Erik Van Alstine

Erik Van Alstine

Author. Leadership strategist. Expert in Perceptual IntelligenceTM.

Snake! Identifying and Eliminating Useless Fear

My last post helped us separate fears into two categories: useless and useful. When there’s no real threat, or the chance of harm is extremely low, that’s a useless fear. But when the threat is real, and the chance of harm is high, that’s a useful fear.

I used a snake metaphor to describe these two categories, where useless fear is like a rubber snake that seems harmful but isn’t, while useful fear is like a rattlesnake that seems harmful because it is. As I write in my book Automatic Influence,

the key is to respect the rattlesnakes and not be rattled by the rubber snakes.

So how do we get rid of useless fear? Sometimes just seeing it as useless is enough. Take a close look at this “snake chase prank.”

Notice that the girls are afraid at first, terrified even, but eventually see that the snake isn’t real and the fear goes away. Here’s how I describe the incident in my book:

After a few seconds, the girls get the joke and stop running. There’s no real harm, so there’s no reason to be afraid. Terror turns to anger. Or laughter. Or both.

We can do the same. It’s not as easy for us as it was the girls, because in the world of the mind, the rubber snakes can be extremely convincing, and we run so fast we never take the time to find out if they’re real or not.

We can break the power of useless fear in many situations just by taking time to face it and see it as it really is.

Are we facing our fears or running from them? Let’s take time to face fears and call out the useless ones. Then we can muster the courage to keep facing fear until fear goes away.

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