What is Fear?
A perceived threat that causes a physiological and psychological response. This response triggers the nervous system to excrete a chemical that causes a variety of symptoms. Living in a chronic state of fear can actually be responsible for physiologic ailments such as gastric ulcers, TMJ Syndrome, phobias, insomnia, depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. Fear is the precursor to anxiety, phobias, and panic attacks. the stimuli can be external from a very real source, ie: spiders, death, heights, or driving in bad weather. It can also be an internal fear based on a distorted perception of self. This could be a feeling of inadequacy, or reflections from a past trauma. When these issues are so severe some actually dissociate and go somewhere else in their minds to escape reality.
Fear has become endemic in our country. The government and media have pushed fear down our throats for years. Fear sells. Fear causes anxiety, immobilization, indecisiveness, panic, and rumination just to name a few of the side effects. Fear also makes money. Fear will cause us to buy duct tape, weather radios, and draw stereotypes about other races.
Fear can also be a motivator, a fight or flight response to evade or mobilize out of an uncomfortable situation. When fear becomes incapacitating it effects many aspects of our life. It can disrupt sleep, change our eating habits and destroy relationships.
From the simplest phobias like fear of insects or spiders to fear of loss, fear needs to be addressed and confronted directly if one is to ever resolve it. Many of us worry to the point of inducing fear in our lives. It can prevent us from being positive individuals. All abused victims, whether sexually abused, physically abused or emotionally abused, experience fear. We frequently worry when the next episode occurs. We may get reassurance from the perpetrator with apologies only to be betrayed, time and time again. This cycle must be broken. It can only be broken by confronting the issues and mobilizing to change your life. Abuse is only one precursor of fear. Many early life traumas, lack of support as a child, inadequate role models and misperceptions induce a fear response.
Instead of looking at fear as incapacitating, we need to re frame it and see it as a motivator for change. Many times, this only happens when the emotional pain becomes too great to bear. WE CAN NOT CONTROL EXTERNAL FORCES OR OTHERS. We can only control our self, our own emotions, and our perspective on life and what life brings to our table. The emotionally abused wife cannot control her demeaning husband. We can control what we do. We can disclose, find help and move forward. Over simplified? Maybe, but life’s problems are frequently resolved with the simplest solutions. It is our rumination and fear that complicates it.
What are the symptoms of Fear?
Symptoms of fear have been discussed and reviewed many times. They are fairly well known. Why? Who has not experienced fear? No one. The symptoms of fear are those similar to anxiety: rapid heart rate, urge to urinate, sweating, muscles tightening up, rapid breathing, and the hair on our body standing on edge. Many of these symptoms are anthropologically significant. Hair standing on end was to make our ancestors look bigger than they are, becoming sweaty was significant so the attacker could not get a good grip, muscles tightening due to increased blood flow, preparing for the fight or the necessity to run, hence flight. These common symptoms and an inability to control them can lead to anxiety, and create phobias of a stimuli. Recurrent symptoms can cause very real illness to occur. Fear is not just an innocuous emotion but can become very debilitating.
How do we resolve Fear?
Unfortunaly many of us do not try and resolve fear until it becomes overwhelming in our lives and causes others stress. Fear MUST be confronted head on if we are to ever resolve it. From the high school baseball player who gets hit by a pitch, breaking his hand to a woman being emotionally abused for years. Fear will not be resolved until the issues are disclosed, and the the player risks again with success and the wife risks another relationship or stands up for herself.
Cookbook responses in treatment can be effective. A full recognition that failure is ok, is helpful. It is with failure and learning from our mistakes when we truly benefit and kick fear directly in its posterior. We are not talking about rational fear, the fear of real danger, but irrational fear that needs to be corrected if we are to live a fulfilling life and risk with new experiences. Behavioral modification can be effective, however therapists also should look at alternative methods of healing, empowerment, and a psychodynamic approach. Once again research does pan out to show us a variety of treatment interventions are more effective than just one approach. For example the fear of being laughed at or made fun of is common place; however usually stems from not being secure with who we are. When one is empowered to the point that they are feeling confident, they will one day laugh with the group that once laughed at them. This my friend is finding humility and joining in the laughter, recognizing those laughs WILL NOT make you any less or more of a human than you were yesterday.
Confronting fear has benefited many. When you become tired of the lingering effects, and frustrated at how it can be incapacitating you will seek out treatment. Looking fear directly in its face can be beneficial. The outgrowth of overcoming fear is strength, knowing you have accomplished the task, and personal growth. Do not just try. Do it!