Emotions 2: Fear/Anxiety
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Tricia Johnson MBACP (Senior Accredited) Counsellor, Supervisor and Trainer
29th September, 2007
As has been said before, emotional reactions are unique to any individual, in the sense that no two people will experience the same event in the same way, and will have differing emotional reactions. Fear and anxiety are a lot more common than we would initially think. It is very rare for us to meet someone who is genuinely without any fear! It could be argued that such a person may be in denial; or may simply be irresponsible or reckless. As with other emotions, there is a sense in which a certain amount of fear can be good, even healthy. A reasonable level of fear prevents children from running out into a busy road, or walking along very high narrow walls! Most people have something that they are fearful of ¡V but most people seem to manage without it ruling or even ruining their lives. They seem to be able to control it. It is when fear or anxiety takes over and prevents us from functioning fully that we start to get concerned and begin to think of getting help.
Fear, in its fullest form, is paralysing. For many, just to step outside their front door is a very scary experience.
Fear comes when we have an uncertain goal; we want something to happen but are uncertain that it will ¡V whether it is an exam, a job interview, an anticipated confrontation or dispute; there is uncertainty about the outcome and we feel anxiety or fear.
There are three levels to fear. Initially there may be the fear of a particular event or situation ¡V such as driving, confrontation, an exam, a person, or simply going out. Underlying that will be a psychological fear ¡V of rejection, failure, being misunderstood, of looking stupid. But underlying that further is the concern that ¡¥I won¡¦t cope¡¦ or ¡¥I might not be able to do it¡¦. Thus in order to work through fear fully, each of these levels need full exploration:
- What is the initial thing that we are fearful of?
- What does this mean to us on a personal level?
- Where did our assessment that we cannot cope originate, and how realistic is it?
Panic attacks are a very real and traumatic experience of those who suffer acute fear and anxiety. At an extreme they can be very debilitating. Most people find that they need help in understanding what these attacks are about. Through my client work, I have found it very informative to explore the triggers of any panic attack. In seeking to understand these triggers much can be learnt about a client¡¦s self-perception and belief systems. Steps can then be taken to reduce the likelihood of a further panic attack.
I am repeating myself, but it needs saying. The starting place in seeking to work through any emotion has to be a place of acceptance. If we deny what we are feeling, whatever we are feeling will be exaggerated and we may well be experiencing more distress than is necessary.
Having accepted that we are feeling fear or anxiety, we may then decide that we no longer want to continue to accept it and we will take steps to reduce or even eliminate it. Such action may take many forms and will depend very much upon the individual¡¦s circumstances. One way forward may well be to seek help in the form of counselling.
So, fear and more precisely panic attacks when explored fully can help us in our journey of self-awareness and fulfilment. Through such exploration we can become stronger and more resilient.
If you would like to speak with me further about this, may be with a view to working through your own fear or anxiety, please feel free to contact me.
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