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How to overcome fear: 3 no-fail strategies to take back control

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A person sitting at the edge of a tall building and learning how to overcome fear

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Summary: Fear often gets a bad rap, but it can be healthy in certain circumstances. Explore how to overcome fear with the “Best British Therapist,” Marisa Peer.

There’s a primal instinct all humans have—a biological alarm system, if you will—designed to keep us safe from harm. And that’s fear.

The unfortunate part is, that alarm system sometimes gets a little stuck, leaving you paralyzed by anxieties that hold you back from all the goodness that life has to offer.

So many fears we have are acquired,” highlights Marisa Peer, a world-renowned Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer, in her Uncompromised Life Quest on Mindvalley. But when you learn how to overcome fear, you’re no longer a prisoner of your own mind but rather a master of it.

Wha is fear?

Fear is like a double-edged sword. On one side, it’s a survival mechanism that alerts us to threats and protects us from danger. On the other, it can morph into a paralyzing force, preventing us from truly enjoying and living life.

But what is fear, exactly? It’s essentially your body’s response to perceived threats.

The mind,” says Marisa, “works like this: It always does what it really thinks is in your very, very best interest.”

So when you encounter something scary, your body reacts almost instantly, thanks to your body’s fear center, the amygdala. This part of your brain releases stress hormones that prime you to fight or to flight—your heart’s racing, breathing’s fast, palms sweating, on top of a paralyzing sense of dread.

The thing about fear is, it can take many forms. It can be a jolt of adrenaline when you see a spider scurry across the floor, a knot in your stomach before giving a presentation, or a cold sweat when you’re facing death. While these situations are vastly different, they all have one thing in common—the primal urge to protect yourself from harm.

Sure, fear can be a downer. But this evolutionary trait has kept our ancestors safe from predators, dangerous environments, and all sorts of other threats.

However, it doesn’t always have a bad rap. In fact, it can be a powerful motivator in certain situations. It can push you to excel, avoid risky situations, and be more cautious.

The problem arises when fear becomes excessive or irrational. And that’s when it can hold you back from life.

Fears vs. phobias vs. anxiety

Fears, phobias, and anxiety are all connected to the emotional responses you experience. However, they’re unique in their own way.

Fear is the actual emotion. A phobia is like an extreme version of fear focused on a specific thing. And anxiety is a more general feeling of worry that can range from mild to very intense.

Here are some other differences:

FearPhobiaAnxiety
TriggerSpecific, real threat.Specific object or situation, often with little to no real danger.General or undefined; can arise without an obvious trigger.
IntensityModerate, manageableIntense and irrationalModerate to severe
DisruptionMay cause some avoidance or nervousnessSignificantly disrupts daily lifeCan interfere with daily life but not always
DurationTemporary reactionPersistent and long-lastingCan be constant or episodic
CauseEvolutionary responseOften unknown, may be triggered by a negative experienceCan be triggered by stress, genetics, or medical conditions
ExamplesFear of flying, fear of public speakingFear of heights (acrophobia), fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia)Generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety

5 most common types of fears

While corrupt government officials and economic collapse are at the top of what Americans fear the most in 2023, according to the Chapman University Survey of American Fears, there are some more common ways they can manifest.

The five most common types of fears

1. Fear of heights

You know that scene in Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol where Ethan Hunt’s scaling the Burj Khalifa in Dubai? If you felt queasy and white-knuckled from that, it could very well be that you have a fear of heights. 

Acrophobia, it’s called. And what can happen when you don’t know how to overcome the fear of heights? Well, even the most scenic hike can turn into an exercise in sweaty-palmed terror. Or a relaxing ride on a ferris wheel into a heart-pounding ordeal.

The reality is, this phobia is part of our built-in survival kit. Being cautious in high places helped our ancestors avoid falls that could be dangerous…or even deadly. So, part of the brain is always on alert.

Then there’s also the personal side. If you had a scary experience with heights before, like a fall or a close call, your brain might link it with danger. Even watching someone else have those experiences can plant a seed of fear in your mind.

Millions of years after evolution, our brain still thinks if we stand right at the top of a high building, it should make us feel slightly sick,” says Marisa. “So we pull back, and now it’s saved us because that’s our mind’s job—keep you safe on the planet.”

2. Fear of failure

We’re all very familiar with this dread—atychiphobia, the fear of failure. It can be a silent yet powerful inhibitor of ambition, stopping you from trying new things or taking risks. 

Very few of us know how to overcome the fear of failure. The reason is, it often stems from a deep-seated belief that your worth is tied to your achievements.

So you end up turning down promotions, avoiding new hobbies, or giving up on goals because the thought of not succeeding brings intense discomfort or anxiety. Or you might delay starting tasks because you’re worried you might not complete them perfectly.

There’s research that has shed light on how common this phobia is. For instance, a survey by Linkagoal found that of 1,083 adult respondents, 31% are more scared of failing than they are of spiders (30%), being home alone (9%), or even the paranormal (15%). 

3. Fear of public speaking

The idea of standing in front of a crowd and exposing yourself can make even the most confident person turn into a quivering mess. Judgment, scrutiny, and forgetting your words—it can all be too much.

However, the fear of public speaking, or glossophobia, is more about the fear of being rejected than the act of speaking itself. So why is it so common?

Firstly, social acceptance is a basic human need. We’re wired to want to fit in and be part of a group. The moment we stand up to speak, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position, open to judgment.

What’s more, past experiences can play a significant role. A single embarrassing moment during a presentation in the past can stick with us, making us dread any future opportunities to speak. It’s as if our brain keeps replaying that one bad experience, warning us not to put ourselves in that situation again.

4. Fear of flying

Flying can make even the most necessary trip feel like a near-death experience. While it’s a modern marvel, you’re essentially strapped into a metal tube hurtling through the sky at hundreds of miles per hour…and this mental image alone can trigger a paralyzing fear for some people.

If you’re aerophobic (that’s having a fear of flying), you may experience turbulence-induced nausea, a racing heart, or difficulty breathing. Mentally, you might find yourself imagining worst-case scenarios or obsessing over every little bump or sound during the flight.

The thing is, the fear of flying isn’t always as straightforward as the fear of heights. Claustrophobia, the fear of enclosed spaces, can also play a role, as you may feel crammed into a crowded cabin with limited personal space.

Additionally, people with aerophobia may have a general mistrust of technology, worrying about mechanical failure (although modern airplanes are incredibly safe and undergo rigorous inspections).

5. Fear of intimacy

It’s possible to be fearful of love, especially if you have never experienced true, authentic love,” says Dr. Trillion Small, a licensed marriage and family therapist and mental performance coach, in her TEDx Talk. This is called the fear of intimacy.

It’s where you might find yourself sabotaging any promising relationships. For instance, you might build emotional walls or avoid commitment by throwing yourself into passionate but ultimately fleeting flings. 

This fear is often rooted in past experiences, like relationship trauma or witnessing someone close go through a painful breakup. It can also stem from the belief that closeness inevitably leads to pain or disappointment.

I believe that our greatest sufferings, sometimes, is not even from what actually happened to us,” Dr. Small adds. “It’s from the lies and the stories we told ourselves after the event.”

And when we allow ourselves to believe them, we “foresake the ability to be who we truly are, which is loving beings, and we forsake the opportunity to receive what we truly need and love and desire, which is love and belonging.”

Other types of fear

The list of fears truly does extend far and wide. Here are a few you may recognize:

  • Thanatophobia (the fear of death)
  • FOMO (the fear of missing out)
  • Nyctophobia (the fear of the dark)
  • Autophobia (the fear of being alone)
  • Arachnophobia (the fear of spiders)
  • Thalassophobia (the fear of the ocean or large bodies of water)
  • Claustrophobia (the fear of enclosed spaces)
  • Agoraphobia (the fear of places or situations that might cause feelings of being trapped, helpless, or embarrassed)

It’s important to remember that this is a normal human emotion. However, if it becomes excessive or debilitating, seeking professional help can help you learn how to overcome fear.

The effects of fear

Fear, in small doses, can be a vital survival tool. However, when it turns chronic, it can wreak havoc on your mind, body, and soul.

Mentally, your mind can become overwhelmed, making it hard to think clearly or make decisions. One study even shows that constant stress can not only exacerbate anxiety-like behaviors but also significantly disrupt sleep patterns.

Physically, fear triggers your fight-or-flight response. While this is good in certain situations, being in a state of high alertness can lead to serious health problems, including insomnia and heart issues. What’s more, it can manifest as headaches, stomachaches, and other physical ailments.

Spiritually, fear’s most sneaky impact is how it holds onto your soul—your feeling of calm and happiness. It can wear down your confidence and make you feel cut off from other people and the world. This might leave you feeling alone and isolated, making it hard to enjoy the moments that give life its value.

How to Overcome the Fear: 3 No-Fail Strategies from Marisa Peer

Being bugged out doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Here are three powerful ways, inspired by Marisa herself, that can help with overcoming fear:

How to overcome fear

1. Dialogue with your mind

Our brains are wired to protect us. And when we get scared, it’s because our brain mistakenly believes the fear is in our best interest. For example, the fear of heights is there to prevent us from doing something potentially harmful, like getting too close to the edge of a tall building.

By rationalizing with your mind—reassuring yourself that you’re safe despite the panic—you can gradually reduce the fear’s intensity.

Like, if you’re dealing with vertigo, Marisa suggests telling yourself, “I’m safe. Look, there’s a window this thick. I’m going to stay here and breathe, and keep saying I’m safe. I’m safe.” 

With fear, you always have two choices: rationalize it or talk yourself out of it.

— Marisa Peer, world-renowned Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer and trainer of Mindvalley’s Uncompromised Life Quest

This approach is about understanding that your fear, while a natural protective mechanism, isn’t always based on current reality. By calmly and rationally speaking to yourself, you can reassure your mind and ease your feelings of dread.

If traditional methods of self-talk and relaxation techniques aren’t enough, hypnotherapy for your anxiety can be a powerful tool. Consider consulting a qualified hypnotherapist, like Marisa, to explore this option.

2. Feel the fear and do it anyway

Fear often thrives in the shadows. The more you avoid a situation, the bigger it looms in your mind. 

Your brain’s job is to keep you alive on the planet,” Marisa explains. “And it does that by moving you away from anything it thinks will cause you pain.”

So, take a deep breath and step into the discomfort. 

This is what’s known as exposure therapy. It involves gradual, controlled exposure to the things that give you the jitters in a way that allows you to confront them without overwhelming yourself. 

For instance, if you have a fear of flying, you might want to start by watching videos about it. Then, visit an airport. And eventually, book a short flight.

By doing things in small, manageable doses, you teach your brain that the feared object or situation is not as dangerous as it perceives. And this helps to diminish the feelings of unease over time.

3. Focus on the present moment

Fear often comes from worrying about what might happen next or feeling bad about what’s already happened. But you can fight this by staying in the now.

One powerful way to do this is through mindfulness practices, like meditation for anxiety. They help you center your thoughts on the here and now rather than on feelings of dread.

You make your beliefs, and then your beliefs make you.

— Marisa Peer, world-renowned Rapid Transformational Therapy trainer and trainer of Mindvalley’s Uncompromised Life Quest

Gretchen Rubin, the New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Project and Life in Five Senses, has a great hack on how to overcome your fears and anxiety: focus on your senses.

If you’re feeling very anxious and thinking, ‘I’m just going to take a minute, and I’m just going to dial into my body in my five senses…,’” she says. “People do this as a meditation technique where they go through their five senses and they think, ‘What am I seeing? What am I hearing, smelling, tasting, touching? And so that itself can be very grounding.”

By directing your attention to the present, you’re less caught up in worries about things that haven’t happened and can’t change things that already have.

Heal. Rise. Thrive.

The only fear to fear is fear itself,” says Marisa. And you have the power to overcome it.

If you’re looking for more in-depth guidance and strategies to do so, consider exploring Mindvalley’s Instant Transformational Hypnotherapy free masterclass with Marisa Peer. Her expertise and practical approaches to overcoming fear could be the next step in your journey towards a fearless and empowered life, much like Vittorio Martinelli, a CEO and Mindvalley member from Milan, Italy.

The process with Marisa guided me through a deep and lasting change,” he says. Addictions, anxiety, and fear melt away.”

So take a deep breath, rewrite your inner script, and step into the unknown. You might be surprised by what you achieve.

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Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Picture of Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. She brings a wealth of experience in writing and storytelling to her work, honed through her background in journalism. Drawing on her years in spa and wellness and having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Marisa Peer, Creator Of Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy™
Expertise by

Marisa Peer is the trainer of Mindvalley’s Rapid Transformational Hypnotherapy for Abundance and Uncompromised Life Quests. She’s the creator and founder of Rapid Transformational Therapy® (RTT®) and has been named the “Best British Therapist” by Men’s Health magazine and featured in Tatler’s Guide to Britain’s 250 Best Doctors.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.

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Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.