facts won’t curb their panic. This is because once stress hormones fire, they keep firing and you end up in a state of thinking your fear is really happening.

Fear comes from an arousing stimulus. Loud noise and new experiences are two examples of arousing stimuli. The normal response to arousal is curiosity. Fear only results if we identify a threat. The anxious person becomes afraid whenever aroused and then their brain tricks them into thinking what they imagine is real.

Busting Fear

To bust fear, we must break the association. First, we have to get out of our heads and into the world again. Deep breaths or meditation as you focus on what’s actually happening is the first step. Then, ask yourself what the worst that can happen really, is.

If you fear public speaking, what’s the worst that could happen, really? People might laugh you off stage, but that is unlikely. It’s much more likely that what happens won’t be as bad as that worst-case scenario.

In the case of the anxious flyer, what’s the worst that could happen, really? A crash? Probably not. It’s much more likely that you’ll just have an uncomfortable flight of worry and deep breaths while you try to distract yourself.

To bust fear, which is your imagination running masking your reason, you have to get out of your head and consider “What’s the worst that could happen, really?” Once you do that, you will see that what actually happens is nowhere near that. Sometimes the worst thing that could happen isn’t even that bad.