What is Fear?
Fear is an unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, whether it’s real or imagined.
Fear is a powerful emotion that is critical for keeping us alive by alerting us to the presence of danger. It’s a universal emotion experienced by everyone all over the world.
What Causes Fear?
Fear is a complex emotion that can be the result of past experiences or trauma. Sometimes it can be the result of the loss of control over a particular situation where there is a perceived sense of danger.
Common Fear Triggers:
- Darkness or Loss of Visibility of Surroundings
- New Experiences
- Lack of Awareness
- Heights of Flying
- Social Interactions and/or Rejection
- Snakes, Rodents, Spiders and other Animals
- Death and Dying
How Fear Affects Your Mind and Body?
The region of the brain called the amygdala is where the fear response starts. The body then goes through changes that prepare us to be more efficient in a situation of perceived danger. For example, the brain becomes hyper alert, pupils dilate, the bronchi dilate and breathing accelerates and heart rate and blood pressure rise.
Fear is an emotion that is divided into two responses:
- Biochemical: In a biochemical reaction our bodies respond to a perceived threat in specific ways. These are universal reactions that include physical reactions such as sweating, increased heart rate and high adrenaline levels that make us more alert. This physical response is also known as the “fight or flight” response in which our bodies prepare themselves to either face a perceived danger or run away from it. This is an automatic response that is crucial to our survival.
- Emotional: The emotional response of fear tends to be highly personalized. The chemical reactions in our brain that are involved in positive emotions like happiness and excitement are also involved in fear. For example feeling fear under certain circumstances can be seen as fun, such as a ride on a roller coaster.
Ways To Overcome Fear
How do you overcome fear?
Acclimation: Acclimation is the repeated exposure to similar situations that leads to familiarity. This forms the basis for the treatment of phobias by helping to minimize the fear response.
Systematic Desensitization (SD): This is a behavioral technique used to treat fear, along with underlying anxiety and phobias. It’s a slow and gradual process that takes an average of 6 to 8 sessions and the longer the technique the more effective it is.
Flooding: This is an exposure technique that’s based on the premise that your fear is a learned behavior and you need to unlearn it. It involves intense one day sessions of only one day where a patient faces what they fear immediately until their anxiety decreases vs. multiple sessions with Systematic Desensitization. Since only one session is needed flooding costs less than SD, however flooding is also seen as less ethical due to the intense psychological distress during the one day sessions.
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Shifting Your Perspective About Fear
Along with seeking therapy to help overcome fear it also helps to know what purpose that fear serves.
There are some people that live their lives in fear; this can result in chronic anxiety that leads to a life that tends to be a small and shrunken substitute for what it could’ve been all because they’re afraid their fear will cause them to fail, to be hurt or freeze up when exposed to the unknown.
What if you stop and realize that just like every other force in the universe fear serves a purpose.
The purpose of fear is to motivate action not to cause us to freeze up when an unknown situation comes up. For example an animal that senses that danger is nearby is not going to escape from it by freezing up, instead it puts into action avoidance, preparation and an increase in concentration.
Fear will often arise when you’re trying something new due to great gains and losses being at stake. When this fear occurs some people may stop and think about what the purpose of what they fear and then proceed no further. Others may stop and think about it then proceed with more courage.
What is Courage?
Courage is the ability to do something or confront something that causes you pain, grief or uncertainty. It listens to fear, but at the same time not undermined by it.
The courage to move forward into the unknown has the benefit of increasing our level of consciousness and focus, which leads to more wisdom to overcome fear instead of seeing it as something that has control over your life.
What Do You Fear?
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