Managing Fear

Nature has equipped us with an internal red alert system. Fear.

When an out of control truck careens towards our car we get that rush of adrenaline that helps us think fast and take evasive action. Fear saves the day.

However, there are times when the same alarm bells go off and scare us unnecessarily.

Recently a group of university students from the USA travelled to a small town in Mexico. They were there to learn Spanish and supposedly learn about the culture. The problem was that they had been programmed to believe that Mexico is a dangerous place to visit. On the first week of their visit they were alarmed when they heard the loud explosion of fireworks that often accompany local fiestas.

Nobody could persuade them that the explosions were from fireworks and not gunfire. They were terrified and took the next plane back to the USA.

Their fear was real but based on a faulty premise.

Reflect on the following acronym.


E= Evidence

A= Appearing

R= Real

Fears based on false evidence feel VERY real. Your gut churns as much as it would with the runaway truck scenario. Our physical systems cannot distinguish between false or true fear situations.

But our minds can be trained to distinguish between the two.

Here’s how.

Years ago when I worked as a psychologist I learned a powerful strategy Rational Emotive Therapy (RET). Use the ABC’s of this theory to analyze your irrational fears that feel very real to you. Then learn how to choose a more productive response.

A = Activating event. The trigger in this case was the explosion from fireworks

B = Belief. What they believed about the situation, “Those are gunshots”

C = Consequence. Their fear drove them to the airport.

Now did A cause C? Obviously this is not the case.

It was the interpretation of the event that scared them. It was the B=Belief part of the sequence that kicked in.

Let’s continue to follow the ABC process.

D = Dispute your belief. Engage in some reality testing. Do a sanity check with a colleague with a question like “Is it just my perception or should I go to the town square and check out the fireworks?”

E = Establish a new belief. After a thorough sanity check you may receive information that contradicts your belief that they heard gunfire. The fear is then extinguished.

Recognizing and managing the fear factor does not happen overnight. Some of our old hurts and beliefs run very deep. They have morphed into bad mental habits. Don’t stop at C , learn ways to move to E.

 How have you managed your fears?


About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
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2 Responses to Managing Fear

  1. Marge Pingel says:

    So many of your posts have touched me in just the right spot at just the right time. This one was just so. My memory of understanding the biblical verse which states there is no fear in love but perfect love casts out fear happened while walking with you. It was an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and understanding that freed me to look fully at what was previously the overwhelming fear. This memory, rarely felt so fully again, encourages me often in times of fear.

    • cedricj says:

      That feeling of acceptance felt between friends is a powerful force for change in the face of re-occuring fears.Thanks for sharing this memory Marge.

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