Fear is a powerful, primitive response that is supposed to alert you to a threat. That threat can be physical, psychological and even imagined. Unmanaged fear is an underlying cause of stress and anxiety, but the good news is that it can be addressed and used positively.
There is a huge range of fears. There are healthy fears of real dangers. It’s developmentally appropriate for example, for young children to have a certain level of fear around people they don’t know. It’s also realistic for you to feel a level of fear doing something new that’s potentially dangerous. At the other end of the scale there are a multitude of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social anxiety disorders, and phobias. These diagnosed disorders all have elements of fear at their core.
Fear responses are very individual. Some kinds of fear can be enjoyable and even seen as necessary to some people. Being scared by watching a scary movie or terrifying yourself on the Tower of Doom at an amusement park are sought after experiences for many people. Extreme sports people and adventurers even crave the adrenalin and excitement that comes with activities that create fear.
Other people seek to avoid fear wherever possible. This can be limiting because there is likely to be a level of fear whenever you move outside your comfort zone and try something new.
An old acronym you may have heard of to describe fear is: False Evidence Appearing Real. This can be a useful way of looking phobias and other conditions where fears are unrealistic. But it’s not an effective way at looking at legitimate fears.
If you’re fearful because you’re investing your life savings in a new business venture, that’s a realistic fear. Many new businesses don’t survive. If you’re fearful about an exam, that’s legitimate because if you fail you may have to repeat a unit of study or not be able to work in the field that you want to.
An effective way of dealing with this kind of fear is: Face it, Evaluate, take Action, Re-evaluate.
Fears that aren’t faced don’t go aware they fester. It’s far better to face a fear. Acknowledge it as rationally and realistically as you can.
When Roosevelt said to the American people during the depression, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” he was talking about people rushing to the banks to withdraw their money. He went on to say: “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
Before taking action it’s important to remember that when you’re feeling afraid you may not be thinking clearly. Evaluating your fears and options before taking action is a valuable investment of time. Get feedback from people you trust to make sure that your perceptions are logical.
Action needs to be reasonable, realistic. Don’t make bad decision just to ease your fear if what you’re doing is legitimately scary. Fears can be managed by thoughts and actions. Keep your thoughts optimistically realistic, make the best choices you can and take the best actions you can to achieve the result you want.
Life is a constantly changing landscape. Decisions and actions need to be regularly reviewed to make sure that they’re still valid and meet the needs of all concerned.
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway is a book by the late Susan Jeffers. Jeffers claims that the underlying cause of fear is a lack of belief in your ability to cope with a certain situation or outcome. She says that only by doing the things you’re afraid of can you overcome your fears. In the process you will build your capabilities and your confidence.
Are Your Fears Stressing You?
Find out by taking our quick Free Stress Quiz.
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