Learn how to transform fear into courage with these mindfulness techniques.
To feel afraid at times is normal — everyone experiences fear.
Learning tools to deal with fear will allow you and your child a stronger voice in life. Fear is an emotion that can help us be cautious. Parents can help kids feel safe and learn to feel at ease.
According to Focus on Family Canada, “As a child matures, old fears are overcome, and new fears arise to take their place. Interestingly, children of similar ages tend to share similar types of fears.”
Focus on Family breaks down fears in children according to the age group:
Infants and toddlers — fear of separation from parent, strangers, loud noises, imposing objects.
- Ages 2-4 — fear of separation from a parent, dogs and/or large animals, darkness, sleeping alone, monsters, loud and/or unfamiliar noises, burglars.
- Ages 5-6 — separation from parent, dogs, darkness, sleeping alone, monsters, bugs, strangers, getting lost, thunder, injury, illness, death.
- Ages 7-12 — dogs, school issues, performance anxiety, social anxiety, fires, heights, darkness, thunderstorms, burglars, kidnappers, injury, illness, death, natural disasters, nuclear war.
- Teens — school issues, performance anxiety, social anxiety, personal future, natural disasters, nuclear war.
Understanding the cause and being mindful of fear, we must be present to fear. Being with fear, rather than avoiding it, allows us to appreciate our fearlessness and how we can become courageous. Being mindful of fear and how we can teach ourselves and our children how to be present to the thoughts, feelings and emotions to cultivate an understanding of the cause makes for a more courageous person.
Love and Fear-Based Emotions
Think the opposite of love is hate? It is actually fear. Emotions fall under two categories: love-based or fear-based.
Love-based emotions include love, hope, joy, gratitude, peace, faith, trust, confidence, happiness, connection, forgiveness, openness, passion, freedom, harmony, honesty, beauty, compassion, self-love, self-appreciation, respect, acceptance, understanding and much more.
Fear-based emotions include fear, anger, grief, shame, guilt, bitterness, judgment, jealousy, frustration, doubt and insecurity, to name a few.
Fear limits the power of a life of abundance. A fearful life is a life of lacking — a lack of loving for fear of rejection, a lack of generosity for fear of being without, a lack of sharing and security and self-confidence for fear of appearing weak.
The sensations of fear contract and close the heart, while love expands and opens. Notice that your posture is a window into your inner self. Most people experiencing fear display a defensive posture, including folded arms and hunched shoulders.
We have to ask if this fear is self-created, or if we are in genuine physical danger. Understanding the difference and being mindful of thoughts and feelings allows a process of knowing when we are in “fight or flight” or are suffering from a limiting belief mindset.
When we have information about the cause, then we are less reactive. When fear arises as a natural response to danger, like a landslide or an enemy attack, it is a friend; however, very often it shows up as fear of failure, inadequacy or the future. (If our children could only see themselves through our eyes, they would be fearless.)
Remember a time you met fear and moved through it and other times when you were fearful but kept going. This is the moment of fearlessness. Fear can close the heart, but courage comes out of heartfulness and releasing resistance. Fear can stop you from participating fully in life, but fearlessness gives you the courage to dive into the unknown. Take the posture of love.
How to Transform Fear
- Mindfulness activates the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system and turns off the nervous system’s stress response. This allows us to stay focused and relaxed, no matter what comes our way.
- Breathe. Fear makes your breathing short and shallow, but being mindful of breathing keeps the diaphragm open and the breathing deep.
- Name your fear. Name it to tame it. Knowing your fear and taking it by the hand makes it your ally.
- Kindness, compassion and love, which are the antidotes to fear, can be built through friendships. Bonding is also a gateway to greater clarity, ease and tolerance.
When fear becomes an ally, you become a fearless warrior of the heart: unshakable, confident and joyful.
Anthony Cupo is a trained mindfulness facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years.