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According to Webster's Dictionary, "fear" is a general term for the anxiety and agitation felt at the presence of danger. In many ways we live in a fear-based society in which fear controls our normal lives. Threats and acts of terrorism and war are the focus of media coverage and fear is a natural response to these and other potential threats to our perceived safety and security. Fear can keep us stuck and prevent us from achieving our wants, needs or desires. Fear of the unknown and fear of success or failure can block progress and be as debilitating as the fear of an apparent risk to health and safety.
The following are some approaches to dealing with fear. This information is by no means a complete reference; a trained professional may be able to address and provide specific techniques for handling fear not mentioned here.
Sometimes it is difficult to hear someone else’s fear and the tendency might be to minimize it without meaning to do so.
The person experiencing the fear may “stuff” the feeling inside which may later come out “sideways” through anger, or manifest as physical problems: such as headaches, body twitches, muscle tension, physical illness, etc. It is extremely important to be able to talk about one’s fears with someone who can hear them and validate them.
Talking about situations that trigger fear constantly may intensify the fear, so there is a fine line between not repressing the feelings, yet not being re-traumatized by talking about fearful trigger events too much
Sometimes there is less of an ability to protect oneself from overload if the fear is initiated by an outside event and others are constantly talking about the situation. It is okay and self-caring to say to someone that you need to refrain from discussing particularly fearful events.
Many people hold onto patterns and situations that are not in their highest good, staying in jobs or relationships that are unfulfilling or abusive because they are afraid.
They fear change, or rejection, true intimacy, financial insecurity, failure or success. The underlying beliefs that are running these fears severely limit the choices and healthy risks available to the fear-based person. Understanding the origin of the fears and beliefs that generate them is very empowering.
One way to do this is to be as conscious as possible to the thoughts we have.
It is important to be aware of those thoughts that may actually be fueling the fear. To be conscious means to notice in a non-judgmental way the thoughts that feed the fear. Once noticed, we can gently work on stopping the thoughts as opposed to nurturing them and allowing them to take us over. This certainly takes practice, however, the more we can interrupt self-destructive thought patterns, the more manageable the fear will be.
It is helpful to work on the willingness to release fear.
Noticing the words we use will show us where we are in the moment. Small steps make big differences. By being willing to change our words and thoughts we can change our lives.
Fear and shock begins in the breath. People stop breathing when they experience things that shock and scare them.
Another way to make the feelings of fear less overwhelming is to get connected to our body. What am I feeling? Where am I feeling the fear? (i.e., tightness in the chest or stomach). Ask yourself, "What does the fear need from me?" Our bodies speak volumes, yet our minds tend to get in the way. The fear of "what ifs" can be totally overwhelming. Sometimes its helpful to practice some self-soothing techniques - place your hand over the area that is tense or fearful and "breathe" into it. Back up the feelings with an affirmation.
If the feelings aren't felt or expressed we can't really move on (we need to feel it to heal it). Another way of helping to more effectively manage fear is through physical release.
If feeling particularly fearful in a given moment, allow the fear to be released through tears, exercise (a punching bag), dance. This releases the fear from the body as opposed to containing it within. These methods of emotional release through physical means can also be effective with anger, sadness, frustration and anxiety. Using the voice either though yelling (not at someone), singing or making sounds are also wonderful ways to release emotions.
Some people are so uncomfortable feeling fear that they try to medicate their feelings with food, drugs/alcohol, shopping, sex, compulsive working, or keeping themselves so busy that they cannot possibly feel.
This may appear to help with the discomfort, yet instead it tends to prolong the feelings and/or magnify them later. There really is no shortcut to not feeling fear, just healthy and emotionally safe ways of experiencing it, expressing it and managing it.
By: Kathleen Dwyer Blair, LCSW, BCD