Have you ever been so afraid that you could not move? Have you ever heard your pulse banging in your ears and had the feeling the your own existence is in danger? Have you ever held your breath while facing danger and thought this is the last one you take? for some of real danger created the fear while others suffered differently, some without realizing something scary was taken in.
In contradiction to the general saying, fear does not make us more focused or in control and whatever doesn’t kill us does not make us stronger. Fear can be more influential in our life than we think. Not because it is wrong to fear but because most of the fears we face are not that grand.
In times of great distress fear can be an ally. It tells us when our lives are at risk. When we are in the car and an accident might happen, it is fear that tells us to swerve; In school shooting or when another warlike event happens it is fear that lead us to duck. But sometimes we surrender to this fear and it takes over us, paralyses us.
At other times we invite fearful sensations into our lives by doing extreme activities. It seems that we lack sometimes that fearful sensations in life so we rock climb, bungee jump, paraglide, go to roller coaster theme parks and more. In other words, with the lack of grand dangers we tend to seek the sensation ourselves.
But as we said before and this is the center of this article, not all fears are that grand and facing the fears that we don’t see can be more inhibiting that facing the obvious ones. So let me ask you again: have you ever sat in a classroom waiting for a teacher to passout a test that you are not ready for? have you ever wanted to talk to a guy or girl you like but felt paralyzed? Have you ever came to work feeling like this is it? Most of us did.
Our days are full of these mini-fears. From sending our kids to school and hoping they’ll be fine to sitting at night and hoping that the fight that we had with our partner is not the last one that we had. Those are the fears that we face every day and those are the fears that keep us up late at night sometimes.
In addition there are more socially accepted fears that surround us. It is so present in life and so around us that we don’t even see it. Have you heard about the new political developments? Have you heard about fighting and wars around the world? Have you heard the old people in the park complaining on how the country is going to hell?
Most creatures live in a fearful environment and so do we. There are always small dangers and things that we should worry about in order to survive in modern society. But since most of them do not endanger our existence, do we really have to worry so much? Does being popular have any survival need for us? Is looking good embedded in our survival? Of course not, but we still fear of "being ugly" or not being liked.
So what is the solution? Being courageous doesn’t mean never being afraid, it means that we have to face our fears. But how can we face an opponent we cannot see? The first step would be by allowing ourselves to slow down. Western society moves so fast and we go along with the current. But in order to know ourselves better and in order to deal with our fears we need to slow down. Not always an easy task especially if past trauma taught you to be on guard for danger.
When we feel our thoughts racing and we feel lost because everything around us seem to collapse- slowing down will help us be present and face the situation in a safer way. Fear is all about the future; about what is going to happen. Even if our fear is based on the immediate future like how the test is going to look like, it is still about the future. And since we cannot control the future we should slow down and control our present, focus on what is here and now. Fear and relaxation can not exists in the body at the same time.
Second, we don’t have to take everything that is being told to us as the ultimate truth. We are told that we are in danger, that crime is rising, that the economy is crashing, and so forth. So they say. But it doesn’t mean that it's all true and even for the real things it does not mean that it is all immediate and that holding on to the fear is helpful to us.
In fact, research shows us the media is constantly uses scarier and more intimidating terms as time goes by. No wonder we are worried about so many things that do not put us at real risk. That's also true when we deal with people. Whether we deal with friends, family, significant others, or coworkers we should not be afraid of people or act out of fear.
Having healthy boundaries or making a decision about people or things that no longer belong in your life is a decision that needs to come from our own needs and best interest while acting out of fear on impulse often means we are caught in reenacting something that went wrong in our past, perhaps an unconscious past, one we cannot put into words so we act it out in our relationship.
Fear, as far as people go, should not stop us from opening up and gaining friends and support. We live in a world where people laugh when we fall and cry when their phone breaks, not because people have become more cynical or closed but because we are afraid to be present.
Which bring me to our final point about fear. If we allow ourselves to be present with our fears we will allow ourselves to be present with people. If we tell our kids why we worry instead of trying to hide them from the evils of the world. If we tell our partner that we are scared or hurt instead of building walls and if we allowed ourselves to be closer to people at work or even strangers we will be facing our fears and not succumb to them.
Fear is important but also is finding a way to deal with it. It starts with awareness to the fears, not just the big obvious ones but the small daily ones too. To become aware we need to become present and we can do that by slowing down and let go of the norms that tell us to be afraid and to shut down and cower. But if being present becomes overwhelming and difficult if you get caught up in repeating the same situation over and over that leaves you more afraid and ultimately alone- reach out for therapy where the unconscious side of your fear can come into the therapeutic work and the therapist can help you face your fear and overcome it.
There are many situations that cause fear rightfully but living should not be bounded with fear, We are not gazelles, hiding from predators all day. We have the ability to face fear without always worrying about our safety. So feel safe to explore and be present with your fears because life is richer in joy when it's not covered with fear.