Lesson seven: There’s a difference between fears and beliefs
As you work on identifying your beliefs and why you have them, you may feel confused about whether you’re looking at a fear or a belief.
Fear is an instinctive emotional response to a perceived threat. Like all emotions, it happens without knowledge and reasoning – this means that you can and will experience fear for both real and imagined threats. Part of getting out of stuck is learning to distinguish between the two instead of using your beliefs to treat them similarly.
Note how I mentioned instinctive, and so happening automatically, unconsciously and in some instances by default, because it’s your learned response or what you associate with the situation and perceived threat. Your beliefs are the reasoning and knowledge that you apply and when you don’t distinguish between real and imagined threats, or you do but under or over-react, that’s based on the attached beliefs.
Your fears tell you what you are afraid of and your beliefs tell you why.
You have fear the emotional response, but there’s also fear, the prediction of the likelihood of something unwelcome happening.
Beliefs are reasoning habits that you apply to whatever you associate with those fears – both the emotional responses as well as the basis (the prediction) of the likelihood of experiencing them. Habits save time and energy – they stop you from having to be conscious, hence the more you live in and are ruled by fear, is the less conscious, aware, and present you are. You are under threat.
Negative and unrealistic beliefs feed fears and vice versa, automatically creating a string of perceived threats and fear feelings. You will be afraid of experiencing the possibility of a fear as well as fearing the actuality of it. By treating your feelings as factual in the sense of I feel it so this indicates that _________ is happening or that ___________ is true, this means that each time you feel afraid, you’ll believe that whatever you fear is actually happening or that it’s going to, which as well as confirming that your beliefs are true, it also has the knock-on effect on your subsequent emotional, thought, and action responses. And round and round and round you go.
Your perceptions of your capabilities are also connected to what you fear as well as how you respond.
Your beliefs tell you how capable you believe you are of responding to the threat as well as telling you how you think you will cope in the aftermath of experiencing the threat.
Example: If you treat the possibility of rejection similarly or the same as actual rejection, your fear and anxiety increase the moment that you experience something that you associate with the possibility of it, even if it’s not factually representative of an actual threat. You might then feel insecure and anxious due to a negative thought pattern and self-defeating behaviour and then decide that it’s because there must be external evidence to support it. You put you between a rock and a hard place with negative beliefs and a set of unevaluated fears.
Fear brings back memories of previous experiences of it or a negative consequence, making it even easier to buy into the fear. You may understand what some of those memories are when you use the Get Out Of Stuck process (coming up in a few lessons time).
Your perception of a current situation becomes distorted when you take something from the past and inject it into the present because even if there are elements of the present situation that are familiar, it’s still a different, unique situation.
A past experience of a fear creates an opportunity to consider how you can deal with it in the present situation. You will increase self-awareness by managing your fears with healthier, conscious responses rather than accepting them as fact. It stands to reason that if you’re still here and standing, you are actually more capable of dealing with the fear than you may be giving yourself credit for.
Your beliefs are the basis of your fears – your fears are the emotional responses and predictions.
What are you afraid of and why? Separate the fear from the belief. Imagine if the belief wasn’t true or could be slashed in half in terms of magnitude, how would this affect your perception of this fear? What type of person would you be without this fear? What is stopping you?