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Operating From Fear

Don't let fear hold you back; explore these effective techniques.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”— Mark Twain

Source: KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock

I think most of us would agree that you can’t carry around tons of old emotional baggage and expect to create a happy and fulfilling life, right? You may be able to power through and achieve some great things in spite of this baggage. But odds are you won’t feel the happiness or satisfaction you deserve.

During our Empowerment weekends, we spend a good amount of time looking at and getting rid of any emotional baggage that holds us back and sabotages us. I lead the group through a process called the Mental and Emotional Release technique (MER). And an important part of MER is to release the major emotions of anger, sadness, fear, hurt, and guilt.

Now when I say that we “release” these emotions, it doesn’t mean we never feel them again. We simply release these emotions as they were attached to past events so that when we feel that emotion again in the present, we know it isn’t carrying an extra charge from the past. Let me give you an example of the difference:

Say that a car rear ends you at a traffic light. No one is hurt but your bumper is dented. It’s perfectly natural to be irritated even a little angry that the other driver wasn’t paying attention and that now you have the hassle of getting your car repaired. But if you go ballistic and into full out DEFCON 1 mode, odds are that your anger in that moment is getting extra fuel from some past incident. It’s unreasonable and unwarranted based on the present situation alone.

By releasing the emotional baggage from the past, you’re able to respond appropriately to events in the present.

So what does that have to do with fear?

When fear is appropriate, it’s a very valuable emotion and has an important function. It’s an early warning signal of danger. It can be a sign of a possible threat to our survival and it gets our bodies ready to deal with that threat—the fight or flee response.

But fear is one of those basic emotions that has become so pervasive it’s almost like the air many people breathe. This pervasive fear is not functional fear. It’s based on emotional baggage from the past that hasn’t been released. It is focused on threats and dangers that aren’t real—or if “real,” not as serious as the fear would have us believe.

You may not see yourself as a “fearful” person but the fear from old baggage shows up in a number of subtle ways. It can be avoiding anything that has the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or rejection. It can be worrying about the future and anticipating the worst. It can be a sense of having to defend yourself constantly from seen and unseen “enemies.” The bottom line of this pervasive, non-functional fear is that it keeps you from being, doing and having what you want out of life.

If you recognize some of the symptoms of fear, what now? I mentioned the MER® process we teach during our Empowerment weekends. This is the most powerful technique I’ve experienced for tracking down the roots of pervasive fear and dealing with it. It goes to the root cause of your fear and helps your subconscious release it.

If you don’t have access to MER right now, here are some other options you might try:

Reframe It

Fear from the past is often a misunderstanding that became lodged in the subconscious mind. For example, if you had a mother who flipped out whenever you made a mistake, your subconscious might have decided that “mistakes are dangerous.” Take that fear, see if you can determine its original message then reframe it. For example, if “mistakes are dangerous” was the message, how about “mistakes mean I’m stretching” or “a successful person profits from mistakes” or “some of the greatest discoveries have come from mistakes.”

Make It Silly

In NLP when I start to work with someone who has a phobia, I’ll often start loosening up the phobia by re-imagining the fearful object as something ridiculous. For example, with a phobia about public speaking, I might say, “So what if the audience were all 1-year-olds in diapers?” or “What if you gave your speech dressed as Darth Vader?” I ask them to imagine silly scenarios and how they feel. How can you re-imagine what you fear as something ridiculous or goofy?

Replace Fear with a Positive Emotion

In NLP, we use a technique called “anchoring” to elicit strong positive states at will. To create an anchor:

  1. Choose an empowering state. Instead of fear, how about courage, excitement, confidence?
  2. Choose a “trigger.” You could pinch an ear lobe, or touch your thumb to your pinkie... Make it a simple motion that you don’t usually use.
  3. Re-experience your empowered state. Remember times of your life when you felt those positive feelings. Imagine them as vividly as you can.
  4. Activate your trigger. As you feel those positive feelings from the past, do whatever you have chosen as a trigger. As soon as the feelings fade, release the trigger.
  5. Repeat steps #3 and #4. Recall other specific times when you felt the feelings of your empowered state and repeat the process.
  6. Test your anchor. After a few repetitions, clear your mind. Now think about something you’ve been afraid of. As you think about it, activate your trigger. Notice how differently you feel in your emotions and body. Let the feeling well up inside of you.

Try one of these techniques whenever you feel an old fear keeping you from what you really want in life. And remember:

“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.” — Sammy Davis, Jr.

To your total empowerment!


Dr. Matt

Byline: Matthew B. James, MA, Ph.D., is President of The Empowerment Partnership. Author of several books, Dr. Matt has trained thousands of students to be totally empowered using Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), Huna, Mental Emotional Release® (MER®) therapy, and Empowerment Fit, a program that incorporates targeted mind/body/spirit practices to create optimal physical fitness and health. Download his free special report, Everything You’ll Ever Need to Know to Achieve Your Goals. To reach Dr. James, please e-mail him at or visit his blog at

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