Exposure Therapy: Facing Your Fears, One Step at a Time

You master the fear.  Then you move to the next step. 

How do you get better from having too many fears that might be inhibiting your life?  One is you have to face your fears.  I'll give you a couple of anecdotes.  One is personal in terms of my own family.  I have five children and when we were raising our children every year we would go to a national park in the United States.  We would go camping and hiking and climbing and so forth and at some point some of my kids weren't so excited about that and in fact, they were becoming fearful.

There was one episode when one of my daughters - she was around 12 or 13 - we were hiking up a mountain and the clouds came in and we got a little bit lost and she became afraid and she said to me that she "despised me."  It came from her soul.

I didn't take it personal and over the years we continued to do the camping and my kids were a little bit out of their comfort zone, but they were able to overcome that.  What happened to that 13 year-old girl who said she despised me on a mountain?  Well now she is 30 years-old and a mother and last winter she went to Yellowstone National Park in the winter climbing mountains.  Even though she was afraid I didn't totally respond to that and over many years it became a very enjoyable part your life.  You want to face your fears, but you want to do it in a way that is one step at a time, so if you're afraid of something you approach it one step at a time.  You master the fear.  Then you move to the next step.  You master that fear and before you know it you're where you want to be.  That's called exposure therapy.

Even the Special Forces, when we interviewed the Special Forces to ask them how did you train yourself to get in an airplane, which they do, in the middle of the night, parachute out of that airplane into enemy territory and have to do some really dangerous things.  How did you get to that point to be able to handle that fear?  And he said, "One step at a time."  Face your fears. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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