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Face Your Fear and Thrive

Face Your Fear and Thrive

Place yourself behind a shatter proof helmet. Tear gas and pepper spray burning your skin, eyes, and lungs. Yelling and screaming as adrenaline gets dumped into your bloodstream. Sweat pouring down your back as the body armor you’re wearing feels like you’re trapped in a sauna. Your hands shaking, knowing that in the next few moments you or another could be potentially hurt or killed.

Fear: it’s a natural emotion that we all feel from time to time. What if, however, it was daily occurrence? How would you cope, or even thrive in such an environment, allowing it to mold you and elevate you? Here are some tips and lessons I learned on how to not only cope with fear, but use it as an advantage and mentor.

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Fear Actualized

Firstly, fear allows us to avoid dangers and also stay away from actions that may bring about negative consequences. Fear, like many emotions, has the potential to consume and even destroy us if left unchecked. Emotions such as love, for example, have the same potential for either harm or benefit. How many individuals have we known who have been reduced to nothing due to the instability of these emotions? Learning to cope with fear, love, and stress are essential to good health and well being, physically and psychologically.

Fear is an intense emotion. There’s nothing like facing a fear that almost paralyzes you and triumphantly overcoming. For most of us it comes in short bursts, very abruptly and surprisingly. Getting into a car accident, having run-ins with a dangerous wild animal, or even being robbed strike almost without warning. They leave us stunned and reflective. What if I had died? What if someone else had died? These questions plague us, and leave us reflective. They have the potential to change our entire perspective on life.

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For example, Ernest Hemingway was transformed after nearly being killed during the first world war. He was a volunteer ambulance driver, and while dispensing supplies, was wounded by Austrian mortar fire. Hemingway would later write about his experience, saying, “When you go to war as a boy you have a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed; not you… Then when you are badly wounded the first time you lose that illusion and you know it can happen to you.” For Hemingway, coming close to the jaws of death gave him a clear focus on mortality.

Placed on Death Ground

Imagine placing yourself into a war in which your brushes with death happened at an abysmal pace? Besides being a soldier in an actual war, there are few of us who have to face this reality. How would it mold you? If you don’t come from a military family, few know the personal struggle soldiers who suffer from PTSD deal with. It changes your attitude, the way to think, and act. Left unchecked, the trauma induced can cripple us and even be debilitating for the rest of our lives.

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Instead of being on the front lines overseas, I was in another battle. A battle that took place everyday I clocked in. The conflict started the day I was hired as a Correctional Officer at a maximum security adult prison. Now I know what you’re thinking: Was it really like those shows on cable television, like Lock Down? The best answer is yes, sometimes. To give you a good analogy, if you ever watch the highlights of a football game and actually watch a football game, you have two different experiences. There is a lot of calmness inside most prisons, which is actually more terrifying than it being a highlight real. Just when you get comfortable, you almost get stabbed (I personally was attacked with a knife twice), or see a violent altercation. You know something bad is going to happen, you just don’t know when. Adrenaline gets dumped into your system, things happen in seconds that feel like a lifetime, people get hurt or die in front of you, and you get a permanent event burned into your memory for the rest of your life.

Honestly, I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I am no longer a Correctional Officer but the events I endured changed my life in almost every way. Friends and family conveyed to me that I walked and talked differently. My behavior became more serious and reflective. The fear I felt when first entering into a prison was overwhelming. Witnessing episodes of violence that seemed cut from a clip of OZ tended to have a jarring effect to say the least. Sitting in my car every day outside the prison building, just staring at the walls and barbed wire, building the courage to clock in took its toll not only on my mind, but also on my body. Sleepless nights pouring over the violence witnessed earlier, casting an almost debilitating cloud upon my every waking moment. Yet, I fought on and challenged myself to another day inside. I looked up to veterans who thrived in that environment and was amazed. I knew that if I gave up and didn’t face my fears, it would haunt me for the rest of my days.

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The breaking point came when I was transferred inside the prison to the most dangerous unit — a unit some of the most violent offenders in the state called home. This was a place where inmates were locked in a cell 23 hours a day and only went outside to exercise in a cage, a unit where there was constant violence and almost never a dull moment. It was either make or break. I had to not only control my fear, but also not show it.

Everyone in that environment could smell fear, even fellow officers, and knew when you were weak. I have seen men twice my size intimidated by men of small stature. They lost the respect of fellow officers and became targets. I knew I had to dive in with everything I had, or else I might be killed. The day I started to thrive was the day a fellow officer was stabbed in the jaw with a 8-inch metal blade. I instantly changed into someone who was always terrified to a man who had no fear of death. Something sublime clicked in my head, and I rushed in and resolved the situation. My eyes burned from the pepper spray but I felt no pain and looked the attacker in the eyes and saw fear. The fear of me.

I was attacked several times after that incident and never flinched. I handled the situation and never felt fear, panic, or nervousness. My confidence skyrocketed, and the feeling of transcendence enveloped my every waking moment. I learned to thrive in chaos and make it my comfort zone. I noticed toward the end of my time as a Correctional Officer my hands wouldn’t shake anymore. Usually due to the adrenaline after an event, I would get the shakes that could be most felt in the hands. The first time I noticed the shaking was gone was the last time I was attacked. After the incident I calmly wrote a summary of the incident with a pen and paper — even writing cursive my penmanship was as good as ever. I had become so used to violence and stress that even a tolerance to adrenaline developed.

Lasting Change

I am no longer a Correctional Officer, but am a professional that still sees a fair share of danger. I react coolly, calmly, and collectedly in almost every situation, as I did in the prison. Due to that experience, my social intelligence became one of my strongest assets, and my confidence has remained high. Overcoming my crippling fears allowed me to develop into the man I am today. Here are 3 lessons I learned from my experience that have been invaluable:

  1. Never give up in the face of adversity. Life and its endless struggles hit hard, but overcoming challenges results in invaluable gratitude and strength.
  2. Remind yourself every day that there is a lesson to be learned. Life is our mentor, we are its students. Never stop finding the gems of experience and knowledge each day hides.
  3. Place yourself on death ground — a place where you are forced to rise to the occasion and overcome. It will not only increase your confidence, but force you to improve. There is no improvement without change.

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Holden Eliason

Private Investigator, Entrepreneur

Face Your Fear and Thrive

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Last Updated on August 20, 2019

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

1. The Inner Critic

This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

  • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
  • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
  • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
  • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

2. The Worrier

This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

4. The Sleep Depriver

This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

  • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
  • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
  • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
  • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

How can you control these squatters?

How to Master Your Mind

You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

There are two ways to control your thoughts:

  • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
  • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

For the Inner Critic

When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

  • They rile up the Worrier.
  • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
  • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
  • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
  • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

For the Worrier

Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

  • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tense

Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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For example:

If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
  • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
  • Muscles tension

I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

Breathe in through your nose:

  • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
  • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
  • Focus on your belly rising.

Breathe out through your nose:

  • Feel your lungs emptying.
  • Focus on your belly falling.
  • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

For the Sleep Depriver

(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

  1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
  2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

You can also use this technique any time you want to:

  • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
  • Shut down your thinking.
  • Calm your feelings.
  • Simply focus on the present moment. 

The Bottom Line

Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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