Why do we need to be afraid?

sparrow on the pathFear is a necessary part of our existence.  That may seem strange.

Think for a minute about the birds in your garden, or in a park. When you walk through the park you often will see birds in the near distance, pecking away at the ground. It may seem that they are oblivious to their surroundings, and I can guarantee that they will be gone long before you reach them. Animals, birds, fish, are all constantly on the alert for danger. They have to be. Even creatures at the top of the food chain need to keep safe.

Humans are no different, but most of the dangers that we experienced in prehistoric times are gone. Our instinct to look for dangers has caused us to find danger in things that in fact are not all that dangerous. So we worry about what people are saying to us. We worry whether our jobs are safe. We panic because we have to speak to a group of people. We are anxious about what to wear at a party.

If dangers are not present we find it necessary to invent them.  At this time of year, being Halloween, some even take a perverse pleasure in being afraid.

Ultimately for us humans this fear can get out of hand. We can start to feel symptoms of anxiety, we can become phobic of seemingly innocuous things. We can hold ourselves back from our greatest potential because we are too afraid to take the necessary risks to get there.

You can’t get rid of all fearful experiences

You will never get rid of all fear, for good reason. When you walk down a seedy street at night and see a dark figure coming towards you, that is a good time to consider running away, or getting the pepper spray, or calling for help. Fear should engender action.

That’s the way it should be. Even when taking action itself is scary, you need to learn to take it. Each time you do, you will feel a bit better about it and you will grow a bit. There will always be new fears to deal with. If you try to hide from new experiences your mind will seek fear in the mundane and your world will shrink again.

So more than anything you need to learn to handle fear and keep it at an appropriate level.

A great tool for accepting reasonable fear into your life is to keep the ‘Five Truths About Fear’ – found in Susan Jeffers’ ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway”, in mind.

I’ve created an infographic of these for you to print out and display if you like.  I also list them here:

  • The fear will never go away as long as you continue to grow!
  • The only way to get rid of the fear of doing something is to go out and…do it!
  • The only way to feel better about yourself is to go out and…do it!
  • Not only are you afraid when facing the unknown, so is everyone else!
  • Pushing through fear is less frightening than living with the bigger underlying fear that comes from a feeling of helplessness!

Download the infographic below.

Robert Sanders is a therapist and life coach, supporting people in their present and helping them create their future.

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