• Curt Mercadante

3 Tips to Reboot Your Fear Programming (Fear, Love, & Creativity Series)

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"Chronic" fear isn't a weakness. It's not innate. It's not something with which you were born.

It's malware.

It's was programmed into you somewhere during your life.

For example, for most of my life, I've believed that I've had a fear of heights. This might be because my dad had a fear of heights about which he and my mom would talk when we crossed bridges, etc. I actually remember my dad once saying that whenever we drove over a tall bridge, he'd have these visions of losing control of the car and driving right off the bridge.

That was somehow programmed into him.

And it was programmed into me.

Maybe it's a fear of heights. Perhaps it's a fear of spiders. Or any number of fears that grips many in our society today — causing us to live in collective state of hyper-cortisol.

Yes, fear is a survival mechanism. But chronic fear is a killer.

The good news is that you can reprogram yourself. Here are three actionable tips to do so...

Ask "How Will I Feel When I Succeed" Instead of "What if I Fail?"

When you live in a chronic "worst case scenario" mindset, your mind remains focused on failure.

For example, if I come upon a high ridge on a hike, my "default" programming causes my mind to ask, "what if I fall and die/break a leg?"

So, on my hike yesterday, I came upon a climb on a bridge and instead envisioned how I would feel when I got to the top of the vista. I envisioned the view from the top, what it would feel like, and what it would look like.

When I climbed and got to the top of the vista, I felt like I already had been there. Because when you pair a vision with a strong emotion, your brain doesn't know the difference between your future vision and an actual memory. If you constantly envision failure, your brain thinks you've already been there, and it continues to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

When I deliver keynotes, I try to get a picture of the stage and room beforehand, so that when I practice, I envision that I'm delivering the speech in the actual room. After days and weeks of practicing with that vision, I regularly get on the actual stage, feeling like I've already been there.

Start putting yourself in the emotion of "how will I feel when I succeed" instead of the emotion of "what if I fail?"

Be Aware, Not Afraid

"Be careful!"

"Be safe!"

These phrases are all-too-common from a parent to their child, whether they're going off to school or to the park with their friends.

During the COVID era, it was so common for people to sign off their emails and phone calls with, "Stay safe!"

Don't get me wrong — it's all well-meaning, but that type of constant hyper-safety programming can have a drastic impact.

A society that is in a constant "be careful!" collective consciousness is one that desires to be enveloped in bubble wrap. City pools closing due to safety and liability issues. Parents no longer allowing their kids to go out and player in the neighborhood.

A few years ago, my wife let our kids climb trees in a city park in Charleston, SC. A city worker appeared to tell her that climbing trees isn't allowed.

"Somebody could get hurt!"

And I won't even get into wrongheaded COVID lockdowns that may destroy more lives than they save.

My wife and I both realized we were saying "be careful" too much. So we try to replace it with:

"Be aware" or "pay attention."

To be sure, situational awareness is key. A few years ago, in my concealed carry permit course, the instructor shared a video with several scenes of people staring at their cell phone screens while they walked into walls, other people, and even into a fountain.

Not being aware puts you at risk.

When my son and I were hiking a few weeks ago, I urged him to "be aware but not afraid." If we added up all the dangers in the world that exist, we would never leave the house.

Be aware. But don't be afraid.

There is a big difference.

Turn Off the News

In my recent interview with Randy Gage, he made the assertion (as he does in his book, Radical Rebirth) that human evolution is now impacted more by memetics (mind viruses) than genetics.

I couldn't agree more.

As he writes in Radical Rebirth...

You can watch Fox News because you desire a conservative viewpoint, or MSNBC because you desire a liberal viewpoint, yet still recognize you’re being exposed to a level of propaganda that Joseph Goebbels could only dream of.

Yes, the mind viruses are swirling around us.

I call it "Fear Pornography."

And the fear pornographers profit when we are fearful, because that fear makes us click and makes us stare at the screens longer. When that happens, they sell ads. Then they deliver more fear porn, and we stare longer.

Turn off the fucking news.

"But, Curt, how will I remain informed?"

There's a big difference between being informed and being obsessed.

We have a "no news" policy in our home, and yet I know everything I need to know about what's going on in the world. Because people tell me. It's hard not to absorb information through osmosis with the sheer amount of information that comes from everywhere.

Turn off the news.

Tune out the noise.

Focus on your signal.

Yes, fear is a natural, innate survival mechanism.

But "chronic" fear is malware. You can begin to reprogram with some of the tips listed above.

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