Fear is a complex emotion which is extremely difficult to define but somehow manages to rule us. When we talk about fear, most of us will feel uneasy with our minds filling up with either an unpleasant experience or emotion. Though humans have progressed by leaps and bounds over the years in every aspect, understanding fear and how it affects our lives is something which is still very difficult for us to grasp.
What is fear?
In simple words, fear is an emotion which, when felt by the body at a time when it feels under threat or in danger, signals the brain to release a rush of adrenaline. Although it is termed as a negative emotion, it is something which every human being must live with. Those who proudly claim that they aren’t afraid of anything are either children who don’t understand it or adults who aren’t being entirely honest.
Fear is an emotion which stays with us from our birth till our last breath. More importantly, it is an emotion which can shape a person’s mental and physical health and well-being. With the correct approach to fear, however, you can learn how to face and overcome it.
How do we go wrong?
As I have mentioned before, fear is generally known to be a negative emotion. Though I can’t exactly dispute that, the fact is that there is more to fear than just that.
When we are afraid of something, our body goes into ‘fight or flight’mode. This means that the level of adrenaline in our body increases and we are prepared to act. Students often joke that the best time to study is right before the test. Though not recommended, it is often true. This is because we are so scared at that point that our brain goes into overdrive and we are able to get through more material than we would in a normal situation. Basically, our fear works with us and helps us achieve things we didn’t think were possible.
Unfortunately, the way we deal with fear at a young age is often wrong, leading to serious repercussions at a later age where our suppressed fear manifests in physical symptoms such as heart disease, chronic illness, anxiety, and depression.
Let’s delve deeper into this.
The way we react to fear as an adult stems from how our guardians have taught us to deal with fear when we were kids. An example will help you understand better.
A woman who faces regular abuse from her partner will nearly always tell her distraught children that everything is ‘okay’ or ‘fine.’ As a result, the children, who don’t know any better, are conditioned to believe that even during times of stress or when they are afraid, they must behave as if nothing is the matter. This is something which is nearly as bad as the trauma itself. Because they suppress their reaction to fear at such an impressionable young age, their body goes into a prolonged state of shutdown. This is due to the warring emotions in their body – on the one hand, the body is being told to fight and tackle the fear while on the other hand, it is being told to go into flight mode and ignore the fear.
Eventually, because we keep all our emotions bottled up, we grow up feeling constantly lethargic and drained of energy as our fear never has an outlet and consumes us from within.
What can we do to fix this?
When parents tell their children that everything is ‘okay,’ they are usually doing what they think is right – parents aren’t given the much-needed education on how these things can affect their children in the long run.
As an adult, however, knowing how to deal with your fears is an essential part of living life to the fullest. Here are some tips to help you out in this regard.
Face your fears
This is the most difficult step when it comes to moving past your fears.
Fear is often irrational; once you start rationalising your fears, it becomes easier for you to act. Taking a deep breath, evaluating whether your fears are justified or not, and then determining what steps you can take to minimise the chances of them being realised is sure to pacify your anxiety.
Additionally, think back to all the times you thought something bad was going to happen but it didn’t. This will help you realise that a lot of your fears are your own creations and exist only in your mind – if you analyse them carefully, they are mostly baseless and should be treated as such.
Confront past trauma
Individuals who have faced mental, physical or sexual abuse or trauma normally undergo depression and anxiety later in life. This is because they haven’t been able to deal with the pain and the fear that resulted from the episode. As a result, they keep on remembering the past trauma but don’t know how to confront it.
Discussing what you faced and how it affected you, especially with someone who has faced the same problems or who experienced the situation with you is paramount to overcoming the trauma you went through and haven’t been able to escape.
Get professional help
Though the idea of going to a professional therapist who can help you deal with your fears has become increasingly common today, many people are still unwilling to take the help they need because of the associated stigma.
It is important to understand that if you have suppressed fear in your childhood, it will definitely manifest later on in your life. Understanding this and then taking the right steps or obtaining proper help can go a long way.
To be in your best state of health, establishing a relationship with your fears where they are enough to prevent you from becoming too self-assured but don’t let you become too afraid to live life is necessary. Only with such a mindset can you tackle life head-on and live it to the fullest.