The Crazy Thing About Fear

the crazy thing about fearDo you have any fears? Are you sure? See, if you are saying no right now, I’m sorry but you are definitely lying. We all have fears. They can be small fears, little jitters that you can have when you go to a new place or about to embark into a new challenge. Or they can be big fears like the fear of aliens traveling hundreds of lightyears in order to feed on the human race (ok, maybe I’ve seen too many science fiction movies but ok). When someone says that they are not afraid of anything, I do not really believe them. Everyone is afraid of something. However, some people are better able to deal with their fears than others.

The word fear originates in Germanic language and comes from the word faeran, which can also relate to frighten. The funny part is, according to Thesaurus.com, synonyms for fear are foreboding, apprehension and dread. I call that funny because these words are actually not at all related to the intrinsic reaction to fear, which is exactly what I want to talk about in this blog.

The response to fear is a very instinct one: fight or flight. When we are afraid, if something triggers fear in us, we either defend ourselves against it (fight) or we run away from it (flight). This is our basic instinct and is what we also see in all other living creatures on our planet. Whenever threatened, any animal on this planet will either run away or defend itself. A bunny can easily go about his business, eating a few pieces of grass here, a few flowers there and be perfectly calm and serene. Then it hears a fox creeping up. It freezes, it’s little ears twist and twirl around trying to locate the source. And as soon as the danger is confirmed, the bunny runs like the wind and disappears.

However, the biggest difference between you, me and that bunny is that, in the moments before the bunny became aware of that fox creeping up, it was absolutely calm and serene enjoying its lunch. And that’s where we differ from this little bunny or any animal: We tend to have a larger brain which we use more extensively. The bunny is triggered by the fox being actually present. We as humans would be triggered already by the thought that there could be a fox somewhere in the area, ready to eat us. Trust me, we would not be as calm and serene as that little bunny.

We humans, we are masters of disaster with our thoughts. Our brain can actually trick our body in believing that there is something around is that we should fear. Simple thoughts can make us nauseas, make our hands sweat and our heads tingle. Thoughts can give us emotions and feelings of being in danger. In short; thoughts can make us fight or flight.

Isn’t that absolutely weird?

I think it is. The power of imagination that we all have in us is a force to be reckoned with as its impact on our behavior is amazingly strong. I have fought fights based on the mere thought of something that could maybe, possibly happen (or not at all!). I am sure that you also have sometimes avoided doing something because the thought alone made you scared and gave you the choice to either fight or flight. And I am pretty sure that you have also fled once or twice in your life.

A more suitable example happened to me once. I started at a new gym in grouplessons and it was one of the first classes. Already during the drive home from work and during preparation, I started to think about this class and was wondering how it would be. I imagined only negative things, like the possibility that no one would want to team up with me. Or that maybe nobody would talk to me. Or that maybe I would look like a fool during the class. Or maybe… Or maybe …
Well, you get my drift.

I almost didn’t go to the class anymore. Until I realized that I was only imagining all the things that could go wrong. It kick started a fight or flight behavior in me. I got myself together, I went to the class and ended up having a great work-out. With fun people. It was awesome. And I would’ve missed that if I had listened to my fears.

I believe that 75% of the time, the fears that we experience have no actual ground. They are based on what ifs and could be’s. Which by definition makes them non-trustworthy. So it’s better to embrace these kind of fears. For me this means: whenever it makes me afraid, I know that I have a challenge ahead of me in growing. So whenever I feel any tingling of fear, I’ve decided to do the exact opposite of what my fear wants me to do. Ok, honestly I am still learning to master that because emotions are sometimes too powerful to let go, but you get my point.

There are also people who are fearless. Now, as mentioned before I do not believe that they are actually fearless. But I do believe that they are emotionally strong enough to differentiate and recognize the kind of fear that they are experiencing. Now, there are a few things that you can also do when you feel the fear creeping up on you:

  • Ask yourself if this is a genuine fear. Are you actually threatened in that moment?
  • Ask yourself what triggered the fear? What kind of behavior made you react like that?
  • Try to find a relation between the trigger of your fear and things that happened in your past. Our fears happen to have a funny way of being related to things that happened in your past
  • Work the source of your fear (that means going back into the past), don’t get angry on the trigger
  • Try to let go of the fear – embrace it, in a way, so that your brain can learn that the situation is actually no reason to give out these fear signals. With that, you will become more comfortable if the situation rises again in the future

What is your fear? And what do you do to work on it?

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