Have No Fear!

By: Brian M Murray, MS, IMH

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Fear is not something to be grasped but looked upon like a stumbling block or an obstacle to overcome when dealing with problems in life. Fear causes anxiety, anger and depression leading to behaviors that otherwise normally would not consume a person. Fear is something experienced on a subsurface level but not the core issue. Discovering what is driving it from underneath is what is necessary to address the real culprit. In order for a person to have fear their must exist a situation that produces a perceived threat. The response to the threat is running away (anxiety), fight if cornered (anger) or giving up and feeling hopeless (depression). Healthy fear is okay and is a natural response to a real threat that involves loss of life or personal injury.

Typically the first and most common response of a perceived threat is anxiety. At this stage a person still has enough time to allow thoughts of whether to flee or face the predicament. Most people will run if given half a chance. The underlying thinking involved with running away is not having to face the problem head on. If avoided then the issue does not have to be addressed. In this case, fear wins and the person has subjected themselves to allow fear to have mastery over them.

Letting fear win or get the upper hand does not solve anything. It can and often makes an issue worse. Putting off problems creates worry and stress and can lead to other health problems. Hiding, isolating or self medicating the fear and the problem leads nowhere. It is a dead end decision. There is some truth to the phrase “you can run, but you cannot hide.” Wherever a person goes, so go their problem with them until finally they are ultimately faced with it.

One the best ways to face underlying fear is to ask a question of perception such as “what is the worst that can happen?” Often the answer exposes some kind of irrational or “magical” thinking about how the outcome is going to be played out. Examples of magical thinking include looking for approval from others in the sense that if an issue is on display then others will reject or disapprove as a result. Fear of how others are going to respond can cause paralysis and inhibit action. Another is perfectionism. Perfectionism involves the underlying belief that sounds something like “If I am not perfect or if something is wrong then somehow as a whole person I must be fundamentally flawed.” The truth is nobody is perfect and everyone is constantly a work in progress. It is okay to face our problems and bring them out into the open.

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