Irrational Fear and Behavioral Loops

This week let’s look ‘under the hood’ of irrational fear and our behavioral patterns. Because our default mode network slants toward negativity (is downright paranoid), because 80 percent of our thoughts are repeated, and because irrational fear is a byproduct of most of this, our brain has a maze of fear-based thought behavioral loops. Feeding your fear wolf always sends you on a downward performance spiral. All it takes is one nasty, negative thought that’s self-limiting or derived from irrational fear when you wake up in the morning or check your email or sip your mid-morning tea before it’s cooled down, and you’ve kicked off a fear loop. Once the fear loop is activated, it’s hard to put that genie back in the bottle. Then, as you go through your day, events trigger this belief, such as the perceived failure on a physics test. It can be as simple as perceiving someone giving you a dirty look or getting cut off while driving. Maybe you tripped in public, and now you’re embarrassed. Or you could be facing a situation that you’re inadequately prepared for or even an unknown situation.

But, if you’re not freefalling backward off a cliff, you’re likely suffering from irrational fear, compliments of your monkey mind. Whatever the trigger event, it wakes up a subconscious pattern with its pet negative self-talk, which is lurking in the shadows, just waiting to sabotage you. This negative self-talk stokes negative imagery, which gives rise to fear-based negative emotions and traps you in a closed system that’s looping around and around. This can be short-lived or resurface all day (and every darn day!). And every time you run around this track, you carve the limiting belief deeper into your synaptic physiology. You’re literally deepening neural pathways and neurobiological reactions in your body that become harder to escape the longer you stay in them.

“Practice makes perfect.” This phrase applies to bad habits and negative thoughts, too. It can take months or years of work to override these negative loops. Don’t let fear ruin your life…transform fear into courage instead. When you begin to feed the courage wolf, you enact a new transformation process that starves the fear wolf. In the beginning, these false beliefs and weak self-concepts don’t just vanish, but you become aware of their existence and that they’re false. This is a big win! Then, the next time you experience a trigger event, you can interdict the loop before the false belief creates weak thinking, undesirable emotions, and even weaker, fear-based actions. You instead redirect your mind to positive self-talk, and then over time, you will reinforce that self-talk with empowering emotions. This de-conditions fear-based reactionary conditioning while leading to more positive and uncommon results.

Here is a three-step process to interdict negative self-talk (how to starve fear and feed courage):

1. Interdict the negative. After the trigger event, notice where your mind wants to go and say, “Stop.”

2. Now, instead of launching into your usual negative self-talk of “I’m stupid” or “Why does this always happen to me?” say, “I’m strong, I’ve got this.” Or try, “This just happened, but it’s not about me.” Don’t own the negative. You don’t have that much power. This can seem awkward, or you may even want to resist it because you’re used to feeling stupid or carrying the blame. (Your go-to emotions are ready to jump in and take over.) Keep doing it, anyway.

3. Add positive feelings if you can. If not, “fake it till you make it.” Imagery helps with this. Imagine yourself as positive and courageous in whatever situation triggered
the fear loop. Once you get the hang of interdicting the fear loop by using a positive interdiction statement and mantra (I’ve got this, easy day, I’ve got this, easy day is my go-to mantra), then you will begin to experience yourself as someone who can tackle that, and any, situation.

Recall that when you can see your vision clearly in your mind and feel it strongly as “done,” then you can speak of it as a done deal, and then you just go do it. That is winning in your mind. You must believe you are a person who is competent and confident in any area you decide to focus your attention. This is how you create a transformation loop—an open system that interdicts the fear loop’s closed system and inserts new language, positive imagery, emotions, and energy, altering your self-concept. Each time you practice this, it gets easier and easier until you’ve carved new neural pathways and created a new reality, one where the courage loop is your norm and fear no longer has a hold on you. Feeding your courage wolf makes long-term goals possible. If something matters to you at all, you’ve got to implement internal dialogue that generates positive “can do” feelings, regardless of your present circumstances. If you do so successfully, your courageous, positive attitude will be telegraphed to other leaders, teammates, and decision-makers. Positive self-talk literally strengthens your physical body and focuses your mind. (Our bodies only know what we tell them!) It encourages your emotions to be more powerful and stokes your desire to thrive. It will help you discover vast reserves of energy and resiliency you didn’t know you possessed. It makes the uncommon possible. Create the courage loop for a self-reinforcing spiral of success where you experience
the reality of your 20X potential, setting the stage daily for emotional resilience that lasts a

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