Understanding Fear

What exactly is fear? The dictionary describes it as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” but is that all? Let’s examine further…

Most of us are afraid of fear; yet fear is responsible for helping to keep us safe; that to me is something positive. Why then such rejection towards fear? The answer is simple, fear can become a way of life, it can go from being an alert system to a permanent state. If we choose not to look in, this state grows until one becomes trapped; at times without even being conscious of it.

Fear is a primary emotion, it works as a kind of alert that activates or puts into operation the automatic response system in the event of danger. This self-preservation system protects us from any threat that comes from outside; be it a situation or an individual; through different biological mechanisms: It suppresses the normal processes of nutrition and digestion, it also suppresses the immune system, reduces the capacity for reasoning and strengthens the muscular and respiratory capacity; all in order to prepare us to either flee or fight. Primary fear is very useful to defend ourselves from a real and concrete danger, that is to say from a temporary threat in the here and now. But when the threat we perceive is not from the here and now and it is not temporary, then this automatic response system becomes harmful to us; it stops us from thinking clearly and making good decisions. It also stops us from nourishing ourselves properly which makes us vulnerable to illnesses; in other words, it paralyzes us.

This state of fear so adverse for us, is the product of mental and psychological processes very typical of our human and social life; that is to say, it is a fear that arises from our imagination (fear of getting older, fear of being poor, fear of not being accepted by society, fear of death and illness) or we have learned it (trauma) and it has nothing to do with something of danger in the present but something we perceive will happen again. It is in this state of fear when the prevailing question in our mind is “what if”. Imagined “what if they fire me?” “What if they don’t like me?”. Trauma “What if what happened then happens again? “Everything seems to be unrolling same as before”

So troublesome is this type of fear that many people internalize it as normal and mistake it for caution. This false sense of caution can lead them to think they are in control and have some type of power, but that is an illusion. Internalizing this state of fear, seeing it as normal, only penetrates it deeper into our subconscious; by not being a conscious choice, it becomes harder to change. Add to this that we are energy and we attract energy, if our thoughts are currently of fear, then we start to attract situations or people that will confirm our fear was accurate.

Let’s keep in mind fear also provokes a response at a biological level; chemicals have been produced by the body; part of the automatic self-preservation response system. The problem is by remaining in a permanent state of fear, these chemicals also remain in the body and the body begins to become familiar with them, considering them normal, which means it is altering our biological makeup.

How to know if we are in a constant state of fear: Fear expresses itself mostly in 3 ways: Over worrying, constant anger and anxiety. If we are constantly experiencing one or all of those emotions, it is possible we are already living in a constant state of fear. Even more so if we are looking for excuses or quick fixes, for example the “fake confidence” method which more often than not does not work, yet people will grasp at the thought because they are afraid to admit they feel fear.

Note I did not mention depression, for although depression and anxiety can go hand in hand, depression is the subconscious trying to make something conscious; in other words those who experience depression are already on the healing path. Their healthy “I” is battling their unhealthy anxiety (fear). Depression is not an expression of fear, rather it is self trying to heal.

How to heal from fear: First of all it is essential to become aware of the real difference between being cautious and being afraid. Then we need to identify what it is we are fearful of; what situation, event or people trigger that fear. We can do this without judgement; after all there is not one person who has not experienced fear; besides, it takes more confidence to admit we feel afraid than to deny it, covering it up with a smile. When we say out loud what hurts, bothers us or scares us, we automatically take away a lot of its power; we are being brave.

We need to become conscious of what we are thinking (observe your thoughts) specially when you are triggered. Do this in order to understand where it is originating from and what is feeding the fear; in other words we need to use reason to understand and release fear. In order for this to work, you have to be totally honest with yourself–DO NOT look for excuses. For example, I live with complex PTSD due to trauma (sexual assault/terrorist attack)–I also have worked with women who were sexually abused or forced into prostitution. Through therapy, working on self, shadow work and the very act of helping others to heal, has helped me identify my own triggers. I take pride on the fact I have not let the sexual assaults take away my believe in my right to be sensual and sexual; however, I know I get triggered when I see people confusing sensuality with raunchiness or when I feel someone rigid condemns my embracing of sensuality. The first trigger me, because it reminds me I did not ask for what took place; monsters did what they did because of their own nature and/or because they were “excited” by the crap (raunchiness) exposed by others; so they chose to satisfy their needs at my expense, violating my will. I feel people who are raunchy only feed that illness and are running away from their own wounds. The latter triggers me because they think in order for what happened to me to be validated as “real” I need to hide my head in the sand and cover up from head to toe; in other words I need to live like a miserable ant–powerless and repenting as if I did something wrong.

Having been honest with myself in order to identify my triggers, I can work on healing myself and finding BALANCE. I don’t have to be a judgmental person in order to set boundaries. My triggers are my triggers, it is NOT their fault. However, I have the right to set boundaries which will not put me in a bubble but allow me enough room to continue working on my healing; over time some of my boundaries will change and others not; boundaries are not walls. If my setting boundaries are perceived as being judgmental, then that is more a reflection of their own selves. I could say they are choosing not to look in in order to avoid seeing why they really do what they do; for if they did, they too would find they feel fear and have things to work on, after all we are ALL wounded humans–So honesty with self is imperative if you want to heal from fear, pain, trauma and find balance between both extremes.

It is important to understand, you won’t ever be fearless (something it has often been taken out of context) but you can live in a fearless way. This means there will be events which will trigger you but you can learn to face them head on; without negating fear but working through it. If we did not ever experience fear, we would not be able to survive very long in this world, as such fear is not the enemy when it is trying to alert us of danger in the here and now.

Meditation is another great way of helping us get rid of the toxic chemicals stored in our bodies from living in fear; it helps us balance our interior, calming our anxiety and allowing us to be in the present.

Mindful Yoga, Thai Chi, dancing, Sauna/Jacuzzi; they help relax our muscles which usually are tense due to fear.

Therapy; whether shadow work, psychotherapy, coaching, Integrative Therapy or other types of therapy can help us find our voice, releasing fear. As we release fear, we start to find our path. Therapy is very helpful because on the one hand it deals with the original wound while on the other it helps you to look at the positive (lessons learned, talents you may have, and to pay attention to the good in you and the good you can find in this world)–In this manner therapy balances both extremes (pain/trauma) and (good things), doing so help us reclaim self and build a stronger foundation, for it does not negate one side or the other. As we start to heal, our energy changes and we attract better things more suited to our new vibrational level.

To build a strong foundation, one needs to integrate the shadow (not eradicate or negate the shadow); in doing so we learn to live in a fearless way and develop better habits.

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By Sofia Falcone

I passionately believe one person can make a difference. I write from my own experiences and interests. It is my greatest hope that by writing about my own challenges, victories, hopes and learnings, others may feel inspired to believe more in their inner power and to fully embrace themselves!

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