Fears: What Are They, How Do They Develop, Are They Rational?

fear– Fear is the sensation of “expectation with alarm.” It is the emotion we experience when our autonomic nervous system releases adrenaline, energizing us for “fight or flight.” In this sense fear functions as an absolutely necessary wake-up call motivating us to be hyper-alert, particularly when facing imminent danger. This hyper-alertness enables us to adopt a call-to-action to adequately protect ourselves from anticipated harm.

– Fear develops because most often we identify with it through our negative personal experiences. As a result, it does not logically follow that the way we react to fear is always appropriate. It becomes the worrier in our head that interprets a situation to mean the worst will happen. Then once we become frightened into believing the worst, automatically we begin the process of scanning our world for evidence to support our limiting beliefs. We are then examining fear in an un-empowered way.

– Most fears are irrational. The majority of what we fear is a product of our own personal, negative self-programming. This in turn, makes us feel helpless and fuels the desire to run away.

So how do you get past your fear of something? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Notice it. When you’re afraid, simply step back and acknowledge it. Don’t try to analyze, understand, assess or figure it out – just notice; that’s all. Stepping back helps you gain perspective and serves as a temporary respite from the concerns associated with the fear. Put another way, you’re able to give yourself some emotional space.
  2. Distinguish what is real from what is imagined. Most fear is associated with future “what-ifs” and past “could’ve- beens,” but some of it is legitimately in the present. For example, if you were to say something silly at a business meeting and it embarrasses you, that is real. Concluding, however, that you will never be taken seriously by your colleagues again and that you will lose your job is likely imaginary.
  3. Ask questions. What is this fear really about? If it came true, what would that mean? What is this fear keeping me from doing? What other questions do these questions raise? If queries such as these seem useless to you, remember this: poor logic lies at the root of practically all fear.
  4. Professional assistance. If fear is immobilizing you, or in some other way interfering with your activities of daily living, the services of a trained therapist or counselor may be worth considering. Phobias respond quite favorably to intervention strategies tailored to your specific needs.

We all struggle with fear because of its association with the way we human beings are wired. The challenge is to understand and change the way we respond to it. The next time you’re experiencing fear, don’t F orget E verything A nd R un, decide instead to F ace E verything A nd R emain.

Joseph Wegmann, R.Ph., LCSW is a licensed clinical pharmacist and a clinical social worker with more than thirty years of experience in the field of psychopharmacology. His diverse professional background in psychopharmacology and counseling affords him a unique perspective on medication management issues. In addition to consulting with numerous psychiatric facilities, he has presented psychopharmacology seminars to thousands of clinicians in 46 states.

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