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Living with Fear

By: Catarina Santos Faria

Living with fear.

Fear is an emotional state that emerges as a consequence of possible danger, a physical or moral threat, or a threat of any other nature. This emotional state can be triggered by various factors, and even though you may feel it in a very real form, fear is not something concrete, but a product of the reactions produced in our brains.

As an evolutionary and adaptive mechanism of survival, it can include various levels of intensity, vastly present when we feel insecure, apprehensive and worried. Fear stops new situations from being created and lived, and it’s only made aware when it influences and limits your life.

Are you aware of your biggest fears? 
Although we are all able to identify physical symptoms of fear, at times we may not know what is the objective of our fear, we’re only aware of fear as a sensation. In order to overcome fear it’s necessary that you understand that all fears arise as a consequence of an event and not the event itself, for this reason each emotional state of fear has its cause and its overcoming method.

Expose yourself! Don’t fear to feel fear

Psychology uses some specific techniques that can help you analysing and investigating the possible causes of your fear. Through psychotherapy it is possible to identify fears in order to understand its roots, and help you to create your own thought control strategies aimed at overcoming the stimulus that represents fear.

When we face a fear that is disproportionate to the possible damage and the cause of psychological suffering (phobia), and when it’s associated to a frame of physical symptoms (panic disorder), the technique most used by psychologists is the “Systematic desensitisation”.

This technique allows a fear scale to be developed, where the patient is encouraged to face the fear. This is a technique of cognitive restructuring where a relearning process takes place and the patient learns to give a different meaning to the stimuli that used to generate fear in order to have a more adequate reaction to it.

Fear is a natural emotional state, accept its existence, but refuse living with it.

When you’re conscious of your fear, you have a number of options available to deal with it. These are some steps that you can follow to overcome your fears:

  • Identify your emotional answers and physical expressions (acknowledge your fear and it’s symptoms);
  • Force yourself to stop your thoughts (consider that the thoughts that you’re having must be your brain’s reaction and not the reality);
  • Visualise yourself resolving the matter ( this way you’ll be able to build a strategy and increase your self confidence);
  • Direct your attention to what is most important in the present moment (even with fear, do what you have to do );
  • Remember the moments in your life where you felt fear, but overcame it.

Exposing yourself to a situation that triggers fear isn’t easy, however you must accept that living your life avoiding those situations is even more difficult. Risk exposing yourself to a situation that triggers fear in you for a short space of time, the more you do this the more you’ll reduce the fear.

Don’t give up after your first attempt, expose yourself once and again, only this way the symptoms will disappear and you’ll be able to change your perception and control your reaction to fear.

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