Fear is the emotional and physiological arousal that alerts us to potential danger and threat to our well being. The healthy form of fear occurs when the danger is real. In such cases, it gets our attention and prompts us to seek ways to get to safety and re-establish a sense of calm and equilibrium.
Unhealthy fear or the "four letter word version" occurs when we experience this distressing emotion in response to perceived danger, that is not real or to negative thoughts that have no proof. Examples of mental states that underlie unhealthy fear include:
- persistent and chronic worry about the future
- negative and pessimistic expectations that have no foundation
- irrational, unrealistic and erroneous beliefs
- viewing a negative event from the past as ongoing, even when it has ceased
- negative, self-deprecating thoughts and self-assessments
To overcome the distress and negative impact that unhealthy fear causes, it is important to do the following:
Challenge the underlying thoughts or negative self-talk by asking, "What evidence is there to support my fear generating perceptions?"
Take reasonable risks to test out one's negative predictions, that may not have a basis. A very powerful question from the book, Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson, M.D. is, What would you do, if you were not afraid"?
Focus on what is happening in the here and now or the present and adopt a healthy recognition that we cannot change the past or predict / control the future
Recognize and accept the reality that we cannot change others or read their minds
Refrain from internalizing painful experiences, such as failure or being hurt, disappointed or rejected
Instead, recognize that what happens to us does not define us.
Re-focus on what you can control and embrace a healthy sense of empowerment over your life and circumstances, while recognizing realistic limitations.
Remember that in response to challenges or negative experiences, we can
Heal, Learn and Grow