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How to Overcome Fear In Self Defense and Life

How do you stop the fight or flight fear response from controlling you?

Fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.” - Suzy Kassem

What is Fear?

Fear an unpleasant emotion for many that is caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous and likely to cause pain or a threat. Fear is the most powerful of all emotions. Fear can overcome even the strongest parts of our intelligence.

How to Overcome Fear In Self Defense and Life
How to Overcome Fear In Self Defense and Life

Fight or Flight and Freeze Response

Does fear serve a very important role? What is it for? Fear helps protect human beings by alerting us to danger and prepares us to deal with it. Feeling afraid is very natural — and helpful — in many situations. Fear can be a signal that cautions us to be careful. Everyone instinctively responds to fear and stress situations differently

Some individual's reaction is to attack the immediate thereat and flip the switch from friendly to the enemy without flinching.

Other people take off and run while others "freeze" completely and metaphorically go into their foxhole until the barrage is over and it's safe to come out.

What Are the Fight, Flight, and Freeze Reactions?

The fight or flight and freeze response to acute stress is an automatic reaction that takes over when humans come under a form of distress.

The distress could be from a sudden rush of emotion, like fear, or a modern-day psychological threat like public speaking.

It is a rush of hormones that are triggered by your brain, to activate a series of reactions, which is intended to help you perform better. Commonly referred to as the adrenaline dump it's your primal and natural response to intense fear.

Fear triggers a complex set of biological responses in one's body that are part of the "fight or flight" response, which is an evolutionary survival mechanism. When faced with a perceived threat or danger, the body prepares to either confront the threat (fight) or escape from it (flight). The following graph illustrates an overview of the biological effects of fear on the body:

Effects of fear on the body biologically
Effects of fear on the body biologically

What Are The Top Benifits of Fear Biologically

Many different signs show up when the response kicks in and it varies from person to person. Here are a few:

Your, pupils, may get dilated to allow for more light to enter the eyes, and that makes for better vision. Improved vision helps you see attacks more easily and be more vigilant of your environment.

Increases stamina and strength. Your heart rate and rate of breathing increases to rush more energy and oxygen to strengthen the muscles and brain function.

Injury resentence. You might become pale or flushed due to the increase of blood flowing through your body, . This response also improves your blood clotting ability to help prevent blood loss in the event of injury.

Shaking or trembling is seen as a bad response, but it means that your muscles are being stimulated for action!

Hyper Sensitive Startle Flinch. Hypersensitivity is controlled by the subconscious mind. During stress, some odors might draw your attention, colors and lights might trigger emotions and the slightest touch on your skin can make you react.

Increase pain tolerance. I didn't feel a thing! It's a common response from people after trauma that they only started to feel the pain after the confrontation? It can be of great advantage when faced with a life-or-death situation.

So we are saying we can have the following benefits what are we sacrificing? Let's take a look;

Some Other Responses of Fear Biologically:

  • Pale skin

  • Sweating

  • Fast breathing

  • Watery eyes

  • Trembling - Facial twitches “grimacing”

  • Major muscle tension

  • Dry mouth & throat

  • Increase in blood pressure

  • Increase pulse rate

  • Impaired vision

  • Stomach & bladder stops functioning

Mental Fight or Flight Fear Response:

A dramatic decline in conscious logical thinking and loss of concentration. The subconscious mind takes over “instinct” People expereince memory fade: You might remember things clearly, partially, or nothing at all!

Sometimes your body wants to get rid of extra weight or unnecessary tension. People have urinated themselves and worst. Don't worry its normal.

Visual fight or flight fear response:

  • Tunnel vision

  • Blurred or magnified vision

  • Loss of vision

Auditory fight or flight fear response:

  • Selective hearing

  • Hearing is blocked or dampened

Physical fight or flight fear response:

  • “Freezing” - denial

  • The decline in fine motor control

  • Defecating, urinating, and nausea

  • Fainting

  • Lack of reality perception

  • Daydreaming

  • Mental Memory Flashes

  • Distraction

  • Physical Discomfort

Can it be controlled or re-trained?

We tend to exaggerate our abilities under normal conditions, and when suddenly met with aggression or stressors, the lack of control is visible. For some, they may be either overly aggressive in non-life-threatening situations, such as someone simply wanting to frighten you, and others might be too docile when it's time to be more aggressive, like when facing a life or death situation.

Training Prior- Gradually progressive desensitization through training. Desensitization is a treatment or process that diminishes emotional responsiveness to a negative, aversive, or positive stimulus after repeated exposure to it. It helps in all areas of your life.

Accept fear as what it is, a natural response, and not a moral failing.

Controlling your breathing beforehand.

Not understanding or controlling fear could make you more stressy. Your brain may be having a hard time differentiating life-threatening and non-life-threatening situations.

Obviously many of us run our minds and bodies under a constant state of stress needlessly which causes other problems.

How Can I Overcome My Fears

Stress Inoculation Training (SIT) is a technique that's often used in self-defense and other high-stress situations to help people develop the skillsets and mental grit that reqired to manage stress, fear, and anxiety during confrontational situations. The goal is to prepare people to perform more efffectivly when under stress or duress.

Stress Inoculation Training involves exposing individuals to controlled levels of stress and anxiety in a gradual and systematic manner. The techniques starts at a low level stress point and is gradually amped up in small increments.

The goal is to help people become accustomed to the physiological and psychological responses that occur during high-stress events, such as physical altercations or threatening encounters.

They learn how theri body reacts to stressfull events and is conducted by a instructor that can talk them through some of the experieces.

By repeatedly experiencing stress in a controlled environment, individuals will become better equipped to handle real-world situations without becoming overwhelmed by fear or anxiety.

Educate Your Flight or Flight and Freeze Response

You will also be unable to recognize a real life-threatening situation when it calls for reaction from your flight or flight and freeze response. You need to learn more about yourself, both mentally and physically.

Learn what triggers your for fight or flight response? The activities described in this article can help you minimize the overwhelming emotion and what allows you to respond more preferably the next time the trigger appears.

It may be more sensible for you to hand over your possessions when confronted. You may need to put up the fight of your life in other situations.

Anaerobic or aerobic fitness can decrease stress overall, by improving heart-rate, better sleep, and increasing endorphins. Practical training, such as first-aid and some types of martial arts can greatly improve the way you react under stress.

You might find that spending time with friends, family members or your significant other reduces your stress levels. Social support is proven to be very helpful to reduce stress.

You can also reduce the less than ideal responses and improve performance. pressure testing using SBL scenario-based learning can introduce behavioral, emotional, and psychological elements into training through the use of scenario replication.

How Accepting Fear Can Benefit You

It might not seem so significant to try and improve your stress reactions and take more control over your natural responses such and not let the fight or flight and freeze response run amuck.

Getting more comfortable with fear can certainly help improve your reaction time, and help your decision making when you need to think and act fast. It also allows you to think more logically regarding whether you determine it is much better to run or to stand your ground.

Studying your own body and its natural responses are interesting and can improve your skillsets infinitely!

More How To Resources on How to Overcome Fear In Self Defense

Violence Prevention and Conflict Management Resources

The Center for Violence Prevention and Self-Defense Training (CVPSD) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing evidence-based training in violence prevention and self-defense. With a focus on unbiased program development, CVPSD offers customized programs to individuals and organizations, equipping them with the tools to enhance personal safety and contribute to violence prevention in their communities. The Center reaches individuals and communities through partnerships with schools and other nonprofits, community groups, as well as classes for the public.


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