How to Conquer Your Fears

I did something scary the other day (I can’t remember what it was exactly). And I remember a moment of fear when I thought I would just turn back. So I thought of the worst case scenario and told the world (in my mind) “yeah world, bring it on!”

Whatever it was, it became much less scary.

(Sorry, this story would probably have been a lot better if I remembered what it was! I think it was biking to work in the cold? Even though I do it quite regularly, I still have to amp myself up for it).

I learned of this technique from Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning*, which he calls  the idea of paradoxical intention, based on the twofold fact that:

fear brings about that which one is afraid of, and that hyper-intention makes impossible what one wishes. In this approach the phobic patient is invited to intend, even if only for a moment, precisely that which he fears.

The example he gives is a man who sweats too much. His fear of sweating and his desire to sweat less actually makes him sweat even more. But if he visualizes sweating up a storm, he paradoxically sweats less. When he imagines what he wants to happen, the stress paradoxically causes what he most fears. Only by accepting the worst case scenario can he make a better result for himself.

On the other hand, I went to a holiday party and only talked to a few people. If I had just visualized everyone rejecting and mocking me as the worst thing that could happen, I probably would have gone out of my shell a bit more.

What do you think? Do you want to try this paradoxical intention?


*A similar technique is in The Tools, but this one stuck with me, probably because I’ve heard it at least twice now and am more receptive to the technique.


5 thoughts on “How to Conquer Your Fears

  1. I remember the first time I went down an unrated ski slope, it was worse than a double black diamond. It was so steep that you could not see it from the top lip, you couldn’t see anything under the tips of your skis except the bottom of the mountain hundreds of yards below you. I told myself, I know how to stick a turn, so I pushed straight off into the unknown and….it was a crazy blast. We skied them all day and I never had a bad fall. I’ve never had a hard time doing that in life and it has made a huge difference in how fun the ride has been! Good advice, go for it!

    1. I’ve never been skiing so I’ll just have to take your word for it. Sounds frightening but I can understand that overcoming the fear probably makes the already amazing experience even a little better!

  2. I would’ve talked to you at the holiday party 🙂

    How’s the DC area treating you? Are used to go to high school in the suburbs in VA for 4 years. Fun times, but not my cup of tea. I wish I explored Washington DC more.

    Feel the fear and do it anyway!


    1. I’m from the Virginia suburbs too. I never left. =P And frankly it’s always something worth talking about when I travel anywhere. Everyone wants to know what Trump is up to…

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