Una's Blog

24
Apr

69 Fear and anxiety – dear old friends!

graphic-1by Una Hearne.

Just because you feel fearful or anxious does not mean there is anything to be afraid of.

Fear is our natural reaction to a variety of things and its purpose is to protect us from harm. Our fight, flight, freeze response kicks in if we sense any kind of threat and it kicks in before conscious thought. In many situations fear, or at least an awareness of danger, is a good thing – think standing on the edge of a cliff, crossing a busy road, dark alleys at night, telling your significant other her bum does look big in that…

Self preserving instincts can save you from a lot of pain.

Unfortunately our fear response is not terribly clever. It will treat all perceived threats as potentially dangerous and put you on high alert, flooding you with adrenaline and focusing all of your attention on the threat. This is ok for a minute or two while you ascertain the reality of the danger however a problem arises when this high alert continues for long periods of time. And the not terribly clever bit is that our fear response treats anything unknown as a threat. In our modern lives the future is less certain for most of us than ever before. The pace of change is increasing all the time and there is less certainty in our working lives. This can mean for many of us that our fear response is engaged to some extent an awful lot of the time. This means on going stress, which at any level is not good for us, and at a high level can be life threatening.

Another problem with fear is when we allow the feeling of fear to influence our choices in life. We try to choose the ‘safest’ option and this can severely limit the choices we make, some of us live half lives due to fear. In my experience as a coach fear is the number one reason we choose not to follow our dreams. The mad thing is the choices we make are very rarely safer than any other choice we could make. We fear failure or disappointment and it’s almost like we would rather fail at something we don’t care so much about than at something that really does matter to us.

Fear also lowers the quality of your thinking, your ability to connect deeply with other human beings and your ability to learn. All in all it can seriously impair your quality of life if you let it run rampant in your system.

I am not suggesting for a moment that we ignore fear, it is important to pay attention when we are fearful or anxious and figure out if there is something to be afraid of or not. Nor am I suggesting that we ignore real issues that bring up fear, facing the real stuff of life that can be scary is always better than letting it fester and trying to ignore it. Fear should be treated more like a useful and faithful pet which cannot distinguish between a real threat and simply the unknown. Thank your fear, but take over the decision making for yourself.

Best book on fear I’ve ever read is Susan Jeffries Feel the Fear and do it anyway. Highly recommend it.

 

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