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Fear: Friend or Foe?

Businesswoman Writing on White Board and Businessman at TableFear can be our friend or it can be our enemy. It can prepare us, instruct us, keep us safe; or it can become a huge threatening shadow that keeps us locked in anxiety, worry, doubt, uncertainty and helplessness.

Healthy fear can be the precursor to getting more information or putting in place preventive measures. Pay attention to that niggling doubt or feeling of fear. Pay attention to your intuition. Check out troubling symptoms that just don’t seem right. That includes relationships, changes in behaviors in your teens or children or health symptoms that keep recurring but we don’t want to address. Watch your spending habits and long term financial goals. It is up to us to determine safety issues.

What is your greatest fear?

I grew up in a rural community. As a young adult, I was self-conscious and concerned about doing the right thing in social settings. Because I really loved being around people, I decided I needed to confront these social fears. I joined an International Toastmasters group.

It is said that public speaking is one of people’s greatest fears. We fear appearing stupid, not having it all together, ridiculed and rejected. We try to hide the parts of ourselves we think are less attractive or unpleasing. When standing before a group of people and speaking we can feel exposed to all the things we fear or don’t like about ourselves.

The wonderful thing about Toastmasters is that everyone is feeling the same vulnerability and work together to perfect the art of speaking. What I learned during that time period was that I loved speaking and that the only thing I had to fear was my own unreasonable fears. Later when I entered the arena of teaching college, facilitating groups and doing workshops, it was an exciting and rewarding experience.

Are you experiencing fear?

Whether danger is real or perceived the body gears up to protect you. So when you are experiencing an unrealistic fear, you are experiencing increased heart rate, sweaty palms, “butterflies” in the stomach, and all the other things associated with the fight/flight response. Your brain does not discern the difference between an actual physical threat and a psychological threat unless you tell it.

What do I do if I am experiencing fear?

First, acknowledge how you are feeling. Confront it head on. If you are in physical danger, act accordingly.  But if this is a psychological danger, ask

What is the worst thing that can happen in this situation? What is the best thing? Take some slow calming breaths and remind yourself you are not in physical danger.

We can think more rationally, problem solve, conceptualize options and formulate new plans of action when we are unhampered with excessive fear. 

When I accept the least pleasing aspect of myself, it no longer can create fear in me.

©2013 Marlene Anderson

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