What is Fear Anyway?

One of my super smart newsletter readers emailed me after she received my post last week. It was basically about listening to your body and how it feels to know what’s important for your life. If you missed it, here it is. I’ll call her Ann.

Ann asked me about facing fear. She wasn’t sure if her body could give her an objective answer because it would always contract when she thought about doing something she might enjoy, like meeting in a new group to learn about a topic of interest. 

Even though it was something she wanted to do, being in a group with new people is not comfortable for her and brings up fear.

So what is fear? 

Fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.

There are two kinds of fear, primal/survival fear and fear created by thought.

Primal fear for example, is when you are driving along and the car in front of you stops quickly and you have to respond quickly to stop yourself. After that is over you can feel your heart rate is increased, maybe your breathing is shallow and fast, your shoulders or chest are tight, or anything else that you’ve experienced in the past. With primal fear your brain doesn't have time to think or become afraid, it gets bypassed. Your body goes into survival mode and you just react.

Now, facing situations you aren't comfortable with is not primal fear. That is fear that comes from your thoughts about how the situation might go. All the thoughts that say, for example, people won't like me, this will be awkward, I'm going to feel weird the whole time, etc… Those thoughts will cause your body to have the negative response.

I invited Ann to notice if she had an idea about doing something and how that felt in her body before she allowed her thoughts to come in about it. In general, if there is something you actually want to do your body will give you those positive signals, it's only when your mind gets involved a few seconds later that the negative comes in. 

What I think is vitally important in the fear definition, is that fear is felt whether the threat is real and primal, or imagined and created by your thoughts. Whether you are sitting at a traffic light watching a car come up on you fast in the rear view mirror or just imagining that you are going to lose all of your money and be homeless, the body reacts the same way because the brain signals fear, it doesn’t know the difference, and doesn’t discriminate. 

That's why you have to ask your body how it's feeling if you just dropped all those thoughts about the situation, even if for one minute.

I also want to mention that there is fear that comes from various forms of post traumatic stress. That is a different kind of fear that can come up even when you are trying to do something that your body was initially excited about. If that type of fear comes up for you, then a good therapist or coach who has specific training in that area might be an appropriate choice for you. 

Let me know what your experiences are with this and what you think.

Feel free to leave a comment on the blog below, or email me, susan@susancarrollcoaching.com.

Please share if you know just the perfect person who would love this.

~ Susan


Image by Pixabay, with permission.