Fear is a very strong emotion which is linked to anxiety. It, like all other emotions, can be very debilitating if we are not able to engage with it, address it’s need and soothe it. Where does fear emerge from? It is a feeling that alerts us to danger and that there is an immediate and perhaps growing threat to our safety.
Fear is a very natural and necessary alarm system and is to be listened to, not ignored. Our survival as a race was certainly determined by it when man had predators. It has a short life cycle as it triggers action in order to resolve the threat or remove us from it’s reach. However this is not what people experience when fear takes over and becomes a frequent challenge and battle.
There are many versions where fear feels unmanageable in the human experience. These can occur when we are faced with mortal danger and can also occur when we believe some damage will occur to us if we put ourselves in the way of a perceived danger. One could be understood as an actual experience such as an attack or a witnessing of an attack, the other may be succinctly categorised as anxiety or a phobia. Both can be very distressing as they take their toll physically as well as emotionally and can impact our wellbeing in a significant way.
If we feel we are not equipped or were not equipped to cope with either the danger we experienced or the danger we perceive, we can feel very vulnerable and unsafe as a consequence. This can lead to deep questions about ourselves and our resilience. It can also be a very isolating experience as we may find it difficult to explain what others may not understand.
We also may become aware that we do not possess the skills to meet this danger and become incapacitated in coping. We may also extrapolate a greater consequence to our self than the actual experience we are encountering may determine, which can heighten the fear and add to distress.
The reaction is very real whether the situation merits the intensity of the response or not and this is what we need to pay attention to. We must become familiar with the cycle that is initiated and learn that our bodily reactions while real and known may not need to be sustained. A conscious engagement with the here and now reality can interrupt a very real anguish.
Mindfulness practices can allow us meet the here and now which means that while we are acknowledging the experience of the feeling and not trying to dismiss it, we are also separating it out from what we think we know and what we do know. This is not an easy task but it is one of the most successful ways of addressing the immediacy of the experience.
While mindfulness is a concrete effort to support us in our distress, we will also need a deeper engagement with what has precipitated such reactions, in order to learn to accommodate and find a place for the reactions which can be so life impinging.