What Is Fear and What to Do With it?

What Is Fear and What to Do About It

Fear is that complex and fundamental emotional response to a perceived threat or danger. It is a natural and adaptive mechanism that evolved over time to help organisms respond to potential threats in their environment.

When faced with a situation that is perceived as harmful, fear triggers a series of physiological and psychological changes to prepare the individual to confront or escape from the threat as in the “fight or flight” response.

While this mechanism played a vital role in human survival, the challenges we face as humanity have evolved, yet our “fight or flight” response hasn’t. But instead of fleetingly fleeing bears and lions, many people are experiencing these fear emotions all the time yet physically may be simply sitting at their desk. These days we refer to this fear as stress and we know that experiencing it for too long and chronically is just not good for us.  

Check out: What the Toltecs Taught about Choosing Love not Fear

The pervasive presence of fear in human experience

The pervasive presence of fear in human experience

Fear can manifest in various forms and intensities, ranging from mild unease to intense panic. Fears can be both rational responses to real and immediate threats or irrational fears triggered by imagined or exaggerated dangers. The perception of fear is subjective and closely tied to an individual’s beliefs, experiences and cultural influences.

As environments change over time, so do the nature of threats. Our fears have evolved with us and while fear is crucial for survival and has evolutionary roots, excessive, irrational fear is the cause of most human suffering. Fear is why we have borders, wars and divisive societies as it is the cause of actions such as greed or prejudice.

On the individual level, fear leads to anxiety and other mental and physical health issues. Irrational fear creating stress is just not good for us and it is in our power to change that emotion into one based on love. 

Understanding and managing fear is essential for maintaining emotional well-being and navigating the challenges of daily life. We all have fears but many people don’t realize that they have centered their lives around them.

So many people live in a constant state of fear with the emotion dictating what they think and how they act. Recognizing these fears and the awareness of their authentic source is the first step to understanding whether they are indeed warranted and how we can let them go.

Book review: “A Course in Miracles” by Helen Schucman Teaches Love Not Fear

Eliminating Fear: It all starts with mindset

Elimination Fear: It all starts with mindset

There are several mindsets that are interconnected with fear and influence how individuals perceive and respond to challenges or threats. Recognizing these patterns is what can allow for actionable steps to switch them. Here are a few mindsets that are based on fear:

Scarcity Mindset

A scarcity mindset involves the belief that resources are limited, leading to a fear of not having enough. Fear of scarcity can drive behaviors such as hoarding or an intense aversion to loss.

The opposite is an abundance mindset which focuses on the belief that opportunities and resources are plentiful. Embracing an abundance reduces fears related to competition for limited resources.

Victim Mindset

A victim mindset involves perceiving oneself as powerless and attributing negative outcomes to external factors. Fear can be linked to a sense of helplessness or an expectation of negative events, reinforcing the victim mentality.

The way to overcome feeling like a victim is to adopt a mindset of accountability, which means taking responsibility for one’s actions, decisions, and outcomes. It involves being proactive, owning up to mistakes, seeking to resolve past trauma and striving for continuous improvement. 

Fixed Mindset

In a fixed mindset, individuals believe their abilities and intelligence are fixed traits. Fear arises from the potential to expose perceived limitations, making challenges or failures more threatening.This limiting mindset is the opposite of a growth mindset, which views challenges as opportunities to learn and develop. Instead of avoiding difficulties, a growth mindset expects setbacks and views them as a chance to expand skills and knowledge.

From perfectionism and the belief that everything must be flawless to catastrophizing, which is imaging the worst-case scenario and risk-aversion driven by fear of the unknown or failure, many of these thought processes are embedded in our minds. If you stop to listen, you can hear them in the internal dialogue one has with themself. If there is a constant stream of negative and self-critical thoughts in your self-talk, you can bet on there being an irrational or exaggerated fear behind them.  

Without awareness, we can let our fears rule our lives. From taking care of our health and going to the doctor, to working solely to pay a mortgage to avoiding hard conversations or relationships altogether, many of us are ruled by fear but we don’t know it. 

While fear is crucial for survival, and will be ever-present, the way to use it to one’s benefit and to become resilient is to balance the feeling with exploration and curiosity. It means recognizing the source of the fear and choosing to change the thought and emotion to love. This may mean being vulnerable and it certainly means being courageous. 

Key Takeaway: We as people tend to act out of two emotions: “fear” or “love” and we can choose to turn our fears into thoughts and feelings that encapsulate love and act accordingly.

The Antidote to Fear is Courage

The Antidote to Fear is Courage

The opposite of fear is often considered to be courage, but courage is actually the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation without being overcome by those feelings.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the willingness to act in spite of it. Having courage is the process and the result of transforming fears into love. It implies taking positive and decisive actions, regardless of the presence of fear or discomfort such as facing challenges head-on even when there is risk involved.

When someone acts courageously, they demonstrate a capacity to move forward despite potential obstacles or uncertainties. Courageous individuals exhibit strength, bravery, and resilience in the face of adversity. Being courageous is in our power, it is making the choice to switch our fears into thoughts and feelings of love. 

The Formula for Overcoming Fear

Step1: Identify the Source

Understand the specific cause of your fear. Identifying the source can help you address it more effectively.

Step 2: Cognitive Restructuring

Challenge and reframe negative thoughts associated with fear. Consider more realistic and positive perspectives to shift your mindset.

Step 3: Be Courageous

Being courageous means going out on a limb to achieve the best possible scenario. It means actively overriding the fear for a greater purpose. It is the result of emotional intelligence turning the feeling of fear into love. 

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Leyla Ergil