Psychological Warfare...Is Fear a Motivator?

June 27, 2018

Psychological Warfare...Fear as a motivator...Everyone given the right set of circumstances experiences fear. The triggers and thresholds for this response are different from person to person, however you know the type of situations or experiences which make you feel insecure, anxious or just blatantly scared. Fear is a fundamental, primal stress response which is chemically and neurologically hardwired into our bodies. 

In evolutionary days past, this response would have been right up there with survival of the species, the archetypal 'fight or flight' response provided through a massive juicy dump of adrenaline and cortisol. In this circumstances fear was a major motivator on the determination of action. In the face of impending doom, you could fight, run or perish. Not much a great range of options, but powerful motivators nonetheless.

So fast forward a few thousand years and what do we have? The same hardwired survival instincts, but a much more comfortable (less life or death) environment. Now the pressures to exist are slightly more than the bottom rung of the hierarchy of needs. In the main (and I do understand there are exceptions) we have all the basic needs covered. Equally the environment we live in is filled with fewer predatory beings for which this response was evolved. However, the incidence of anxiety, panic and fear still exists. Indeed in the context of modern living we are placed in an environment where the traditional fight or flight response may well be inappropriate and yet the chemical drivers in our bodies remain unchanged. In this way the fear response becomes potentially damaging as the accumulated stress hormones begin to play awful games with our cardiovascular systems. 

To put this further into the context of participation in combat sports, it is absolutely natural for that stress response to be present, to feel fear and anxiety concerning the forthcoming event and it is how we manage this that ultimately determines our success. Indeed, it doesn't have to remain in the context of combat sports, it may well be a meeting, presentation or interview that you have to attend which creates and presents you with that response. 

In competitive combat sports the pre-event anxiety may well begin far in advance of the event. Dripping like a broken tap for days, if not weeks before the actual date. This anxiety can then build in strength and effect as the event draws closer, with the hours immediately before the fight being particularly tense and stressful. There are many strategies for managing pre-fight anxieties and indeed we will look at some of these in future posts. However, fundamentally we are all different and the strategies we employ to cope and manage anxieties must be tailored to fit our own individual needs. There is no best singular way...just the best way for you. 

The bottom line here is that anxiety (fear) is natural and a normal human reaction to stressful events. It's a rather crazy (or possibly dishonest) person who doesn't experience this type of response. However, anxiety is not a negative state. It is a state of choice and decision. You have options, options to choose how you act in response to circumstances. Anxiety is one such area. Aside the clear choices as previously stated (fight, flight or freeze) you have one over-riding choice to make, do you listen to the doubt? Anxiety and fear are not the demotivating factors, it's doubt that stops you. Doubt in yourself and your ability to succeed. Doubt in the outcome. Doubt that you will get your point across. Doubt you will be liked. Doubt you will get through the fight safely. It's doubt that makes you freeze...nit anxiety and fear. So now how do you overcome doubt? Flippantly it would be easy to say, "Don't listen to it." However, doubt can be powerful and it's not that easy. One strategy may be to answer the negative internal voice, with a positive affirmative one. For every "You just aren't good enough..." you tell yourself, counter this with "I know I've got the ability to succeed..." The fundamental solution though is to walk into the fire. Doubt is based on what? An idea of the potential outcome. Ok so in some respects we form these doubts based on pervious experiences and information we have acquired. However previous experience doesn't 100% predict the outcome today. It indicates and maybe signposts to an outcome, but you can always change and positively impact that outcome today. The fact is that unless you put yourself out there, unless you prove to yourself through experience that you are capable, successful and have the ability to choose...doubt wins every time. This unfortunately doesn't guarantee you'll get the outcome this time, but what it does mean is that you'll have a go. What it means is that you'll shoot and if you miss then next time you'll know what to do differently. It means you either win or you learn. Either outcome here means you win! 

Fear isn't good. It's not a motivator. Overcoming fear is the motivator. Proving to yourself that you can do that thing, that you were right to quiet the doubt and you're a strong, capable individual is the motivator. 

Work on that positive internal voice. Tell yourself something good every time that nagging doubt starts dripping in again. You're awesome... Think about that for a few minutes!!! It's what we do!!! 

 

 

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