Today I have the honor of interviewing Taylor Clark, author of the BRILLIANT book Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Control. It’s amazing material, so I wanted to learn even more.
1. In all your interviews and discussions with brain experts, what study or piece of research about fear was most helpful to you in trying to overcome your own fear?
I actually have two answers to this question — or, rather, one answer and one clarification. I’ll offer the clarification first, because it’s absolutely vital to understanding how to deal productively with our fears: trying to “overcome” anxiety and phobias by doing battle against them just doesn’t work. (Believe me, this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way.) Even though anxiety can be uncomfortable, it’s really not our enemy; its purpose is to help keep us safe, not to ruin our lives.
In fact, one surprising thing I found in writing Nerve is that the biggest difference between our cool-headed heroes and the rest of us isn’t that those people are somehow fearless; it’s that they relate to their fears in a much more harmonious way than others do. In other words, these poised people have learned to work with their fears rather than against them — they don’t get preoccupied with their nerves or struggle to eradicate their anxiety — and this important shift frees them to focus on the moment and perform their best.
When we begin to make friends with fear, our problems with it evaporate. So, as I say in my book, we don’t need to triumph over our fears; we just need to learn how to be afraid.
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