Fear Management, Part One
That dirty, four-letter word. It’ll try to hold you back from the things you desire and stop you from fully appreciating all that life can teach you.
Guys new to the community are often controlled by fear: their beliefs, their behaviors, their thoughts. Fear is why they don’t open the mixed set, don’t go for the make-out, don’t head to the club alone, don’t call the chick on the phone. So what exactly is fear, and more importantly, how can we take charge of it?
The 3 Fs
In the beginning – and I mean the very beginning – animals on earth were controlled by their limbic brains. If they saw something that could kill them, they responded without thought. Primitive animals didn’t yet have the higher level of problem-solving that man possesses. They weren’t capable of analyzing the entire scenario so as to elucidate the best course of action. The little fuckers simply reacted instinctively, and as a result, they escaped harm.
The limbic brain is there to keep us humans alive as well. If there is a danger in your proximity, over-analysis could lead to death and injury. So you react to perceived dangers very swiftly. If you hear a gun go off near your head, you’re gonna startle and move away from the sound without thought.
Fear is handled by the limbic brain using three responses:
1. Freeze. The first strategy you’ll usually use if faced with danger is to freeze. Since movement attracts the attention of predators, freezing makes us invisible to them. It also gives our higher brain time to come up with a strategy.
If I tell a guy with approach anxiety to go talk to the three-set of 9s, the guy will initially freeze up. His breath will get shallow, he’ll avoid eye contact when he does approach, and if he sits down he’ll lock his feet together under his seat. In effect, he is making himself smaller, less noticeable and ideally invisible, all indicators of the freeze response. Even evasive eye contact is his way of “hiding” in full view.
If one person in the tribe suddenly freezes when he sees a lion, the others will mimic his behavior. This mimicry is in place to help survival of the group; hence, fear is contagious. Going out and trying to be sociable with anxious wings will make you more anxious. A better strategy is to hang out with guys who aren’t as nervous as you.
2. Flight. When freezing won’t assure survival, we flee. In the wild, we would run from a lion that was pursuing us. In the modern world, we can’t literally run from everything that scares us, but we can evade in other ways, called distancing and blocking. The goal: to create space between us and the danger. Distancing is seen when we turn away from people who are annoying us, lean away from someone confrontational, point our foot away while legs crossed from someone offensive.
Examples of blocking include briefly covering your face with your hand when somebody says something you don’t like, closing your eyes almost as if to make the world momentarily go away, and holding a drink or cell phone up in front of you when a sexy mama walks by.
3. Fight. When freezing and fleeing don’t cut it, we fight. In the wild, we turned fear into rage and fought our predators. In the modern world, we can’t fight physically so we tone it down, and instead we argue. Insults, sarcasm and other verbally aggressive tactics are manifestations of our desire to physically fight. When we feel the urge to fight, our sub-communications tell the story: an aggressive stance, clenched fists, gnashed teeth, hard eye contact, getting up in the other dude’s grill.
Your subcoms will vary depending on whether you’re comfortable or uncomfortable. Comfortable people give off a sense of high confidence, well-being and contentment. Those who are uncomfortable appear to have low confidence and seem stressed and possibly afraid.
To assuage ourselves of this discomfort, we employ pacifying behaviors. In kids, these maneuvers are easily apparent, such as thumb-sucking. But as we grow out of these babyisms, the pacifying becomes less recognizable: chewing gum, biting fingernails, munching a pencil. While the child tries to hide from a stranger behind mom’s leg, we as adults use our beer bottle to hide behind. When we don’t have a beer bottle, we touch briefly at our nose or throat. Different behaviors, same drive: to alleviate our discomfort.
Types of Anxiety
Anxiety is a constellation of symptoms including elevated heart rate and breathing, excessive sweating, sometimes chills, the feeling of doom, a racing mind and oh yeah … all those voices. Our discomfort may not always escalate to the point of anxiety, if, for example, we defuse that fear with self-pacification.
In many cases, the anxiety is so deeply ingrained subconsciously, that it is completely unreasonable. You are incapable of resolving the anxiety by talking yourself out of it. In other cases, the fear is not as deep, driven instead by too much mental noise, which can be voluntarily quieted. See my article, “Seven Tips for Inner Clarity,” for further discussion of this.
Social anxiety. This encompasses any fear of interacting with people, and at its extreme can include agoraphobia, the fear of leaving your home. One aspect of agoraphobia is the shame involved in having a debilitating panic attack out in public. Normal kids can have a degree of developmental social anxiety, but when it persists into adulthood and impairs social functioning, there’s a problem. Often, it appears as shyness, stage fright and avoidance of public gatherings.
Approach anxiety. One form of social anxiety is AA, the fear of approaching people. You may do well when introduced to a girl in your group of friends, but the thought of approaching that same girl as a stranger in a bar would trigger anxiety. That fear can affect you simply asking a waitress for a napkin or a checking out at a supermarket. AA is to be distinguished from a mild version which has been called approach reluctance. AA is truly paralyzing, whereas AR is a nagging internal dialogue around which you can still function.
Trigger anxiety. Not much is said about this fear, that of “pulling the trigger.” But fear of escalating is every bit as real as AA. It happens when you’re having a great interaction with a chick, and when that impulse comes to escalate, you don’t do it. You get in your head and in spite of the cues, the set fizzles out. You get angry with yourself, she simply assumes you’re not attracted to her. Getting past TA involves a series of verbal and physical steps, a thorough game plan designed to handle both the escalation and the potential rejection.
Sexual anxiety. You may be able to get a girl into bed, but then blow it because of all the crazy talk in your head. You get flaccid, which makes matters worse, making you feel like less of a man. Huge frustration for all parties involved. Often, the mere anticipation of sex can trip you up, long before the opportunity actually arises. SA is a kind of performance anxiety, but largely is a result of you not being present with the woman (or women) in bed with you. That is, rather than clearing your mind and only acting from your core as a sexual being, your mind is distracted by crap like your cock size.
In my second article on fear management, I’ll discuss methods of getting a handle on your fears.
About Dr. Evan Marlowe Evan Marlow is the dean and founder of Man School. You can visit at Manschool.cc