I’ve been taking a deep dive into my life lately and really trying to understand some emotional triggers. One of the things I have noticed is how fear has raised its ugly head more often than I would like. Honestly, it has caught me off guard on how I have been affected by fear later in life. I’m normally a positive outlook type of person. The glass is always half full. I’m usually that one person who looks ahead towards the future with adventure and excitement. However, some recent events have caused me to take a closer look at fear and how it is messing with me. Hopefully this is will be helpful for you also.
What is Fear?
According to modern day psychology, fear is a survival mechanism in all of us. Interestingly, we all come into the world knowing how to be afraid. Think about that for a second. Fear is a foundational instinct of every human being. Just like breathing or digestion, fear is a normal process for all of humanity. Fear is in our Divine Design.
When we are afraid, we experience fight or flight emotions. Something triggers within us an alert, and we are left with a decision. Do we fight or do we run?
Webster defines fear as: "an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat."
According to the Center for Neuroscience of Fear and Anxiety, "Fear is the response to immediate stimuli. The empty feeling in your gut, the racing of your heart, palms sweating, the nervousness—that's your brain responding in a preprogrammed way to a very specific threat."
So here is how fear works within every person. When we create a negative picture in our minds about the future, our body kicks in and we create fear within us, which then turns to worry and then anxiety. People fear things or situations that make them feel unsafe or unsure. In addition, fear has a certain contagious feature to it. We can become more afraid by being around others who are afraid.
Sometimes our fear over time increases within us. Incident after incident starts to reinforce a fear that turns into a phobia. Having a phobia isn't a sign of weakness or immaturity. It's a response the brain has learned in an attempt to protect ourselves. It's as if the brain's alert system triggers a false alarm, generating intense fear that is out of proportion to the situation at hand. Because the fear signal is so intense, we are convinced the danger is greater than it actually is. When we are fearful over a long period of time we become incapacitated and unable to act. We are stuck.
I don’t know about you, but that word “incapacitated” really sticks out. Have you been experiencing any “false alarms” lately in your life? Have you been stuck?
I took some time to do a deep inventory of how fear affects me personally. I hope it’s helpful to you and possibly encouraging that you are not alone.
How does fear affect me, personally?
- Fear talks me out of taking a risk. When I am afraid, I do not move forward. I’m in protection mode. I get stuck.
- Fear makes me think my best days are behind me. Fear leaves me in a place where I feel washed up and no longer relevant.
- Fear enables me to stay in toxicity and unhealth. Since I’m stuck and not moving, I’m continually experiencing the unhealthy around me. Even if I wish for change. Nothing is changing. I’m not doing anything different.
- Fear helps me focus on doubt and compromises the possibility of hope. I focus and spend time on what it is a I am afraid of instead of on the reality that my circumstances can change. In all likelihood, they will change.
- Fear devalues my self- worth. I begin to find reasons why I deserve or have earned my circumstances. I lose sight of my own self value. It becomes a vicious cycle.
- Fear creates apathy, depression, and isolation in me. I become trapped in a cycle of shame. Instead of opening up and entrusting myself to my community and friends, I make excuses on how this is the best it is going to get.
- Fear slowly sucks the life and happiness out of me. I get more and more fatigued and basically want to be by myself. Depression starts to settle in.
- Fear convinces me to keep enabling my circumstances. I go into survival mode instead of change mode. I take on an enduring attitude instead of a courage attitude.
- Fear makes me think this is as good as it gets. I believe the lie that my best days are behind me.
- Fear keeps me in bondage until something gets even worse. I operate as if there are no choices. I have believed the lies and untruth running through my head.
The reality is that I haven’t been focusing on real truth. I have been focusing on my fear and anxiety. All of us experience different emotions throughout the week. Some of us are in a thought pattern that is really unhealthy for us. Any time we are dealing with fear, we must address our fear with truth. Remember, fear is a preprogrammed operating system within all of us. Fear is present because of how we are thinking and processing what we are experiencing. When we are in a thought cycle of unhealth and lies, our thoughts are on the wrong things. What is the truth? Seek desperately to find the truth.
One passage that really helps me when things aren’t going as planned or worse, things are really bad is in Romans 8. For me, truth and honesty are key for me to move forward. Perspective changes everything in the battle of our minds.
Romans 8:25-28 (NIV)
25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
- When we give in to fear we often times experience regret.
- We all live WITH fear. We are designed to have a response when we are afraid. However, we don’t have to live IN fear all our lives.
- The challenge is to use love instead of fear to move forward in our lives. Encouragement and trust fill us with hope.
How Can We Overcome our Fears?
- Embrace our fears. We admit that they are real and that they exist. Fear is a normal response. Identify what is triggering this normal response? (Psalm 56:3)
- Face our fears with truth. When we face our fears, we expose our fears for what they truly are, half -truths. Immerse yourself in truth. (Isaiah 41:10, John 14:27)
- Talk about what you are afraid of with your trusted community. When we entrust ourselves to others, fear loses its power. When we isolate ourselves fear increases in power. Take the risk to share what is going on in your life with trusted friends. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5)
- Express gratitude. Whenever you are afraid, immediately state what you are grateful for. Again, this is perspective gaining. Everything in our life isn’t going down the drain. Just what we are focusing on in the moment. We have to balance out our thinking with those things and people that we are so grateful for. Perspective brings clarity. (Philippians 4:6-7)
- Surrender. Embrace the truth that God is bigger than our fears and that we can rest and place everything in Him. When we surrender, fear loses its power. We choose to embrace where we truly are. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
I love this quote. Really take time to ponder it:
"Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie
Fear is real. Fear is normal. Fear can help us but should never control us. Take courage and focus on the truth. God is with you.
“’For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. Do not be afraid, for I myself will help you,’ declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” - Isaiah 41:13-14
I believe that our best days are before us…not behind us. We all need a little encouragement, wisdom, and help from time to time. We can’t accomplish our goals in isolation or always on our own. We need each other. Remember, you are not alone. It’s time to thrive. Let’s do it together.
If you ever want one on on coaching or an ear to process leadership and life, let me know. I’m here to help.