Fear spares no one

We all experience fear in various forms. What tends to worry us most is not its existence, but rather its impact on our day to day life and the way it can transform us. Before going deeper into this topic, let me share with you a personal experience that made me consider fear from a new and different perspective.

My family and I were on holiday in Paris. What does the city of love and romance have to do with fear, you may ask. My children, who were aged eight and four at the time, wanted us to visit the Eiffel Tower. They wanted to go to the top by going up the stairs, to make it a funnier and more exciting experience. My husband immediately agreed but I was less enthusiastic. I was afraid of heights and merely the thought of it was enough to give me shivers and make me dizzy. My son, who was both frightened and excited at the same time, told me he would only go if I went too. I realized that I had only two options: step back and tell them I was too scared to join, or, take a deep breath and join them. By refusing to join in, I would not only succumb to my fear but I also risked leading my son to be afraid, as I had witnessed in my family before. If, however, I faced my fear and joined them, I could show my children that my fear would not deter me.

Symptoms of Fear

Fear has a significant effect on our mind and body. It is a natural response to a dangerous or threatening situation. Fear is necessary for our survival, as it elicits our responses to threats, thus allowing us to react to situations that endanger us. When we are afraid, we may experience the following physical symptoms:

• increased heart rate

• faster breathing

• sweating

• stomach aches

• muscle weakness

• dizziness

• dry mouth

• sluggishness

• loss of appetite

• hot or cold sweats

lego emoji fear
anxiety written in scrabble tiles

When Fear becomes Anxiety

If these symptoms become commonplace over an extended period of time, this fear becomes anxiety. Anxiety, in general, elicits feelings of worrying or fear, ranging from mild to severe, and usually involves a broader range of situations and issues, as there is often no specific event that causes it. Feeling anxious comes not only with the physical symptoms described above but also with psychological issues:

• Irritability

• Impatience

• inability to concentrate

• frequently feeling “on the edge”

• having trouble sleeping

• loss of self-confidence

• restlessness

If we experience extreme fear, that paralyses or overwhelms us, then we are experiencing a phobia. Phobias are more than just a simple fear. A phobia is a specific fear of an object, a place, a situation, an animal, or a person. If we have a phobia of something we feel we want to do anything possible to avoid it, and, we will often organize our entire life around avoiding it. Phobia is an anxiety disorder and there are many types of phobia: fear of spiders, snakes, dogs, heights, water, the dark, enclosed spaces, speaking in public, social phobia; and the list goes on.

So why do we fear? Quite simply, it is human nature to fear. We are built to experience fear, much like our experience of other emotions such as joy, courage, sadness, or loneliness. Fear can be extremely helpful as it assists us to avoid dangers, e.g. if we are scared the lion will eat us we don’t walk up to it and try to pat it. However, when fear takes over our lives, it becomes a more serious issue. If we allow our fear to change us and take control, we empower it. Trying to change human nature is improbable, but trying to change ourselves is a much more achievable goal.

How to Overcome your Fears

Here are a few steps to support you to overcome your fears, whether they are fears that are transmitted to you through family or loved ones, fears created by your own mind, or fears that arise from a traumatic event in your life:

  1. Realise or become conscious of your fears. Ask, ‘what fears do I have?’
  2. Try to better understand and know yourself. Ask, ‘how often do these fears interfere with my life?’ and ‘what are the situations that trigger these fears?
  3. Try to confront those fears by not feeling ashamed of them or feel guilty about them. Remember, everyone has fears.
  4. Ask for professional help if the process overwhelms you or it is too painful for you to go through it by yourself.

The act of asking for help when needed is just as important as the act of giving help. We can offer you support with anxiety and/or phobias via Phobia Therapy. Contact us to arrange a free consultation.

Returning to my previously mentioned experience in Paris, in the end, I chose to have a wonderful experience with my family and to break free from the vicious circle caused by my fear of heights. It was not a comfortable decision, as we all know that for change to happen we must remove ourselves from our comfort zone. The motivation to change must be bigger than the fear itself. And when examining our motivations for facing our fears, we might find it useful to ask ourselves two simple questions: What do I want my family members, friends, colleagues etc. to think about me? And, how would I like them to describe me after I have gone?

Written by Sorina Oprea, Edited by Jennifer McElroy, Both Psychology Assistants at The Green Rooms

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1932, First Inaugural Address.