If you’ve ever had a completely irrational reaction to something, it’s possible that your reaction came from a place of fear.
Even if you don’t realize it.
Let’s be honest.
If you have a fear of spiders and one is crawling up your leg, you know exactly what the cause of your reaction was.
But what if it’s not so obvious?
How do you know you’re staring down a fear, even if it’s not one you consciously know about or admit to?
Because we all have basic fears that can be described as related to survival…spiders, heights, etc. They’re easy to identify and make a certain amount of sense. Except my fear of sharks. I live in Colorado and it’s pretty irrational to be afraid of sharks when the only swimming I do is in a pool.
What we’re looking at here is those more amorphous fears and how do we to identify them?
How do you identify fears you don’t know about?
The simple answer is, complete honesty.
You need to be able to take a close look at your actions and your thoughts, even if it’s hard and uncomfortable.
Without that willingness to self-evaluate, you’ll just be wasting your time.
And it’s not always comfortable.
When I began to take a look at my fears surrounding my health and the limitations it’s caused, it required some acknowledgements that I didn’t want to make. And the willingness to admit that my fears might not be rational.
The truth is, not all our fears are rational and deserve a place in our mind. But that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
When we get to a place that we are able to admit to the fears and what causes them, then we can begin to heal or manage those fears more effectively.
But now that we’ve established that being honest with yourself is paramount, what actual steps can you take to identify a fear?
Pay attention to strong reactions
If you experience a strong reaction to something, it is likely that there is a strong emotion backing that up.
It took a while for me to realize the desire to not be touched stemmed from the fear of the pain I felt whenever someone would touch me. When I finally understood that, I was much better able to manage that feeling and my response to it.
Maybe it is anger or sadness. Or anxiety!
Whatever the feeling, take note of it to look at more closely later.
If you need help dealing with that anxiety that fear can bring, check out online-therapy.com for their free resources. Full disclosure, there’s also a paid version, but there is SO MUCH to offer before you ever feel the need to pay!
Look deeper than the initial thoughts
Once you’ve noted those feelings down, don’t just take them at face value.
If you’ve never heard the term ’emotional intelligence’, I’m going to introduce it to you extremely quickly – honestly, it’s worth its very own series!
Simply put, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and manage your emotions. Without going too deep down this road, emotional intelligence is when you feel an emotion like anger but analyze it on a much deeper level than just a surface feeling of anger.
(If you’re looking for a great article on emotional intelligence, check this one out!)
But, if you’re wondering how it relates to fear, think of it as the ability to recognize fear, even if it is disguised as something else.
And then beyond that, it is also the ability to manage that fear and be able to move forward and live a fulfilled life.
If you never look any deeper at your feelings of fear, you likely will not be able to identify and overcome or manage them.
Keep an eye on your past
I do not believe we should live in the past or even dwell on it.
But we SHOULD be willing to understand that our past experiences can dramatically shape our present reality.
If your parents were divorced when you were a child, are you afraid of abandonment or being hurt?
If you were abused as a child are you afraid of being intimate?
If you wrecked your car in college during a rainstorm, are you afraid of driving on wet roads?
There is a never-ending list of ways that your past experiences shape your thoughts and emotions today. Don’t take them lightly, but use them to help you frame how you can learn from them or change from them now.
Realistically, a good chunk of the fears you face (that aren’t related to survival) probably come from your past experiences.
Ask for help
Admittedly, this sounds extremely trite.
I know I tend to tell people to ask for help a lot. But that’s because IT CAN BE HELPFUL!
If you have someone in your life who knows you well, talk our your feelings with them. If nothing else, it will give you a shoulder to lean on if you need one.
Moms – talk about your scary feelings with other moms.
Folks with illness – find someone who can sympathize and hash it out with them.
You might hear insight you hadn’t considered before and get support you didn’t even realize was necessary.
Don’t be ‘afraid’ to face fear
The truth is, fear itself isn’t dangerous. By itself, it isn’t likely to kill you.
But what WILL kill you are the stress, anxiety, depression, and dangers that come when you let fear run unidentified and unchecked in your brain.
It may be hard and uncomfortable to face these things down. After all, they are FEARS for a reason. You don’t want to downplay that.
But is the alternative worse?
If letting your life and maybe even the life of those around you worth the consequences of not being honest about your fears?
I guess that is up to you to decide!
Bringing it all together
Last week, we looked at fear and if it’s okay to be afraid.
It was a look at the more positive aspects of fear. This week, though, is a look at the insidious and hidden side of fear.
The fear that we have a hard time acknowledging and that is most likely to impact our negative emotions.
Hopefully these four tips for identifying those fears are helpful to you. As long as you are willing to be honest about your thoughts and fears, you will find success in indemnifying and managing them.
If you’re looking for more information on fear, stay tuned for the coming weeks.
In this series, we’ll be delving more deeply into fear. Topics to be (or already) covered include:
If you are one of the 40% of Americans who deal with anxiety, check out this awesome resource! The confidential web portal gives you access to hours of free mental health resources AND allows you to pay for access to online therapists, which is awesome during a pandemic!
Plus, if you use this link, you get a 20% discount on your first month. For those without insurance like me, this is a great and relatively inexpensive option! And trust me when I say, even the free resources are amazing!
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