What Fear Is (And Is Not)

Fear is one of the strongest core emotions we have. We’re hard-wired for it as a means for survival. Big predator comes along, fear kicks in, and action follows – all in the name of self-preservation. As we’ve evolved, our instincts really haven’t. Survival. Plain and simple.

While our instincts haven’t really changed, our outer environment has significantly. No longer are big predators hunting us. Sure there are hazards, such as bad drivers on the road and economic downturns, but most of us in the western, developed world live free from major daily threats to our lives.

What has changed significantly is our inner environment. What do I mean by inner environment? It’s our thoughts and how we think about things. Our thoughts and the way we think drive how we feel and act. When we perceive a threat, our instincts kick in to protect us. It doesn’t matter if that threat is about a giant mammal chasing us or a loved one saying something to us in anger that hurts. The result is our core human instincts doing what they can to save us from the real (or imagined) threat to our lives.

Let’s say you lose your job. While this can certainly be a threat to your long-term survival, chances are it’s the way you think about it that spirals you into fear and keeps you there. We might say to ourselves that we’re nothing without the job, our identity is wrapped up in what we do and how we earn money. We may wonder how we’re going to pay our bills and keep the lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to. But our immediate survival is intact. Losing our job didn’t strike us down dead. Did it change things? Sure. But it didn’t end our life. It’s about perspective. Our thoughts about losing our job are what perpetuate the fear, and kick in those instincts for survival.

In most cases, fear is just a signal that something is a bit off. It may be a sign that we need to change something, or that something doesn’t quite feel right. Our task, then, is to read the sign and act accordingly. Some of us choose to be fearful and move forward anyway. In the case of the lost job, fear is a normal reaction, and may help us think of ways to ensure our survival (network with colleagues about other possible jobs, consider getting additional training or education to become more marketable in the workplace, use savings to pay our expenses, etc.).

But for others, fear can keep us stuck. Losing that job means I’m worthless and no one wants me, which leads to lower motivation and energy about looking for solutions, which leads to inaction, more negative thoughts, and the cycle of continues. Sound familiar?

My guess is we’ve all been in both places. In some situations, we’re able to move past the fear. And in other situations, we get stuck. The trick is to find ways to get unstuck as soon as possible.

As you are faced with the ups and downs of life and fear inevitably creeps in, keep in mind what fear really is (and is not)…

Fear is:

  • Unavoidable
  • Natural and normal
  • A basic, core emotion
  • A signal that something is changing or needs to change

Fear is NOT:

  • The end of the world
  • A sign to give up entirely
  • Evil

So as you move through life, remember the times you are able to move forward despite your fear. Take note of how you do that, and what thoughts and actions are most helpful, as well as which ones keep you stuck. The best way to get unstuck is to do things you know have helped you in the past.

Remember, fear is inevitable. You can either embrace it or resist it. Which will you choose?

To get more practical, tried and tested techniques that have helped over 12 million people worldwide face and move through their fears, consider joining me for my live one-day workshop “Feel the Fear And Do It Anyway”® based on the best-selling book of the same title by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. For details, go to http://www.krylyn.com/feelthefear.

Photo: By: Lehigh Valley, PA

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