Last month, we looked at the emotion of anger; this month we will examine the feeling of fear.
Remember, humans experience four primary emotions: anger, fear, sadness, and love. All the other feelings are degrees or variations of these four.
The features of fear vary from mild (shyness) through to extreme (terror). Let’s have a look at some of them:
- Jealousy (fear of losing something/someone that belongs to you)
Fear is one of the emotions with which some people have difficulty. This may be because:
- When fear was shown, it resulted in ridicule or discipline.
- It was labelled as “childish”, “weak” or “disgraceful”.
- No one ever showed fear so that emotion was never identified.
- It got mislabelled as something else that was more “acceptable” to the family for example being “shy” or “nervous”.
- The emotion is often mislabelled as a thought or behaviour. Examples: doubt, indecision, superstition, worry, inferiority, suspicion.
Let’s have a look at how this emotion might get a bad reputation. Here are some examples of rules/messages with some possibilities of resulting beliefs and thinking.
Rule/message: “Only sissies are afraid”
Resulting belief: Fear is a sign of weakness
Subsequent thinking: “If I show I’m afraid, I’ll be too vulnerable.”
Rule/message: “Don’t talk to strangers.”
Resulting belief: A stranger means danger.
Subsequent thinking: “I can’t interact or trust anyone I don’t know.”
Rule/message: “If you are mess up, it will reflect badly on us.”
Resulting belief: Failure is not an option.
Subsequent thinking: “I have to be careful not make mistakes.”
What are some of the rules/messages about fear that you were given? Can you identify what beliefs were formed out of those? As we go through the Life Experience Chain, you will see how this results in destructive behaviours such as indecisiveness, procrastination, and isolation.
Fear is the emotion that says “Watch out! Be careful. What if?” It arises when one believes there is potential harm or danger. This can be physical or emotional harm such as ridicule, shaming, intimidation, harassment, bullying. It can also be caused by the unknown, people and situations.
You need to know what emotions feel like in your body because:
- it is one way that the emotion can be identified from the other emotions especially if an emotion has not been allowed or has been misidentified.
- it will help when we look at how to manage triggers.
When the mind says that “watch out”, the brain will send out the message to the body to ready for “flight mode”; if flight isn’t possible then a “fight mode”. The body eliminates all unnecessary functions except those needed for response. The first response is usually in the chest, feeling like a tight squeeze. Heart rate increases and blood shoots into the arms and legs preparing them for action. That’s why you may feel a tingling like a shot of electricity shooting down your arms. Breathing becomes quicker and shallower to oxygenate the blood,; the eyes widen to facilitate better sight.
Remember, Fear is your friend, not your enemy. It’s purpose is to help you be more aware. You will see this more clearly as we work through the links in the Life Experience Chain, examining triggers, choices and behaviours. You will learn how to identify the feeling of fear from the other emotions and how to properly let anger do the work it is intended to do.
As a child, you were not responsible for the rules and messages you received about the feelings of fear. You do have a choice as an adult about changing those. You have the right to change them into helpful and manageable feelings that validate and empower you.
Choose today to start making changes. Change will occur as you continue to:
- Properly identify the emotions you feel.
- Begin to use them as they were designed to be used.
- Start to act on these new responses.
painful, intolerable FEELINGS helpful, manageable
illogical, self-defeating THOUGHTS logical, self-enhancing
irrational, damaging BELIEFS rational, healing
unhealthy, dishonouring healthy, trustworthy
given to me as a CHILD RULES AND MESSAGES created by me as an ADULT
Judith S. Carscadden