Kim’s Notes on Winning the Game of Fear with John Assaraf

These are my notes from John Assaraf’s online webinar called “Winning the Game of Fear.” He discusses how to manage fear and still take action toward our goals. In this webinar, John Assaraf takes the viewers through the science of fear, and the scientifically proven ways to handle fear.

Winning the Game of Fear

There is a four-part process to eliminate fear that is science-based, and really works.

A staggering 95% of our fears are unconscious, meaning they operate outside of our awareness. Fear prevents inspired action, and can halt our progress towards our goals.

Some common fears include a fear of:

  • failure
  • being judged
  • public speaking
  • embarrassment
  • success
  • dependence
  • disappointment
  • hurting others
  • being controlled
  • being diminished or put down

As babies, we’re a blank slate. There may be some instinctual fears, like perhaps a fear of loud noises, but for the most part, we’re fearless. Our self esteem and self image become damaged over time by events and experiences. We’re not born fearful. We become fearful.

The fear pattern is a natural and healthy part of life. Survival is the most basic primal urge, and fear/fear response is part of that survival instinct. Fear helps you stay alive and safe.

The amygdala is the emotional centre of the brain. Our emotions are subconsciously triggered by memories. If we have a thought or idea that our memory bank information says could cause harm – real or imagined – a protection alarm sounds, and the fear response is activated.

If the subconscious has a negative meaning associated with an event, we experience fear instead of feel-good chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. Fear deactivates higher brain function, like reason and motivation, and then we can get stuck for years.

3-Step Process to Increase Learning and Attention

1. Become more calm, release stress and tension with a simple breathing exercise. Take 3-4 deep breaths in through your nose, and then, breathe out through your mouth like you’re breathing through a straw. This deactivates and calms the fear response in your brain. While doing this, it is helpful to focus on being fully in the present moment, without distractions.

2. Focus on one outcome needed or wanted today. This is cognitive priming. Cognitive priming is a fancy way of saying that we’re telling our brain what we want. When we tell our brain what we want, our brain starts noticing and spotting resources or ideas that will help make progress towards the goal. Clarity of purpose helps us to act in spite of fear.

3. Get curious, and have fun! Curiosity and fun activate a brain plasticity switch. Brain plasticity means that our brains can change and grow and develop new ways of thinking and feeling. This is why we can experience both positive and negative change over time: because our brains are not fixed, or hardwired; our brains are “plastic” meaning they are changeable.

Quickly on Procrastination

We have ability, but something gets in the way. Our fear gets in the way, and then, maybe, we procrastinate.

Procrastination is the effect of something else, though it’s related to fear. Procrastination is purely and simply a pain avoidance strategy, but that is a conversation for another day. For today, it’s enough to ask ourselves, “If I didn’t have this fear, where would I be today?”

Would you have a different income or level of impact? Would you be famous? Would you write a book, build a business, be a doctor?

What is it that fear stops us from doing? It’s important to ask because fear is the silent killer of our hopes and dreams and aspirations.

To win the game of life, we MUST win the game of fear.

To win the game of fear, we must first develop our awareness.

Recall that fear operates mainly subconsciously, or outside of our awareness. In order to master our fears, we must first become aware of them so that we can recognize and break free from our conditioned fear responses.

We must be brave and courageous. To be clear, bravery and courage are not the absence of fear. Rather, bravery and courage are what we show when we act in spite of our fear.

Ask ourselves, “What do I want more of, that fear stops me from getting?”

Fear is usually unconscious and automatic. Unfortunately, we can do little to change something we are unaware of. That’s why awareness is so vital. Once we have that awareness, our automatic and unconscious responses can be managed with the 3-step process we discussed earlier.

Limiting Beliefs

Fear is always an effect, so it is a good idea to look for the cause and change that. Our limiting beliefs come from a deeply-rooted experience that has impacted our self image and self esteem, and can trigger our fear response.

A limiting belief is just what it sounds like. It’s a belief we’ve developed about ourselves regarding our abilities and limitations.

[As an aside, if you want to know what your limiting beliefs are, listen to your self-talk. What sorts of things do you say to yourself about what you can and cannot have or do or be? This is a good way to start picking up on, and becoming aware of, your negative thoughts. Nothing will change until you first become aware, so it’s a good idea to develop your awareness through meditation and mindfulness exercises.]

Once we’ve become aware of a fear, or we realize our fear response is driving us, there’s a 4-R Process John Assaraf recommends to help mange and deal with the fear. Generally speaking, it takes a minimum of 66-90 days to change a lifelong habit or thought pattern, so we need to be gentle and patient with ourselves.

4-R Process

  • Recognize
  • Reframe
  • Release
  • Retrain

Our brain creates neural networks and patterns. These patterns can become very deeply established, and can operate automatically and unconsciously. However, over time and with consistent practice, we can change our conditioned responses and create new, more beneficial responses. All this is possible because of neural plasticitry, or the changeability of our brains.

In other words, we really can change our minds. We begin to change our minds with the first R of the 4-R process: Recognize.

We MUST identify, and become aware of our fear. Awareness gives us choice, and choices give us freedom.

Ask ourselves, “What triggers the fear?” Remember, fear is commonly activated by a negative memory from a past experience.

We are biologically wired to stop and move away from things and situations that we fear. Our brain projects the potential pain and harm that may be caused by an action into the futuire. Cortisol and norepinepherine flood the brain, and blood flows to our right prefrontal cortex motor cortex to prepare us for fight or flight.

When we’re afraid, our motivation, reasoning abilities and other higher brain functions quickly decline. By quickly, I mean lightnig-fast, and usually before your conscious mind even knows or guesses at what’s going on. Any emotional experience, watching tv, reading, etc., can give us fear.

It is crucial to find a way to interrupt the pattern of our fear response before our higher brain function is totally impaired. To make this happen, we need to reframe and restructure our response.

Fear is based on an associated meaning. The automatic reaction will always be the same until recognized and turned into fuel for success. The meaning we give to anything, consciously or not, will always determine our feelings and behaviors.

Unfortunately, we cannot change our fears simply by thinking about changing our fears. Our conscious willpower is no match for the speed and power of our protective subconscious fears.

Fear can be an underlying anxiety, or a low-grade stress. It can be a background hum that permeates our lives, insidiously sticking us in our comfort zone. Being stuck in a comfort zone is a fear reaction.

When we procrastinate it’s not a thing we’re afraid of, rather we fear the result of a future action. This can indicate a self image, or self-esteem issue.

Neural dissonance occurs when something, real or imagined, consciously or unconsciously, does not alighn with our beliefs, values and (pre-conceived) ideas. Neural dissonance shows up in brain scans the same way as pain. With neural dissonance, there is a decrease in your left prefrontal cortex, and an increase of activity in your right prefrontal cortex.

[John Assaraf has called the left prefrontal cortex the Einstein Brain, and the right prefrontal cortex the Frankenstein Brain. In other words, neural dissonance shuts down Einstein, and activates Frankenstein.]

What are the results of fear?

Fear shatters success because it keeps you stuck. Fear solidifies a disempowered identity because it lowers self-esteem and self worth.

Growth comes from facing fear, and from being courageous in spite of our fear.

The brain wants to keep us safe. It wants to fight, fly or freeze. We cannot succumb.

We have goals and visions. Our will is strong. However, none of these things can overmaster fear.

To overcome fear, we must exercise and retrain our inner responses though “INNERCISE” [trademarked by John Assaraf and Neurogym. It’s also a book. “Innercise” by John Assaraf. Get the book. Innercising is totally the shit.]

Retraining our inner responses strengthens key neuro-muscles, and reprograms our subconscious minds. The following innercise [trademarked] was presented as a way to manage the fear response.

AIA –> (Awareness, Intention, Action)

AIA sounds like eye-ya, and this innercise [trademarked] is a basic way to retrain the brain to develop awareness to recognize, and then reframe and release a disempowering feeling like fear, quickly and effectively.

1 – recognize disempowering thoughts, emotions, beliefs and behaviours that get poor results.

2 – take six deep, rhythmic breaths. Inhale though the nose, and exhale as if blowing through a straw. This activates the parasympathetic nervous system which is your relaxation response.

3 – without judgement, and with curiosity, notice what you’re feeling in your body, and where you feel it.

4 – What is your intention in this moment? Now, gently reframe beliefs, perceptions and assigned meanings from negative to positive. “If I do (x) and my fear comes true and happens (y) could be a good result.”

5 – ants are automatic negative thoughts. We can release these ants. Say, “I breathe in positivity, and I breathe out fear,” or whatever your ant or automatic negative thought is. “I breathe in calm. I breathe out negativity.”

Naming and focusing activates the left prefrontal cortex (remember Einstein?) and naturally increases motivation. In this way, over time and with practice, we can easily retrain our brains to focus on positive outcomes.

These inner exercises rewrites our subconscious programming, so that we can be more resourceful and brave when we are afraid.

4-R Process Simplified

Recognize: become aware of limiting thoughts, beliefs and fears

Reframe: Flip from a negative to positive by changing your language pattern. For example, ” In the past, I believed (a), and now I’m learning (b). Our self talk matters because our “can’t” thoughts release neuro-chemicals that block action.

Release: Develop a curious, detached awareness of the negative emotion in your body. Determine what resourceful emotion will help. I exhale (stress), and I inhale (calm). Exhale the negative, inhale the positive. Imagine it with all your senses. Feel it, hear it, see it.

Retrain: reprogram your conditioned responses with inner exercises which strengthen key neuro-muscles for awareness, and retrain your subconscious conditioned responses.

We must act in spite of fear.

Too often, it’s easy to slip into negative thinking by default. This is not a resourceful state.

Ask ourselves, “What do I really want?” Ask ourselves, “What if everything goes right?” Ask what positive could come from a negative.

Don’t stand at the edge of life because of fear. We should mind the quality of our emotions.

Failing to take action impacts self-esteem. Use can fear as fuel to boost self image, happiness and success.

We pay the price of discipline or regret.

Emotions = energy in motion.

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