Fear is a very emotional reaction to a situation or situations that can make us question what we do and how we do it. Fear at its very worst can disable and paralyse us into doing nothing. Fear can stop us from living a full life when we become so scared that we are unable to get past that fear. Many people when trying to deal with fear, work on the premise that they can get rid of or get over what they fear before they can move forward. This is not always the case. Fear is quite natural in many cases and even necessary for self – preservation in some instances. It can be induced by a perceived danger or threat for example a threat of being attacked or being in a dangerous situation. When we are scared it causes a number of physiological and psychological reactions in our bodies and these reactions while being unsettling can actually help to keep us safe.
These changes will usually result in a change in our reaction and behaviour, this phenomenon is called the fight or flight syndrome. It is triggered when something happens that you consider scary either mentally or physically. The response is triggered by the release of hormones that prepare your body to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety. An example of how this works; you are walking down a dark alleyway and start to hear footsteps behind you which makes you think you are being followed, you become afraid and your body responds by releasing the hormones adrenalin and noradrenalin into your blood stream which causes a number of reactions. These reactions includes making your heart beat faster, blood being pumped quicker around your body, your blood pressure and rate of breathing also increases. These changes results in your pupils become dilated, your digestive system may slow down or even shut down, you get butterflies in your tummy and may even feel nauseous, you may start to tremble and shake, the purpose of these reactions is that the body prepares you to either flee from the perceived danger or to decide to stay and fight in which case it gives you more energy to do so.
This ability for the body to react in this way was very useful in ancient times when ancient man could suddenly be faced with having to fight an animal to stay alive and therefore needing to react quite decisively. However, in modern day times, the things we perceive as dangers are not necessarily life threatening or dangerous e.g. a fear of closed spaces. Unfortunately, even where there is no real danger but we believe that something is dangerous e.g in the case of an irrational fear (phobia), this can still trigger this physiological reaction in our bodies leaving us in a heightened state of alert and stress.
Irrational fears can cause the exact same response in the body as a real danger. The problem with this is that if our fear is triggered by an everyday action that is not really a danger to our physical wellbeing then we can end up being in a constant state of stress which in the long run can be very damaging to the body. In addition as I mentioned in my intro paragraph, fear can also stop us from living life fully when we become trapped in a vicious cycle of panic attacks linked to our phobias.
It is not enough for us to be told that we should face the fear or there is nothing to be afraid of as this will not help matters. We need to learn that in some instances in life, we may have to take brave steps forward even while we are afraid. In other words, face the fear head on.
There are so many people who live a life of anxiety and stress, constantly in fear of different things, such as fear of the dark, fear of crowds, fear of food, fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of people, fear of needles, animals such as insects and so on, the list is endless it seems. I have long suffered from a fear of flying. For a long time, I let it affect my choices, I would avoid holidays that meant flying or flying for long distances. Eventually, I realised that avoiding something is not a way of dealing with it and more so, I realised I was missing out on the opportunity to see other parts of the world, to have more adventure and to visit family and friends who lived abroad. I tried everything to talk myself out of the fear including some cognitive behaviour therapy but all that did is remind me of the logical reasons why I shouldn’t fear flying such as the safety numbers, that more people die in car accidents and flying is safer than any other form of travel etc. This is logical and of course, I knew that deep down. But get this, fear is usually illogical and trying to reason your way out of it doesn’t always work. So I made the decision, that I would not let this fear stop me from experiencing new things. That I would travel even though I was afraid.
So now I travel, yes I am still afraid but I remind myself of all the facts first of all and secondly, focus on the experience that I am going to have when I get to my destination. Usually I tend to forget the fear until a few days before the flight then I start to worry so I usually try to practice more meditation and prayer around that time and make it a time of looking forward to something instead of dreading.
So yes, I face my fear and I do it anyway, I do it afraid and I have to say it feels pretty good when I actually get through it and one thing I can tell you is the more you face your fear, the more you do it afraid, the easier it gets. So I would like to encourage you if you have a fear of something, don’t let it stop you living your life, be afraid and do whatever it is you are afraid of anyway.