How to Switch Off the Fear Gear, by Libby Gill.
A team of neuroscientists, headed by Dr. Gregory Berns from Emory University, recently conducted a brain study where they placed subjects in an MRI scanner and hooked them up to electrodes.
The subjects were warned that they’d receive a shock, not harmful but definitely not pleasant, within a one to thirty-second time frame, which would be revealed to them each time in advance.
The scientists then monitored the subjects’ brain scans. Some subjects showed intense activity in the pain-processing areas of the brain well before they received their shock, indicating that the fear came from the idea of pain rather than actual pain. A third of the shock-ees actually preferred to receive a bigger shock immediately rather than wait the specified amount of time for the smaller shock.
Apparently, they were more fearful of the waiting period than of the shock itself. As Dr. Berns told the New York Times, “It sounds illogical, but fear – whether of pain or losing a job – does strange things to decision-making.” Dr. Berns also concluded that when our brains’ fear systems are actively engaged, other areas including risk-taking and exploration are turned off.
What does this mean for those of us who, while not hooked up to electrodes, may be waiting for our next shock? If we’re overly focused on fear, such as losing a job, a relationship or our savings, we’re less able to use the parts of our brains necessary for innovation. The irony is, of course, that as we succumb to the gloom-and-doom-mongers of the world, we’re creating a vicious cycle. By feeding on the fears of the media, co-workers, friends and family, our fears become normalized.
Here are some things you can do to shift out of fear gear and into innovation mode:
- Step away from the media. If all the negative reports freak you out, try a news diet. Give up TV newscasts, newspaper and online news sites for a week. If that’s too much of a stretch for you, at least limit your daily intake.
- Make a brag book about all the great things you have going on in your life. Include everything you’re grateful for. It’s hard to be scared when you’re being grateful.
- Listen to music that you love. It doesn’t matter if it’s rock, jazz, classical or Gregorian chant as long as it soothes, comforts, relaxes or inspires you. If switching to music helps you shut out talk radio or TV, so much the better.
Libby Gill is a business coach, brand strategist and best selling author. Her new book, YOU UNSTUCK: MASTERING THE NEW RULES OF-RISK-TAKING, is now available on Amazon.com.