What is fear: why you shouldn’t live with it

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Have you ever been afraid or asked the question ‘what is fear?’ If yes, is fear a good thing? Well, we may all have different opinions on this, which is very understandable. However, to know the place of fear between good and bad, we must first understand what the feeling of fear is.

What is Fear?

Fear is emotional distress that arose by impending danger, hurt, evil, etc., which pose to be a real or imagined threat. In other words, fear is an emotional state whereby you feel frightened or scared, regardless of whether the situation warrants it or not. This means people can experience fear even when they ought not to.

what is fear

Since this feeling can occur even when it out not to, you may wonder “How, and why does this feeling come about?”

Fear is an instinct; it is a survival mechanism and a tool that helps us escape danger. What happens when we experience fear is; our adrenal glands (which is located directly above our kidneys) begins to release adrenaline into the bloodstream.

This sudden discharge of adrenaline causes a series of biological reactions in our body. These include; an increased blood and oxygen flow to our muscles (to enable us to move faster), restriction in blood flow to other areas such as the stomach, and it dilates our pupils to allow better vision.

Fear is naturally meant to be a state where our senses and reflexes become heightened, to enable an easy escape or defence from real and physical danger. However, since fear would occur whenever we sense a threat, these biological reactions would naturally interfere with our performance when we are faced with situations that may not cause any physical danger.

This is why we find people get into stage fright or make wrong decisions during a job interview; it is obvious that the feeling of fear is pretty much not needed in such scenarios. Having increased blood flow to muscles or dilated pupils would instead make one uncomfortable during a job interview, and might make worse decisions due to these biological reactions.

The answer

So, regarding the initial question; “Is fear a good thing?” it is quite clear that it depends on the situation we find ourselves in. Fear can be an excellent instinct to overcome physical danger, but can also be a harmful emotion that can cause us to overreact.

The problem is, about 99% of the times people experience fear today, are not caused by physical danger, but rather only exists in their mind. We often think we’re in trouble when we aren’t.

Some of the fears that exist in our minds include; fear of failure, fear of loss, fear of changes, fear of judgment, fear of humiliation, fear of being alone, fear of growing old, Fear of being hurt, etc.

If you can relate to any of the above listed, chances are, you may have experienced such at some point in time, maybe for a short period, or at a subconscious level. In this article, we answer the question ‘what is fear?’ and we give a few reasons why you shouldn’t live with fear.

Four reasons why you shouldn’t live with fear

When fear often distorts your mental balance when it ought not to, you should pay your mind immediate attention. However, if you still feel it isn’t necessary to do away with fear from your life, here are four primary reasons why you should have a rethink.

1. Fear limits your full potential

Fear can prevent you from growing and progressing in life; many people in our society today live with a very high level of anxiety, that they allow their thoughts and decisions to be driven by it. To be mired in fear holds you back from rising to the higher levels of your personal, spiritual, and professional growth. As long as you are living in fear, you can’t reach the higher levels of consciousness.

When you let your fear drives their thoughts, feelings, decisions, and behaviors, your whole life becomes a byproduct of fear, rather than your desires. For instance; consider people who are scared of change, they become frightened whenever there are changes in their lives (be it good or bad). They would exhibit a counter-reaction to the change, so they can maintain the status quo and protect their illusion of safety. Such persons live in reaction to fear, rather than proactively live their lives. As such, they are merely reacting to fear and would find it difficult to reach their fullest potential.

2. You can’t fully run from your fears

Once you have answered the ‘what is fear’ question, the next step is knowing that running away from your fears wouldn’t help. Understand that the fear which occurs mentally is pervasive, and as long as you let it permeate, and you keep running away instead of dealing with it, it will always interfere in everything you do. Running away would only give you an illusion of security, and you may feel safe for a short moment.

For example, if you are scared of being humiliated by a specific group of people, say your school mates or work colleague. You are scared you may do something wrong when you are around them and be mocked for it. The truth is; leaving that vicinity to another would not solve the problem, because, you would still have to associate with other people and the fear of humiliation is only in your head.

So regardless of where you run to, your fears would catch up with you in one way or the other.  As a matter of fact, the more you run from your fears, the more they catch up with you. It gets to a point where you either have to learn to deal with it or tremble in its presence forever. Since you inevitably have to deal with fear at some point, it is better to learn to overcome fear now, rather than avoiding it only to deal with it eventually.  

3. Fear is a waste of mental energy

Another way to answer the what is fear question is this: Fear is a waste of time and mental energy; every moment you spend drowning in your worries, you unknowingly cultivating a seed that gives rise to similar thoughts subsequently. When you address situations with fear, you tend to exhaust all your energy into something non-constructive and productive, rather than calmly processing the problem and identifying rational solutions and ways forward.

Remember what happens when you feel fear? You experience an instant rush of adrenaline that gives you an increased physical performance to escape danger, and not improved mental performance. In a situation where your fears are only in your head, this feeling would do you and the situation no good as it only makes you mentally unstable at that moment.

4. It’s probably all in your mind

Having mental fear get the best of you is like allowing yourself to be scared by a scarecrow; the scenarios that play in your mind seem scary, but are be harmless in reality. Take public speaking for an example. Many people are scared of going out to speak in public, not because it would result in any physical bodily harm of any sort.

Some of the common reasons why public speaking is dreaded by many include the thought of slipping up, people’s judgment, embarrassment that may occur, the idea of you forgetting the speech, wardrobe malfunction, audience feeling bored, and so on.

But come to think of it, none of these things has happened yet, the presentation itself hasn’t even taken place. These fears are only in your head, and non are sure to happen. Even if it has happened before, that doesn’t guarantee that it would happen in the future.

Since the future has not occurred yet, you are still in the position to shape your future into whatever outcome you desire. And if you want the best for yourself, you shouldn’t allow your fears, do dictate future occurrences and hinder you from living your best life.

The ‘what is fear’ question should be easier to answer after reading this article. Let us know how you deal with fear, and other ways you’d answer the question of ‘what is fear?’

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