Fear And Anxiety
June 28, 2021
Fear is an evolutionary emotion that is meant to protect us from danger. Fear of heights, fear of darkness, fear of flying, fear of closed spaces, fear of snakes etc- there are different situations where we feel the threat of something bad happening, which gives rise to fear.
The fear then helps us moderate our behavior and actions in a manner where we feel safe. So If you suffer from a fear of snakes, you will keep your distance and avoid coming into contact with snakes.
Similarly, if you fear public speaking, you fear the possibility of failing, of being judged. So, you will ignore any opportunities that require you to speak publicly.
Unfortunately, what we fear rarely ends up happening. Many of our fears are imaginary.
Fear is an emotion of certainty triggered by a belief that something terrible will happen. The fear may be imaginary and may be unfounded, but in your mind, you completely believe that there is a threat. The way to deal with any fear is to deal with the belief of a threat. Something you fear, if you push yourself to do it a few times and you see that you suffer no harm, your belief will shift. You will no longer fear it.
There is another emotion similar to fear that many of us struggle with- Anxiety.
Anxiety Stems From Uncertainty
Anxiety, unlike fear, is caused by uncertainty. You have anxiety when your mind creates these predictions that something bad may happen.
Example: There is talk of some people being made redundant in your organization, and your mind starts feeling anxious. Why? Because you are worried that you may be made redundant, and you cannot say for sure whether that will happen. Anxiety comes from your mind playing out the possibility of you being made redundant.
Another Example: You have interviewed for a role, and you are anxiously awaiting the result. You are anxious because your mind plays up the scenario of you not being selected. Once the result comes out, whether you get selected or not, there is no more anxiety since there is no more uncertainty about the outcome. When the uncertainty gives way to a high degree of certainty, you become free to respond, feel sadness, adjust, accept, or do whatever is needed.
Unfortunately, when we suffer from anxiety, it’s because we are uncertain. Worrying more will not relieve anxiety. Seeking clarity and reducing uncertainty is the most effective way to deal with anxiety. The other way is to start accepting that uncertainty is a part of life and becoming comfortable with that.