by Annia Baron
They took a baby boy into the laboratory and exposed him to various objects. The psychologist and his colleague showed the 9-month-old a white rat, a monkey, a rabbit, different types of masks, and even lit a newspaper on fire to observe the baby’s reaction.
Initially, the boy demonstrated neutrality but after the rat was repeatedly paired with a loud, scary noise, it didn’t take long before the boy showed significant distress at the sight of the rat alone. The child also began to display fear reactions towards similar-looking items including the experimenter’s fur coat, and one of them wearing a Santa Claus beard. The researchers aim was to create a phobia in an emotionally stable child. In essence, they demonstrated we can be manipulated; taught to be afraid.
It’s been over 100 years since Watson and Rayner’s controversial ‘Little Albert’ experiment. We’ve learned a lot about the brain and human behaviour. We know the power of the mind in shaping our reality and how thoughts can rewire neural circuits to aid recovery of physical and psychological injuries. We have so much knowledge and yet, there’s something holding us back.
Fear. Whether 9 months or 90 years, fear has always been a part of the human experience. From sabre-toothed tigers and snakes, to heights, germs, or the dentist. Some of us experience ongoing fears about the future (which occurs frequently with anxiety) or replay worries about the past (which happens a lot in depression). We hold fear of being judged, taken advantage of, and being misunderstood. We fear losing our money, approval, and our identity. We fear rejection and loneliness, as well as not getting enough done, missing out, and being impermanent.
A cognitive reframing acronym for F.E.A.R is False Evidence Appearing Real, but how do we condition ourselves to live without fear when so much of what we hear and see confirms that it is real? For those who have experienced a panic attack for example, having someone say “What you’re feeling isn’t real, it’s just false evidence” is incredibly demeaning. The overwhelming sensation that you’re losing complete control of your senses is petrifying. On a global scale, how are we to overcome fear when throughout history, human atrocities are ongoing. We hear, see, and know of people hurting one another every single day. It’s plastered all over the news.
There’s plenty of evidence that fear is real but rather than trying to change someone’s thinking, what if we cleansed our minds from the brainwashing? Instead of the loud, scary noise coupled with the rat, what if we repeatedly combined a new, more helpful experience with fear? What if we coupled fear with L.O.V.E
L = Let fear come. Remind yourself that it’s normal to experience fear or worry and that you’re not alone in what you’re going through. Although it feels real at this moment, it too will pass.
O = Open your chest. This posture is designed to facilitate a sense of being receptive to what is happening in the present. Try laying on the floor or on your bed with your heart facing the ceiling. Place a pillow underneath you that vertically aligns with your spine. If you can’t get on the floor, simply stand, or sit up straight and clasp your elbows behind your back. This will propel your heart forward.
V = Verbalise a new narrative. Repeat “Although I notice fear I will use this energy for good.” Even if you don’t believe it yet, continue to repeat it as you breathe in and out slowly. Hearing your own voice speaking these words can ignite areas of the brain associated with experiences of courage and acceptance.
E = Enact. Once you feel ready, do something that directly supports your goals and sends out a stash of endorphins. For example, take your dog for a walk, cook a nutritious meal for yourself or someone you care about, play a game with your kids, phone your mum and tell her she’s the best. Try some progressive muscle relaxation or alternate nostril breathing. Listen to a helpful podcast or tackle some of that project you’ve been working on – whatever makes you feel productive and aligned.
Fear is important for our survival but the onslaught of unnecessary fear conditioning we’ve undergone (which comes in many sneaky forms!) is draining our zest and keeping us in a loop of apprehension and stress. Fear keeps us small and confined. Love on the other hand, strengthens our resilience and boosts confidence to engage in meaningful actions. Fear separates. Love unites. Through love, we realise that no matter where we come from, what pain we’ve experienced or what we’re afraid of, we all want the same thing in this life, and we all deserve that. Although many of our learnings have been conditioned, the fact is, you get to decide how your body responds. When you change your relationship to fear and start seeing it as a possible tool to propel you into your best self, you regain your inner strength. This is how you redesign the experiment; you’re no longer subject to manipulation, you become the experimenter – here in this life pursuing the things that make your heart sing.
Fear is a normal part of life, but we can always choose to L.O.V.E.
Annia Baron is a mum, a Clinical Psychologist & Mindset Coach. Want to learn more about mindset tools to create a life you desire and deserve? Get in touch on Instagram@anniabaron or visit www.remindyourself.com .
Treat yourself to episode 34 of Jarod K. Anderson’s CryptoNaturalist Podcast called, “Peptalk”