Imagine there is a sudden public health warning: eating potato chips or French fries can cause severe headaches and even lead to hospitalization.
The first thing you’re going to think about is:
Shit, did I or anyone I care about recently eat potato chips?
The second thing you’ll think is how can I and my loved ones stay away from these evil crispy nightshades for the foreseeable future?
You are now petrified of fried potatoes and the danger they pose to you.
You are so scared that you start scanning lists of ingredients for 15 minutes to check if they have potato derivatives that could land you in ER.
Soon you start to get intense migraines and eye problems from this worrying and list-scanning as well as considerable anxiety.
You become so worried about the potato warning that you start suffering from insomnia and eventually end up hospitalized after falling unconscious one day from not eating enough.
You have ended up in the exact place you feared to be: a hospital bed with digestive issues.
How the hell did this happen? All you tried to do was follow the warning!
It’s an elementary law of psychology that what we try to avoid and what we fear is what we focus on and draw toward ourselves.
Here’s how to get out of the loop…
1) Attention is your currency
Attention is the most valuable currency any human being has to spend.
What you “pay attention” to is what you give your time, energy and wishes to.
When you strongly fear something, you are granting it an enormous amount of attention.
You end up attracting elements of what you fear because you are dedicating so many resources to avoiding it that the negative effects of that start to invade your life.
There’s nothing wrong with fear: it’s a valuable trait that has helped millennia of our ancestors survive and reproduce. Fear can keep you alive.
But fear of fear can cause our minds and emotions to go into a tailspin and drag us down a dark path that ends up leading us into the arms of our worst nightmare.
It all starts with attention and what you give attention to.
2) Action is your purchase
Just as attention is your currency, action is like your purchase. You put the “money” of your attention down on the counter and make a commitment to buy.
What you have been paying attention to is what you make a decision on. If you’ve been looking at renting a house for months, you then take all the attention you’ve given to this and make a decision.
You rent or you decide not to rent. Maybe you decide to postpone your decision and not take action either way for now.
Many of us are all look and no buy.
We daydream and ponder many things, but we end up holding back on pulling the trigger quite often.
Then fear comes in, and he’s not letting us make any more excuses. So then we take action. But our action is in response to fear, not proactive or empowered.
Maybe you fear losing your spouse, getting very ill, failing at university, or being single forever.
This fear then creates an attention vacuum. It hides in the background and comes out to play as much as possible, stealing our attention (our “money”) and preventing us from taking action except for running away.
What happens when you try hard to run away from something?
Well, in a nightmare, you wake up (thank God for that)…
In real life, you keep running until you end up realizing you’ve allowed what you feared to define your life and eventually overtake you and become you.
3) Focusing on what you fear is working backwards
The thing is that when you have a strong fear of something and focus attention on it, you have less attention to devote to your proactive goals and your own empowerment.
Trying so hard to run away from what you’re sure is bad for you, leaves you less time to run toward what is good for you. This all goes back to finding your purpose. Because if you have a purpose then the things you fear begin to fade in importance and prominence in your life. Those fears are still there – fear will always still be there – but they don’t define you or motivate your actions.
To step forward instead of running away backwards, you need to find your purpose.
The consequences of not finding your purpose in life include a general sense of frustration, listlessness, dissatisfaction and a sense of not being connected with your inner self.
It’s difficult to figure out what you want to work towards in your life when you’re not feeling in sync.
I learned a new way to discover my purpose after watching Ideapod co-founder Justin Brown’s video on the hidden trap of improving yourself.
He explains that most people misunderstand how to find their purpose, using visualization and other self-help techniques.
These are popular nowadays, but they actually lock you in the cycle of daydreaming and not taking action which I described earlier.
The truth is that visualization isn’t the best way to find your purpose. Instead, there’s a new way to do it which Justin Brown learned from spending time with a shaman in Brazil.
After watching the video, I discovered my purpose in life and it dissolved my feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction. This helped me to really understand how I’d been living life reactively in the face of fear, instead of proactively in spite of fear.
Realizing this, and taking action on it, was a massive step forward! So I strongly recommend readers to check this free video out.
4) Is attracting what you fear about ‘vibrations’ and spiritual energy?
Simply put: no.
New Age sites like this one called “Co-Manifesting” will tell you things like the following:
“It is true that you attract what you fear but there is a lot more to it than that.
You also attract what you love, what you dream of and what you desire most.”
This isn’t true, at least not in the way “Co-Manifesting” means it.
If you fear having a car accident or plane crash you won’t necessarily have a literal car accident or plane crash.
Those things usually happen when people least expect them in any way.
No, attracting what you fear is not about Law of Attraction and other self-blaming concepts like this.
As I said, feeling and respecting fear is healthy. Fear is not “bad,” nor are painful events in life some kind of cosmic “punishment.”
The fork in the road comes in how we respond to fear and dialog with fear. There’s nothing inherently “negative” about fear, it’s simply a force that fills us with a strong instinctive desire of fight or flight…
Fear demands a response, and become controlled by fear in a disempowering way is what happens when we give it a vacuum to take hold in.
As I was saying, the antidote to unhealthy forms of fear is finding and following your purpose.
You’ll still feel the fear and you’ll still fear in fearful situations! You just won’t live your life trying to run away from what you fear.
You’ll run towards what you want despite the fear instead. And that makes a huge difference.
5) Because (sometimes) your fears are justified
Many times, the reason you attract what you fear is that you know deep down your fear is already true.
For example, if you fear not being good enough to be selected for a role in a play you have been practicing for months, it can be because deep down you know you’re not quite good enough.
Or if you fear being dumped by your girlfriend it can be that she’s been acting really distant lately and clearly showing all the signs of getting close to dumping you.
You’re not necessarily attracting what you fear, you’re just fearing what’s already happening. The thing is that this fear can then feed into the loop of you becoming scared and reactive…
Please choose me for this role in the play, I’ll do anything…
I promise I can change if you just give me another chance, please, I’m really not ready to be alone again…
Instead of running toward what you want, you’re running away from the fears staring you in the face.
Instead of laughing in the face of chaos you’re prostrating and begging it to go easy on you just this one time…
That’s not usually how it goes.
6) Mind over matter (sometimes)
In other cases, your fears really are a case of your mind bringing you down.
Many times when we are right on the brink of victory we are beset by the worst fears:
An Olympian the night before the gold medal match envisioning every disaster that could happen…
A just-married woman popping an Ativan as she almost has a panic attack thinking about what will happen if she ends up becoming unhappy in her new marriage…
The fear has become almost a reflex, a habit like a drug addiction. Nothing even happened, but the potential that it could happen is terrifying.
This is true. Many potential things could happen which are totally horrifying.
The key to not giving in to that fear and allowing it to dominate and define your present sometimes is to put mind over matter.
Meditating and finding a still, small place of calm…
Having a nice meal and looking at your new spouse without judging what will happen in five years…
Letting your fears exist in a slightly less credentialed zone.
You’re in the VIP seating, and your fears can stay in the peanut gallery. Yes, they have a lot to say about how awful things could happen and sometimes you need to listen.
But they also need to chill and let you enjoy a glass of good wine in peace now and then.
7) You fall in love with fear instead of a person
Far too many of us who have become disempowered and reactive to fear end up meeting it again in the form of a partner we fall in love with.
We get into a relationship where someone’s own attempt to run away from fear is also dominating them. Then we, ironically, attract exactly what we feared most: another scared and desperate person like us.
This leads to codependency and all sorts of toxic relationships where we hope somebody will finally show us that we’re “good enough” and complete us.
Yet it never quite works!
Why is that?
Why does love so often start out great, only to become a nightmare?
And what’s the solution to not falling in love with another person who’s running away from what they’re afraid of just like you are?
The answer is contained in the relationship you have with yourself.
I learnt about this from the renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me to see through the lies we tell ourselves about love, and become truly empowered.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, love is not what many of us think it is. In fact, many of us are actually self-sabotaging our love lives without realizing it!
We need to face the facts about fear:
It will always be there in all of us, and like I said fear can save our lives and is vital in many situations.
But a fixation on fear and it preventing us from acting is highly counterproductive and in a love situation it can lead us to leaning on someone non-stop or expecting them to let us lean on them.
That doesn’t work out too well.
Far too often we chase an idealized image of someone and build up expectations that are guaranteed to be let down.
Far too often we fall into codependent roles of savior and victim to try to “fix” our partner, only to end up in a miserable, bitter routine.
Far too often, we are on shaky ground with our own selves and this carries over into toxic relationships that become hell on earth.
Rudá’s teachings showed me a whole new perspective.
While watching, I felt like someone understood my struggles to find love for the first time – and finally offered an actual, practical solution to avoiding codependent, fear-based relationships.
If you’re done with unsatisfying dating, empty hookups, frustrating relationships and having your hopes dashed over and over, then this is a message you need to hear.
8) Many things in life don’t work out
Under the sad but true column, I have to point out that many things in life don’t work out.
It’s just a fact.
On the other hand, the fact any of us are alive and kicking is a miracle too!
But living these messy lives of ours is not without its pitfalls and problems, and many times we end up attracting what we fear differently than we expect.
In other words, it’s not so much that we attracted what we feared as that what we feared does come true in some sort of way just because many things in life do end up falling apart or not going the way we had hoped!
It’s not our fault, and we don’t always attract it at all. But how we respond is up to us.
Nanci Smith writes about this, telling the story of how she never thought she’d get divorced because the irony of her being a divorce lawyer who splits up would just be too much.
Also, Smith was sure that if she did divorce it would be her husband who left her. In the end, it was the opposite and she stepped away from a deeply toxic relationship with her husband.
This just goes to show how many of our fears even if they do come true, end up happening much differently than we expect in our monkey minds. So don’t overthink it!
As Smith writes, we should be focused on finding what we do want to attract in our lives, not what we want to repel:
“Remember one of the few things you actually have control over is how you behave, and the model you exemplify in this world.
Becoming your best self will not happen overnight, but with practice and professional help you can stop the negative messages you send yourself, and replace those critical and harmful thoughts with thoughts of self-love and self-compassion for yourself and others.”
You can’t stop fear. Fear is part of life. Even if all the lights went out in the middle of a public event you’d be hit with a small jolt of fear about why.
Fear is there to protect us. Fear is a natural response to things out of our control. Fear is something we can befriend, even, and learn humility and dedication from.
But fear should not be the focus of our life, because if it is, then the focus of our life becomes on ways to escape or self-medicate that fear away. And that’s a never-ending rabbithole that leads nowhere.
Instead, work on finding your purpose and living the kind of life that brings you energy and commitment every day.
You won’t be trying to avoid fear or making decisions based on avoiding certain outcomes, you’ll be feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
And that’s truly living.