How To Get Rid Of Fear Of Death
I’ve been struggling with anxiety and occasional fear of death for a while now.
While I believe it’s something personal (and should be dealt with individually), I know that there are a lot of people out there with this problem.
And once you solve — or at least become slightly better at solving — a particular problem, my natural inclination is to go and talk about it. After all, it might be helpful to some of my readers.
If you’re struggling with constant fear or panic attacks, I highly suggest finding professional help. It helped me — so it might as well help you. This piece only has high-level recommendations in the form of a blog.
The Science Behind Fear
I am not a scientist. And I may make some mistakes. But from what I’ve learned, there are two parts of the brain.
The first part, the neocortex — is the ‘new brain’. It helps us solve math equations and make plans. It’s also what separates homo sapiens from the rest of the animals.
The second part is the ‘old brain’. It’s located near the end of your spinal cord, and it’s responsible for most of your wild-animal traits. Scientists call it the amygdala, while we’ll call it the ‘lizard brain’. That’s where instincts live such as fear, lust, the craving for power and dominance live.
This mini-brain takes over whenever you feel hungry, angry, aroused, etc. and it’s the one we are talking about here.
It’s the one that fucks us up the most.
What Is Anxiety?
It’s a fear of fear.
Fear is productive. It helped our ancestors stay alive (and not be eaten by sabertooth tigers), and it still helps us today, even though the world we live in is dramatically safer.
Anxiety is useless. It’s being afraid of something that’s not there. It’s fear in advance. You are spinning episodes of something that might happen (probably won’t), and as a result, feel fear in your body.
Did you know that there’s actually no difference between seeing something fearful and imagining something fearful, at least for your brain?
How I Feel It (And How You Probably Do Too)
This may (or may not) resonate with you.
Sometimes, I can be lying in bed at night — and suddenly wake up from a rush of fear. I used to have these symptoms often, my psychiatrist called them panic attacks. Gladly, I haven’t had an episode in a while now.
But then there is a different type of fear. It’s low-key, silent anxiety that persists during the day. It’s not too loud to hinder our productivity, but it’s there and we can feel it’s presence. If we are self-aware, we can clearly label it: fear.
And it usually becomes louder whenever something good happens.
You get a promotion, you feel great, and suddenly, your ‘lizard brain’ tells you, ‘Hey, you’re too happy… but what if it all goes away?’ and BOOM!, a sudden rush of fear takes over you.
Or maybe you were just happy with how things are going, but then suddenly you
You may feel anxiety stronger when something important is about to happen. I remember I was supposed to relocate to London in a few days, and I couldn’t help but feel constant anxiety in my body (I especially feel it in my knees and arms — it burns) for no reason.
How To Get Rid Of It
By not trying to get rid of it. Let me explain.
There are a lot of people, who struggle with anxiety. I am not going to go into too much detail (I am not a psychologist either), but it has to do with the way you’re wired. Some people just tend to get more afraid than others (that would be me).
Maybe it was your childhood. Maybe you were born with a weak nervous system. Who cares.
And people usually respond in one of the two ways:
- By denying of being afraid
- By reassuring themselves and telling it’s all going to be alright
Both of these don’t really work. At least, they haven’t worked for me.
When you deny you fear by trying to focus your mental energy on something else, it may work short-term. But as any person who has tried to get rid of fear by force eventually knows, fear always comes back. But most people know that.
What you probably didn’t know, is that reassurance doesn’t work either. I mean, it’s the ‘lizard brain’ we’re talking about. It’s stupid. It’s old (in fact, too old for today’s world). It’s like an outdated operating system (Windows XP?).
Everyone loves reassurance. So when I tell myself, ‘Hey, Sergey. Don’t worry. Everything is fine, it’s just a promotion, why should I be worried?’ — the ‘lizard brain’ may shut up for a while, but it’ll remember that it was treated well.
It was stroked. Reassured. Calmed down.
And as most Hyatt employees know, guests who are treated well always come back.
What Really Works
Imagine how great it would be to not worry anymore. Imagine what life would be like without anxiety. Imagine what would happen to your productivity and creativity.
Spoiler: they would triple. Triple.
But how do you achieve this?
By turning on your new brain. Becoming aware. Being present. Breathing. There is a reason why meditation is such a popular practice among Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
You don’t have to meditate all day to fight the ‘lizard brain’. And you know that denial and reassurance don’t work either.
What works is turning on awareness. When you go to an important meeting, your palms start sweating. Your heart rate goes up. You know the meeting is important, so you become nervous. But that’s not you. That’s your ‘lizard brain’ talking.
And all you have to do is say (maybe even out loud), ‘Hey, lizard brain. I know it’s you. Welcome’.
By simply acknowledging the presence of the ‘lizard brain’ and doing nothing about it, you’ll make the ‘lizard brain’ run away.
Give it your full attention. Feel the anxiety. Meditate on it. You’ll see, in a moment or so, the rush of confidence will kick in.
And you’ll lead the meeting like a pro.
Thank you for reading.