Image by Kriss Szkurlatowski

© Gaye Wilson 2010

I’ve heard of people being paralysed with fear before, and I’ve seen it – they go rigid, stare into space, and can’t move. It takes ages to come out of it.

But paralysed BY fear? I’m not talking about the person who’s afraid of heights who freezes when he sees a long drop, although it’s related. I’m talking here about being so afraid of something that hasn’t happened yet that you can’t do anything. This type of paralysis isn’t so much a physical paralysis as a mental one. (Trust me, there’s a subtle difference!)

I’m in that situation now. I’m paralysed by fear about my studies.

My penultimate Russian exam is in a week’s time, but I can’t make myself study. I’m afraid I will fail.

There are all sorts of reasons why this is a reasonable fear. The major one (and ultimately the only one that really counts as far as the exam is concerned) is that I haven’t studied enough. Why? Because I have experienced the absolute worst six months in my entire life, and study has been at the bottom of my list of things to do and worry about.

The problem now is how to get out of my funk and do enough study to pass the exam.

Yesterday, when I mentioned that I was having trouble motivating myself to study, someone said to me: “Just do it!”

Hmm, it’s actually not that easy to “just do it” when you’re afraid. If I could “just do it”, I’d be a billionaire by now. But the definition of courage is to take action when you are afraid. If there’s no fear involved, it’s not courage.

Here are some thoughts on how to get out of paralysis that is caused by fear:

1. Acknowledge the fear.

Realise that the fear is what is stopping you from moving forward, not the actual task. Once you’ve acknowledged that it’s actually fear that is the obstacle, you might be able to move away from it.

2. Acknowledge where you are.

Okay, you’ve realised that you’re paralysed by fear. Now look at where you are in relation to the achievement of your goal. Where did you stop in the process? Once you know where you are, you can start to figure out what you have to do from now on.

3. Take one small step NOW to rectify the problem.

What one thing can you do today to move you forward? Do that one thing. Then do another one.

4. Enlist help.

In my case, I can enlist help from the lecturer (done that, she’s very supportive), from fellow students, from friends, from family. The type of help obviously depends on the type of problem. For me, the obvious help would be to get someone to test me on vocabulary. And/or to get a Russian friend.

5. Talk to a coach or counsellor.

Coaches are amazing people. They can motivate, stimulate and rejuvenate. They have tricks up their sleeves that will move the most stubborn blocks. Counsellors do something similar, but might be more suited to working out why you have the block in the first place.

6. Realise that this too will pass.

Most things in life are temporary. Once you realise that the situation you’re in has a sunset clause (i.e. it won’t last beyond a certain date), you can work through it. The thing now is to get through this period with the best possible outcome.

7. Focus.

Work out the best possible outcome under the circumstances, and focus on how you will achieve it.

The trick is obviously not to let fear paralyse you in the first place, but if you do find yourself in that position, screw up your courage, get help and take baby steps towards your goal.

Now I’m going to go away and learn ten Russian words. And hope that helps to banish the fear just a little bit.

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25 Responses to “Paralysed by fear? How to overcome it.”

  1. Tammy Barbee on July 9th, 2010 12:31 pm


    I hear you. I had that fear before I started my class on July 6, 2010. It has been a while since I have been in school and the fear of failure was bothering me. But I reached out to my sister who and she kept telling me to say I can do it. So I feel like I am doing it to best of my ability and scheduling the time when need to study.

  2. Cheryl Gowin on November 9th, 2010 10:43 am

    The fear of failure is a big wall to moving forward. But you may also be using this fear as a means for not studying so when you fail, you have an excuse .. well I didn’t study.

    Get a friend to help you study.. but make sure it someone who will help .. not help you avoid the task.

  3. Mark - Wealth Coach on December 10th, 2010 7:20 am

    Identifying your fear is the best advice. When you identify it, now take action to gradually lessen your fear in smaller steps as explained above.

  4. Angela C. on January 17th, 2011 2:12 am

    I love that you pointed out the subtle distinction between physical and mental paralysis. That is so true. It is not necessarily the object of our fear that can be so paralyzing. It is the fear itself and the anticipation of said object or event.Great point!

  5. Wingrove on February 5th, 2011 9:44 am

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  6. Guerette on February 14th, 2011 6:49 am

    Your blog is really awesome. I usually don’t see this type of unique content on most blogs. Thanks so much for posting this. Have a great day!

  7. Klaman on February 15th, 2011 9:09 am

    What a great site you have here. A lot of blogs just post worthless content, but you actually have some stuff to say. Thanks a lot for posting!

  8. Ungenita Katrina Prevost on March 6th, 2011 12:54 am

    I agree with the fact that people go into depression due to certain happenings of their life.
    If they take help of a good counselor whether it is relationship problem, career issue or anything. They can easily get out of that fear and move forward in their life.

    This is a nice post and I appreciate it

  9. Kristyn on May 26th, 2011 6:06 am


    I think that being paralyzed by fear, in opposition to fear, is the motivating factor in a lot of people who suffer from anxiety disorders. When I was in school, I would become overwhelmed with the uncertainty of the future – school loans, the job market, finals – but my dad gave me the best advice that day. My dad never went to college, but it was the wisest thing I’d ever heard. He said, “Just focus on today”. Since then, my entire perspective on life has changed. All of our worries can’t add a single moment to our lives – so focus on today and where you’re at right now.

  10. Justin Higgins on May 31st, 2011 1:53 pm

    When you acknowledge the fear it is a recognition that something has been taking your power. That’s right! Remember that giving your power away is a choice. You are empowered to create your destiny so don’t let others take what isn’t theirs.

    Each and everyday is an opportunity to do something great for yourself. You deserve it!
    Whatever you do for self improvement will go a long way. Validate yourself and share those dreams you have with others you trust.

    Challenge will always be apart of our lives. We will continually find that our best selves shine when acknowledging victory before the battles even begin! Hold your head high and live to conquer all obstacles in your path!

  11. CV on October 31st, 2011 2:23 pm

    Congratulations on having 1 of the most sophisticated blogs Ive arrive throughout in some time! Its just incredible how much you can take away from a little something simply because of how visually beautiful its. Youve put collectively a great blog space great graphics, videos, layout. This is unquestionably a must-see blog!

  12. steve werner on November 1st, 2011 10:28 am

    Some great insight!

    I learned along time ago that there are two things in life that can paralyze you.

    Regrets of the past and fear of the future.

    Thanks for pointing out some key methods in dealing with the latter.


  13. steve werner on November 25th, 2011 5:10 am

    “regrets of the past-fear of the future” the two are equally as paralyzing.

    when I hear folks say “I just need to fighure it out” I detect fear immediately.

    Thanks for the insight


  14. steve werner on November 25th, 2011 5:11 am

    “regrets of the past-fear of the future” the two are equally as paralyzing.

    when I hear folks say “I just need to figure it out” I detect fear immediately.

    Thanks for the insight


  15. clement sadjere on December 8th, 2011 4:21 am

    i am impressed by your blog especially the quality of your post. To me, fear is the No 1 killer of destiny and if one cannot stand up and face his/her fear squarely, its impossible to achieve success in life.

  16. Kent Julian on March 16th, 2012 3:21 pm

    Thank you for sharing this to us. I agree with what you said that courage is to take action when you are afraid. If there’s no fear involved, it’s not courage. And definitely you have the courage to face your fears. Kudos to you!

  17. Kelly G. on March 18th, 2012 6:03 pm

    Great post and good food for thought.

  18. Tom Hudson on March 26th, 2012 12:07 pm

    I like what you’ve said. Consider this though. Fear like all the baser emotions have their origins in the domain of the Reptilian Brain Complex, fight / flight instinctual survival portion of the brain which has no capacity to perceive other than threat of the protoplasmic survival. It’s evolutionary programming at its most basic state.
    There is another center of the brain which Eckhart Tolle references in his “The Power of Now”; the frontal lobe of the cerebrum. It is from this conscious awareness that we have the ability to contemplate actions and effects separate from the moment in which stimulus impacts our senses thereby allowing us to develop principles by which to live rather than succumb to the biological protect mechanisms of survival of the species. It is this brain from which we can perceive awareness of self and awareness of others as distinct entities and from which we can perceive the possibility of the existence of God. This aspect of the brain does not perceive fear. So then the question is how do we access this part of the brain, authorize it to have control of our awareness and live in the awareness of what fear is but also the absence of its threat to disrupt our lives.

  19. ianrod2000 on March 30th, 2012 1:53 am

    I like the ackronym (why are some words so difficult to spell!!!) that helps me very much when I think of fear. It stands for:


    I find that this helps a lot, particularly in a pressured work environment.

  20. clement sadjere on April 6th, 2012 8:08 am

    Fear is a killer that can really deny one of the goodness of God. Thanks for your wonderful and inspiring content.

  21. Gaye Wilson on April 7th, 2012 4:31 pm

    Hi Ian,
    Thanks for that acronym. I learnt it as:

    Which really means that fear is false. Who was it that said We have nothing to fear but fear itself?

  22. Suzanne on October 11th, 2012 7:59 am

    Ooh boy. This post was just what I was looking for. Fear is what keeps most of us where we are. It takes a truly motivated person to move beyond their fears. Seeking help is what has turned it around for me. Hypnotherapy and meditation help to move past fear and into changing your life for good.

  23. youtube on July 2nd, 2014 1:15 am

    That’s a beneficial article. I love this website. Appreciate
    your blogging.

  24. Kris S. Shellman on January 25th, 2015 6:40 pm

    Overcoming fear is really hard if you don’t want to overcome it. Thank you for such great life coaching.

  25. How to Keep Fear From Being a Mind Killer | KTG on October 28th, 2015 12:34 am

    […] researching this topic, I found an excellent blog on the topic from Gaye Wilson. She recommends several steps for overcoming fear that include […]

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