Fear is something that can have devastating effects on our mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being. It has the ability to weaken our immune system, and chronic fear could lead to cardiovascular problems, gastrointestinal issues, and other harmful ailments.
Yet despite these terrible consequences of fear, it’s important for us to remember that everyone has, at one time or another, been plagued by this emotion. It is a normal human response to stressful or dangerous situations. For that reason, experiencing acute fear in certain situations is actually necessary in order to overcome said-situation.
The Two Types of Fear
There are two different types of fear. One is biochemical (also known as the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ reaction), which is the way in which our bodies respond to fear, such as sweating, increased heart rate, and high levels of adrenaline. The second is emotional, which is more unique from person to person, and can include feeling stressed, anxious, scared, like a failure, or not good enough.
Needless to say, experiencing unwanted fear can be uncomfortable and ultimately, harmful. Which is why acknowledging and processing it can lead us to a much happier and healthier life.
How Can We Acknowledge Fear?
Some of us prefer to deal with things simply by not dealing with them at all. So, we shove negative emotions and experiences to the back of our minds, and we try to get on with our lives in peace. By doing this however, the fear is still present and can still bring on a slew of negative consequences. What we resist, persists.
So, instead of shoving your feelings down, try to listen to yourself—your body, your inner voice, and that gut feeling you have inside. Our bodies carry all of the answers that we seek, so simply learning to become more in-tune with our bodies will lead to us getting to know ourselves better.
You could do this by practicing mindfulness, which is when you bring your attention to the ‘here and now’ without judgement. You could also practice meditation or setting aside five to ten minutes per day to sit down with a pen and paper to write down how you’re feeling. In time, you will begin to notice a pattern in how you are feeling, and why.
This then paves the way to finding out and acknowledging feelings of fear and addressing them.
How Can We Process Our Fear?
The journey of acknowledging and processing fear is a long one. In fact, it is an ever-unfolding experience that can change within a second. But this is not a bad thing. It means that we continuously have the space to grow and learn.
It also means that there is no ‘quick fix’ when it comes to bettering ourselves and overcoming some of our undesirable emotions and traits. The journey however, is definitely worth it, and going through it will make us stronger and more harmonious with ourselves than ever before.
To begin processing your fear, write it down or say it out loud. Whether you prefer to write, type, speak, or shout, doing so will help remove the heavy burden of it inside of you. It will externalize the fear, which then allows you to take more control over it.
If you choose to write down your fear, you could rip up the paper, scrunch it up, or burn it. Adversely, you could even place the piece of paper on your wall as a reminder of your fear and how you are actively taking steps to eradicate it.
Once you’ve completed this step, move onto the next which is: feeling it! Yes, it will be uncomfortable and yes, it might be near unbearable, but the only way out of fear is through it.
For example: If we are prone to rejecting our fear and tend to throw it to the back of our minds because it scares us, we may feel failure and anxiety as a byproduct. Failure and anxiety are negative human emotions that may lead us to feel even worse. And just by avoiding our fear, we are effectively removing the opportunity to face and overcome it. Remember that practice makes perfect, and once we can stop avoiding our fear, we can gain power and confidence over it.
Another way in which to feel your fear is to simply expose yourself to it, which is considered one of the most potent and successful solutions in psychology. This means experiencing intense fear and anxiety for a short period of time with the payoff being freedom from the long-term effects. By doing this, you are removing the unknown and reducing the chances of your fear from escalating.
When we expose ourselves to fear, three amazing things happen:
- We feel accomplished and empowered
- We learn that we have the ability to cope and overcome
- We learn that the idea of fear is oftentimes the root of all fear
As mentioned, fear is a normal human response, and we have all experienced it in one capacity or another throughout our lives. The key is to not allow it to take control of us, and to identify and confront the fear. Remember that it takes baby steps to get there, but the process itself will show us how capable we really are.
And while you’re going through these baby steps, remember to celebrate (yourself!). Even the smallest of steps is a cause for celebration, as it shows courage, bravery, and success. Allow your success to guide you through the process. Use these celebrations as a steppingstone through your journey of long-term inner peace.
However, you choose to acknowledge and process your fears, it is always beneficial to consult a professional life coach, mentor or counselor who can guide you in a safe space. Those who are trained in dealing with fear can add value and customize the way in which you confront your fear and will be able to give you support when you need it. But at the end of the day, remember that we are all human, and fear is a normal feeling that can be overcome.