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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 December 2, 2019

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

10 Powerful Ways to Stop Worrying and Start Living Today

Plato knew that the body and mind are intimately linked. And in the late 1800s, the Mayo brothers, famous physicians, estimated that over half of all hospital beds are filled with people suffering from frustration, anxiety, worry and despair. Causes of worry are everywhere, in our relationships and our jobs, so it’s key we find ways to take charge of the stress.

In his classic book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie offers tools to ditch excessive worrying that help you make a worry-free environment for your private and professional life.

These are the top 10 tips to grab worry by the horns and wrestle it to the ground:

1. Make Your Decision and Never Look Back

Have you ever made a decision in life only to second-guess it afterwards? Of course you have! It’s hard not to wonder whether you’ve done the right thing and whether there might still be time to take another path.

But keep this in mind: you’ve already made your decision, so act decisively on it and dismiss all your anxiety about it.

Don’t stop to hesitate, to reconsider, or to retrace your steps. Once you’ve chosen a course of action, stick to it and never waver.

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2. Live for Today, Package Things up in “Day-Tight Compartments”

You know that feeling: tossing, turning and worrying over something that happened or something that might, well into the wee hours. To avoid this pointless worrying, you need “day-tight compartments”. Much as a ship has different watertight compartments, your own “day-tight” ones are a way to limit your attention to the present day.

The rule is simple: whatever happened in the past or might happen in the future must not intrude upon today. Everything else has to wait its turn for tomorrow’s box or stay stuck in the past.

3. Embrace the Worst-Case Scenario and Strategize to Offset It

If you’re worried about something, ask yourself: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Could you lose your job? Be jailed? Get killed?

Whatever the “worst” might be, it’s probably not so world-ending. You could probably even bounce back from it!

If, for example, you lose your job, you could always find another. Once you accept the worst-case scenario and get thinking about contingency plans, you’ll feel calmer.

4. Put a Lid on Your Worrying

Sometimes we stress endlessly about negative experiences when just walking away from them would serve us far better.

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To make squashing that worry easier, try this strategy, straight from stock traders: it’s called the “stop-loss” order, where shares are bought at a certain price, and then their price development is observed. If things go badly and the share price hits a certain point, they are sold off immediately. This stops the loss from increasing further.

In the same manner, you can put a stop-loss order on things that cause you stress and grief.

5. Fake It ‘Til You Make It – Happiness, That Is

We can’t directly influence how we feel, but we can nudge ourselves to change through how we think and act.

If you’re feeling sad or low, slap a big grin on your face and whistle a chipper tune. You’ll find it impossible to be blue when acting cheerful. But you don’t necessarily need to act outwardly happy; you can simply think happier thoughts instead.

Marcus Aurelius summed it up aptly:

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

6. Give for the Joy of Giving

When we perform acts of kindness, we often do so with the expectation of gratitude. But harboring such expectations will probably leave you disappointed.

One person well aware of this fact was the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz. Over the course of his career, Leibowitz saved 78 people from going to the electric chair. Guess how many thanked him? None.

So stop expecting gratitude when you’re kind to someone. Instead, take joy from the act yourself.

7. Dump Envy – Enjoy Being Uniquely You

Your genes are completely unique. Even if someone had the same parents as you, the likelihood of someone identical to you being born is just one in 300,000 billion.

Despite this amazing fact, many of us long to be someone else, thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. But living your life this way is pointless. Embrace your uniqueness and get comfortable with who you really are: How to Be True to Yourself and Live the Life You Want

8. Haters Will Hate — It Just Means You’re Doing It Right

When you’re criticized, it often means you’re accomplishing something noteworthy. In fact, let’s take it a step further and consider this: the more you’re criticized, the more influential and important a person you likely are.

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So the next time somebody talks you down, don’t let it get to you. Take it as a compliment!

9. Chill Out! Learn to Rest Before You Get Tired

Scientists agree that emotions are the most common cause of fatigue. And it works the other way around, too: fatigue produces more worries and negative emotions.

It should be clear, therefore, that you’ve got to relax regularly before you feel tired. Otherwise, worries and fatigue will accumulate on top of each other.

It’s impossible to worry when you are relaxed, and regular rest helps you maintain your ability to work effectively.

10. Get Organized and Enjoy Your Work

There are few greater sources of misery in life than having to work, day in, day out, in a job you despise. It would make sense then that you shouldn’t pick a job you hate, or even just dislike doing.

But say you already have a job. How can you make it more enjoyable and worry-free? One way is to stay organized: a desk full of unanswered mails and memos is sure to breed worries.

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Better yet, rethink about the job you’re doing: What to Do When You Hate Your Job but Want a Successful Career

More About Living a Fulfilling Life

Featured photo credit: Tyler Nix via unsplash.com

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