Caught your attention, didn’t I? Well, there is not one, but two F words in anxiety, just not the ones we’d like to utter. These are Fight and Flight. When we encounter potentially anxiety-inducing situations, the body rapidly goes through some changes that make us assess the situation and take necessary action to deal with the situation.
So, if we’re crossing a street and there’s a car rushing towards us, trying to fight it would be foolish. The ideal thing to do is to take flight and get out of the car’s way. (There is another F that is possible in these situations, which is Freeze, but that is always undesirable). In this example, the danger is real. There is physical harm that can befall us.
But, if we have to make a presentation to an audience, we may either brave it, (despite having jelly-legs), and deliver the presentation, or we may choose to refuse the opportunity. Or, if we do stand in front of the audience, we may not be able to speak at all, or fumble and blabber. In this situation, if we face it and deliver the presentation, we have fought the anxiety. If we choose to not take up the opportunity, we have taken flight. And if we have not been able to deliver the presentation, we have frozen. Here, there is no real danger. There’s only the perceived danger of feeling embarrassed if one fails.
What is the difference between the two examples? The difference is whether the danger is real or not. In case of perceived dangers, the correct response is always to do what the mind tells us not to do.
The mind tells you do not make the presentation, or else you will embarrass yourself in front of a hundred people. Defy your mind and do the presentation anyway.
The mind tells you if you crack a joke in front of people you do not know, you will make a fool of yourself. Defy your mind and crack the joke anyway.
The mind tells you if you let your boss know that you don’t know how something you’ve been assigned is done, he will scream at you and you may even lose your job, so avoid it. Defy your mind and tell your boss anyway.
The mind tells you if you handle that snake it will bite you and you will die, so stay away. Unless you are a herpetologist, stay the hell away.
The point? If we decide to defy our mind whenever there’s just perceived danger (as against real danger), we may realize that the danger either did not exist at all, or we were probably exaggerating the impact it would have on us. So, go forth and conquer.