Our Fears

I have discovered that most people go through life harboring many fears.  These fears are often the driving forces behind much of their thoughts and behaviors.  We all have fears and take steps to avoid those people, things, or situations that generate these fears.  Unfortunately for us most of our fears are completely unrealistic and unfounded.  They are nothing more than fabrications in our minds, regardless of how real they may seem to us.  Fear is one of the most powerful emotions we possess, and has the potential to shape our behavior and a large part of our personality. 

There are of course natural fears.  These are fears that seem to come with being human, such as fear of snakes, spiders, death and many others.  These fears serve meaningful purposes in that they keep us from harm that is present in our environment.  While some of these fears can get out of hand, for example extreme fear of crowds, most of these primordial fears are not detrimental to us.  Should you harbor fears that you feel are unreasonable, or that cause you undue stress and duress, I strongly recommend you seek professional help. 

Aside from those natural fears we can develop fears that, while seeming to be natural to us, are not based on reality.  For the most part, fear of such things as failure, embarrassment and making mistakes are not harmful to us.  We only need to worry about these fears when they get out of hand; when they cause us to behave or think in unhealthy terms, and when they prevent us from enjoying our lives to the fullest.  I said that these fears “seem to be natural” to us to indicate that we tend to develop them without any forethought or purposeful intention. 

Fears are usually generated by a sense of discomfort we feel in a given situation, and most of the fears we harbor stem from experiences we have had in the past.  Depending on the situation, we may have felt embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger, or feared that someone would discover our true thoughts.  Because fear is such a powerful emotion all it takes is one situation that results in fear to establish the criterion for that fear, and that criterion typically lasts a lifetime.  Situations that share only the thinnest thread of similarity with a past fear-generating situation are enough to invoke fear.

Most fears can usually be overcome by asking a couple of simple questions, “Is my fear of (fill in the blank) based on reality?” or “Why am I afraid of (fill in the blank)?”  Remember that our goal is to be in control of our emotions, and that we accomplish this by facing the reality of  life for what it is.