Fear of Fear: An Important Distinction

Fear of Fear

Is it fear that really scares us or the fear of fear?

Or just Meta fear.

[Fear => “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger”; source Marriam-Webster]

Life entails challenges and scary situations and nobody is insured to fear, thus being fearless. You already know that fear is a prime emotion.

But what does it represent, clearly your body is trying to tell you something, right?
Are you actually experiencing fear or you just get paralyzed thinking about the fear?

Well, my perception is that often times you are not even feeling fear, talking about things that you define Out-Of -Your-Reach. Hence, fearing the fear. Much the same way I was cognitively thinking I would be scared, incapable to drop a black ski slope with ski, after not even two weeks of practice daily.

Thanks to circumstances and friends’ support, I did it.

Fear of Fear
Me, on the left, working as a ski patrol in Slovakia (photo from my iPhone SE)

Cognition vs Emotion

There are many things we have been told are scary and frightening. Like some movies, stories, experiences and so on.  Be aware it is all second-hand information, possibly garbage. Don’t let other people’s experience define yours. And of course, we make expectations and assumptions.

It is not easy to rise above the clutter of fear in our urban society. As you might know, media is driven by fear, sales, and marketing too. It Is a prime emotion that is very potent to highjack our primal reflex – to fight or flee.

But here is the thing. I am writing this post to make a distinction.

Meta fear is the cognitive implication of what you might fear, or you supposed to. Like my skiing example, in the beginning, I wasn’t feeling fear look the slope from a distance, but suggesting that I will. Being actually there, bindings strapped, full action mode ready to go down, overlooking the top from the bottom is another thing.

Now you are experiencing real fear.

What Fear Really Is?

Fear is emotion, in fact, physically fear doesn’t differentiate from excitement.

It is the same overwhelming feeling, just perceived in another lense.

It’s true the first time I heard this I didn’t believe it. But I sat down with the feeling when I experienced fear next time. Indeed, if you pay enough attention you would recognize the feeling of excitement below the fear. That leads you to new accomplishment, but first, you need to expand your limits.

‘Leap of faith’ is a classic example of trusting your abilities, skills and mostly your self – holistically. A trust that is more of a belief to overcome the challenge at hand. Fear is omnipresent in learning thus being part of life and certainly on the path to mastery.

And it is so sweet to do things that now are enjoyable, yet previously hard to do.

Fear of Fear
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

What is Your Fear Temperature?

There are many synonyms of fear. Fear synonyms gradation would help you identify how exactly you feel at the moment. It also improves your emotional literacy. That is a valuable skill to master your own psychology.

All fear related synonyms derivates from the emotion fear. Although they are still different emotions, their root is fear. And you can rank them as you want – concern, anxiety, uneasiness, scare, dismay, panic, angst, horror, and terror. Prioritizing different words (synonyms) to pinpoint your fear temperature I believe it would help you battle it easier.

Also, numbers work fine as well. For example a scale from 1 to 10.

But putting that on a scale is one thing then ask why is there, get to the roots of your fear.

Quick Evaluation

What are the costs of pursuing your fear?

The upside, the downside. Of course, fear is about risk. The risk to roll 1 instead of 6.

The following two questions I have learned from watching the famous Netflix TV series show House of Cards. That model-framework has been used by generals, presidents and mighty leaders to determine and make a decision.

Here there are:

What is the worst it could happen?
What is the best it could happen?

Now, after you write your answers or quickly mind-juggle the alternatives, make a conclusion. Based on that exercise alone you can get a pretty good tool for decision-making. It is simple, you have more to lose it might not be worth the risk.

And there are many other ways to process your feelings. I have already mentioned the ‘5-seconds Rule’ in my earlier post. There is also snap-decisions that Malcolm Gladwell speaks about in his book Blink. I would say that these two techniques are very similar.

The Message

Fear is ubiquitous, we all have some. Turn inward to find, if you are actually experiencing fear or just thinking about it paralyzes you.

Many of us have the same fears, but our fear temperature is different.

What might be a fearful experience for one it might not be for you. Give it a try to find out. But first get prepared, evaluate and be ready to suffer the consequences. Otherwise, it is worth quitting to get another day in the gym, before you try again. Invite your friends, learn, observe, break fear into small pieces to swallow. Or if it turns out to be that hard, nearly impossible ask someone who has already done it.

And remember, one day it might be boring to the thing that once scared you the most!

Walk at your own pace.

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