February focus: fear

This week I’m going to take a deeper look at some of the primary emotions and how they serve us.

Fear – helping us cope with danger

Fear is a primary emotion that arises when we perceive something that might harm us. This can be real or imagined, and covers physical, emotional and psychological threats.

Fear ranges from nervousness to terror, and usually depends on the severity of the threat, how soon the harm is likely to reach us, and what we have available to us to cope with it. Fear often follows a (bad) surprise, and can accompany anger.

A sign of potential harm

Fear is sometimes intuitive – such as things that cause us pain, and sometimes learned -such as from a bad experience, and sometimes taught – including cultural and family influences.

There are several common triggers for fear, including creepy crawlies (snakes, spiders, bats, rats); heights, flying, fire, darkness; blood / medical (needles, injury, dentists); and certain situations (elevators, public speaking, enclosed spaces).

Fear works by giving you a message to help you reduce or avoid harm. It operates in stages. First: Freeze – you focus your attention on the threat to understand it more; Then: Fight or Flight – you decide what to do to cope with the danger (deal with it or work around it); or if the fear becomes overwhelming, you experience Fright – you take no action.

“Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

When someone experiences the emotion of fear, they typically have raised eyebrows, wide eyes and tense lips. They might have a higher pitch or strained tone, and may also scream. Often they experience shortness of breath, sweating or trembling. They may feel cold or experience tightness in their limbs. Fear triggers a release of adrenaline and cortisol.

Fear is partly imagined

Fear can be triggered even when there’s no danger present. We humans are able to create fear in our minds, getting scared by just imagining what might happen.

Also, the more triggered we are by fear, the scarier things seem. If we are already on edge and primed for fear, even harmless things will make us jump. For instance, if you’re scared of flying, you’ll be on high alert during a flight and every little bump of turbulence will terrify you.

Real threats fuel action

While you may feel worried or anxious about things that might not happen, you don’t tend to take a lot of action. Imagined threats tend to cause paralysis. However when there’s a real threat present, you are motivated to immediate action.

People who are ‘fearless’ are not without fear, they are not afraid to feel fear. They understand fear is useful for guiding you through dangerous situations and can help you survive and be successful. They tend to take time to understand what’s causing the fear – whether it’s something intuitive, something you’ve had a bad experience with in the past, or something you’re worried about for your future. They build their confidence and skills so they are more able to handle the things that scare them. They plan, prepare and ask for help.

🧡 Daily Practice : Meditation

We are all connected. Use this loving kindness meditation to extend your compassion to include more of the people in your life – even some you have never met, and especially for those people you find challenging. This meditation reminds us of our best intentions and wishes people well.

Find a comfortable sitting position and take a few deep breaths. Say the following:

May I be safe and protected.
May I be happy and contented.
May I be healthy and whole.
May I live with ease.

Now think of a good friend, and say:

May you be safe and protected.
May you be happy and contented.
May you be healthy and whole.
May you live with ease.

Now bring to mind someone you find difficult and say:

May you be safe and protected.
May you be happy and contented.
May you be healthy and whole.
May you live with ease.

Finally think of everyone in the world and say:

May we all be safe and protected.
May we all be happy and contented.
May we all be healthy and whole.
May we all live with ease.

At the end, give yourself a few moments, then take a breath and stand.

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