What is fear?
Fear is an emotional response to a real or imagined danger or threat. The emotion of fear is triggered when our mind perceives a stimulus as threatening to it. Fear is experienced unpleasantly, yet it is a defense, protection and survival mechanism that can be considered particularly useful in the face of potential danger.
It makes us aware of situations and people that we perceive as a threat to our own physical and mental health and to the protection of those we love and care about.
Fear is the greatest rival of faith and trust. While it is very similar to anxiety, it distinguishes itself because fear is always associated with someone or something external to us, while anxiety is something created from within us.
Difference between fear and anxiety!
Fear is closely related to anxiety, which results from threats that are considered uncontrollable or unavoidable. The difference is that fear is an immediate threat in the present, e.g. I am afraid to react to my boss yelling at me right now. Whereas anxiety is an anticipated threat e.g. my boss may in the future kick me out of work.
Although they differ, they share common physical symptoms and use the same defense mechanisms. Fear is suppressed when the immediate danger passes. Anxiety waits for the future enemy creating a prolonged emotional state that ends up becoming an obstacle instead of protection. It is very important to understand that when negative thoughts are maybe not "real" (false alarms) our emotion and physical reaction is always real.
What might scare us?
The most common fears we face in life are :
- Fear of death
- Fear of rejection and criticism ( we are in a constant struggle in a hopeless pursuit of perfection).
- Fear of separation, of abandonment. ( We are afraid to say no so as not to displease our relationship, or we have the fear that he will leave us if we don't say yes. )
- Fear of failure, fear of change (We compromise and stay in our safety and because we are afraid to take risks and pursue something we really want, we try to reassure ourselves that everything is fine).
- Fear of responsibility (While we feel the longing for something important to us, we find it difficult to take responsibility because our fear immobilizes us).
When does fear turn into phobia?
The difference between fear and phobia is that we overestimate the risk, fail to find the logical basis of the thought that frightens us and adopt strategies to avoid the situation or the object.
Fear becomes a phobia when we distinguish the following symptoms:
- The fear is excessive, irrational and persistent (lasting about 6 months).
- When we realise that our fear is unjustified.
- When exposure to stimuli can trigger a panic attack.
- When we experience intense physical discomfort.
- When everyday life becomes difficult as a result we are affected on a personal, social and professional level.
- When there are constant thoughts around the object of our fear.
When our fear is a problem?
Fear becomes a problem when it persists when there is no real danger. In some cases it takes over, expands and blocks our ability to make choices. It can lead us into a chronic panic or a pessimistic and heavily guarded attitude to life.
How is it treated?
It is very important to remember that the thoughts we have about fear are much bigger than the fear itself. Fear has the potential to take many forms of supposed protection, it can mislead us and we end up protecting it while it takes up more space in our lives.
By acknowledging fear we have taken the first and most important step in managing it. The client learns by being in therapy where the phobia originated from. He understands how it is maintained and survives within him and how he can get rid of it.
Cognitive-Behavioral therapy helps us to prevent irrational thinking from overwhelming us, by "imposing" our rational thinking that will allow us to control or stop the intensity of our fear. Each time we come face to face with our fear it shrinks and stops seeming so big in our eyes.
This approach shows that it has the highest success rate on the fear and irrational phobias that plague the client. t gives him/her the right to be able to experience a more liberated life.