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Bravery is Not The Absence of Fear

Bravery is not the absence of fear. This is pretty old school wisdom.

A lot of people want to be brave and more courageous. They think this means they’re not going to experience fear sensations, they’re going to be fearless. And though they might not put it out there exactly like this, they’re kind of dreaming of being permanently fearless, of not having any experience of anxiety or fear or panic or terror or anything like that.

But this is basically impossible, and not particularly helpful. Even if you could be fearless, it’s incredibly dangerous. Fear does serve a vital survival function. It’s just that most of the fears, especially ones we’ll be talking about in this video, are irrational. They’re not helpful, you’re afraid of things that aren’t actually dangerous.

Let’s talk about what it means to be brave, how to use intelligence to overcome fear, and a simple trick for becoming a consistently braver person every day.

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Full transcript (unedited)

Bravery is not the absence of fear. This is pretty old school wisdom. A lot of people want to be brave and more courageous. They think that means they’re not going to experience fear sensations, they’re going to be fearless. And though they might not put it out there exactly like this, they’re kind of dreaming of being permanently fearless of not having any experience of anxiety or fear, or panic or terror or anything like that. But this is basically impossible, and not particularly helpful. Even if you could be fearless. It’s incredibly dangerous. Fear does serve a vital survival function. Just the most of the fears, especially ones we’ll be talking about in this episode, are irrational, they’re not helpful, you’re afraid of things that aren’t actually dangerous. And then they’re noise, you’re actually not afraid of the things that are dangerous. So fear is very helpful. And this is more about getting fear sorted out, than it is about removing fear. But fearlessness is psychopathic, fearless people are absolutely oblivious to consequences of their actions. Mean fear is really a kind of foresight for what might happen, and whether or not that thing is going to be harmful. And just because fear is inaccurate a lot of the time about that and gives you sensations of danger when there is none. Doesn’t mean that fear is unhelpful. I’ve met fearless people, the top criminal psychopaths in New Zealand, they all end up in jail, right? They all end up in prison. Everybody hates them. Eventually, they get lots of injuries and brain damage. Because they’re not subject to any kind of fear of anything. They have no sensibility, but also a disease. I’m going to mispronounce this obec white disease, and an A say it. Very, very rare disease with somebody who’s basically fearless. And those people get injured a lot. And they get into a lot of trouble. You think you want to be James Bond, the psychopath who has no fear. But without that you have no connection to the real world, you have no sense of consequences. It’s impossible to actually desire anything because you have no fear of loss. You don’t really appreciate anything, you have no gratitude. You don’t want to be fearless. You just want to be able to overcome fear when it comes up, especially when it’s irrational. Now most people see bravery as a kind of force or a strength, the ability to push through something that is scary. They see the firemen running through the burning building running through the fire that burns them that symbolism there. That’s bravery, just pushing through of pain. And then there’s one way to be brave. And if you’re particularly lucky with your genetics, you’ll have that kind of innate bravery where you just run into things that scare you. But it’s actually not the way you need to do things. I want you to start thinking of bravery and courage as being more about wisdom and intelligence, the kind of military intelligence that wins a battle when you’re outnumbered, rather than pure strength and force rather than brutality. The first element of this intelligence is to identify if it is indeed fear that you’re experiencing. Sometimes fear doesn’t come up as being afraid doesn’t come up as as obvious emotional state. Sometimes it comes up as various forms like distractions and rationale and arguments. And woe is me stories and narratives and doesn’t actually feel like you’re particularly afraid. And then once you’ve identified whether or not fear is happening, which I hope to help you do, the next level of intelligence is to figure out whether or not this fear is helpful. Is this fear actually preventing harm? Is it stopping you from going into a objectively dangerous situation, or is actually stopping your growth isn’t harming you itself is the barrier that is fear, the thing you really should be very afraid of, you think of the difference between you walk around a corner, and you see a lion that’s escaped from the zoo, that kind of fear. And you walk around a corner and have the same sort of fear, seeing a girl that you’ve got a crush on walking towards you that those are clearly not both the same level of danger. In fact, the lion is incredibly dangerous, and your fear is quite rational and you should respond to it. And the fear you have about going up and talking to your crush is completely irrational, it’s very unlikely that that person is going to be of any danger to you whatsoever. You’ve got to understand that fear is not objectively interested in your safety. We think we feel afraid and we feel a repulsion away from something that thing must be dangerous just because we feel afraid of it. Our brain at some level is assessed that thing is a threat, but a threat to what not safety. familiarity. Your fear only really cares about one thing keeping shit the same. Ever wonder why somebody stays in an abusive relationship or a crappy job or they keep hurting their health with the way they eat. The fears designed to keep you say why are they afraid of doing those things? Why are they afraid of doing those clearly harmful, dangerous things because first priority is not physical safety. First priority is to make sure you keep doing what you already You know, to keep things the same, it has a great evolutionary basis, you know, back when we’re a middle of the food chain, keeping things the same once you want a good thing, you stick with a good thing because, you know, resources were scarce and there were threats all around. But these days, it’s actually a very harmful approach. So when familiar is bad for you, you must override the desire to stay familiar. And what that means in real life is when you’re afraid of something, there’s a good chance that there is simply a positive change, it would be an upgrade in your life or lead to an upgrade. And you’re afraid of it simply because it’s different. That is not the same as being a threat. If you can get that intelligence through your head. That’s half your courage. Problem solved. If you can see, hey, I’m scared of this, but it’s not actually dangerous. It’s good for me. My fear is misfiring because it’s trying to keep ship the same all the time. I shouldn’t take my fear as a piece of evidence of this is dangerous, then you’re well on your way to being brave. Bravery, is taking an action that increases the sensations of fear. Right, that’s bravery. But in particular, the difference between bravery and see full hardiness or recklessness is that the action is helpful to so bravery is taking a helpful action that gives you fear sensations, and increases the fear sensations you’ve already been having. That’s all bravery us, right. It’s not fearlessness, it’s actually more fear than usual. However, Bravery is also the mental process, the intelligence, of breaking down something that you’re afraid of, with rational sort of skepticism, to reduce your fear sensations, to show yourself that something is not dangerous, to outwit your fear, prove it wrong. Think of it as unpacking irrational insecurity. You have a false belief about something that says it’s dangerous. In order to be braver, you need to weaken that belief with the evidence, the more you see that something is actually safe, the more you’re likely to do it, the less afraid you’ll feel. But you’re still going to be uncomfortable, because it’s new. Right, you’ll never get rid of that level of discomfort, your brain is always going to be uncomfortable with changing the way you do things with becoming a different person. There’s no escaping there. Even if you’re someone who changes things a lot. That’s actually your comfort zone. So maybe staying the same and committing to something is what will make you uncomfortable. That would be the act of bravery, right? A change in who you are. The simplest trick for overcoming fear. If you learn nothing else from my work, this is the simplest one, reduce the pressure by reducing the size of the task. Right? If what you’re asking of yourself, causes too much panic and terror for you to follow through on it, reduce what you’re asking of yourself, until you can actually act. As long as it’s only slightly uncomfortable. You’re being brave. That’s all that’s needed for bravery. Think of the incremental compounding effect of that you’re always slightly uncomfortable. I don’t mean all the time, but every day you’re doing something that’s just a little bit you’d rather not usually don’t. But it’s not terrifying. It’s not like you can’t do it, you don’t have a panic attack at the thought of that, you just, I just kind of got to push yourself a little bit to do it. If you did that for years, you’re going to become an incredibly brave person, you’re going to be scared of almost nothing. So what you’re looking for is the highest tolerable level of discomfort that you can handle today, right here right now. For example, it’s a, I see my crush walking towards me. And my fear, and its attempt to discourage me actually tells me go up and talk to her and make her your girlfriend, right. I’m just gonna have a panic attack their thoughts on a socially anxious person. So I’ve got, I’ve got to tell myself, alright, that’s too much. I’ve got to do something. So bring it down. Can I just say hi to her? No, I’m joking, I believe and that’s too much. Okay, just make eye contact, or I made eye contact normally, or walk past with my eyes down. So I’m going to make eye contact, make eye contact, or maybe or throwing a smile. Okay, good enough. That’s all I can handle today, my heart’s pounding and our visitors, if you can master the art of kind of changing the level of the task until you can actually do it. And it’s at least some tiny amount of progress, some tiny amount of change that so don’t let fear trick you into thinking got to do more than their fears, favorite technique, is to ask so much of you that you do nothing at all. That’s what it really wants is nothing at all. So you always ask so little of yourself that you’ll definitely do something. But it has to be at least uncomfortable. It has to be beyond what you would usually do anything beyond what you’d usually do as progress. And all you’re looking for is progress. And then through these incremental increases, you’re going to desensitize yourself, right, this is what exposure therapy really is all about. You’re going to slowly up the ante. As you get comfortable with each level. It’s always going to feel about the same amount of discomfort to move up, because you’re going to get used to the new baseline You might think asking a girl out is terrifying now, but one day it will only be as uncomfortable as making eye contact with her. And then asking her to marry you will only be as uncomfortable as asking her out was and so on. incrementally move up towards these things. You choose a new level, you stick with it until you can handle it. Okay, making eye contact is pretty easy for me now. Now I’m gonna start saying hi, wait until that’s easy for you. Now I’m going to start introducing myself, you just build up like that. You can also combine this with what I call walking meditation. So for those of you who are familiar with mindfulness meditation, usually you’re sitting by yourself in a room with your eyes closed, walking meditation as you pay intense attention to what’s currently happening in a real life setting. So for example, let’s say I’m scared of gonna say hi to someone, I’m gonna focus intently on the feeling of my feet hitting the pavement as I walk towards her. Unlike corralling my attention, I’m putting a leash on and say, pay attention to this now, and keep bringing it back and starts going, Oh, what if she says no, well, my feet feel, what does the sun feel like on my forehead? What is my breathing right now. If you can combine this ability to keep refocusing on something that’s currently happening, just look at something, you might count the leaves on a tree, you might smell the air, when I feel the feet on the pavement, anything that just keeps bringing your attention back to now, because fear only really works with the future. It catastrophize us forward. So if you’re present, now you can have the least amount of fear that’s possibly available. And it’s also going to help you see if anything’s actually happening. Your fear says, Oh, my God, this is a disaster. And you’re like, I’m just walking on the pavement. What do you mean disaster. There’s nothing happening. As soon as something happens, I’ll run away, I promise. But nothing’s actually happening. It’s all gonna keep going. And you have this kind of argument with your fear. Like, I’m just going to bring my attention back to the prison. Still no danger, okay, I’ll keep going. Relate. Prison detention back, still low danger, keep going until there’s danger. I’m going to keep going with this little task I’ve set for myself. So if you think of bravery, as your ability to desensitize yourself to uncomfortable little changes, then you’ve mastered what it becomes to be a brave person. But then into practice every day, you’ll discover what Being courageous is really all about. You don’t need to be fearless, just a little bit uncomfortable. And of course, you want support to massively accelerate your progress with this and become a brave person very quickly. Get in touch dan@brojo.org And we’ll talk through some strategies

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