©2018 by Ivy Hall, Ph.D.

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    Fear: What is it good for?

    A few days ago, a friend was telling me about how prior to her first day of teaching, she was feeling panicky and anxious- so anxious that her mentor encouraged her to step out to ground herself if she needed. She shared how she’s never felt nervous about talking or teaching in front of a group previously- like in school- but for some reason, she was feeling super anxious that day. Her mentor told her- the teaching position must have meant a lot to her, so that’s why she was feeling so much anxiety.


    I could relate. Any time something important has come up for me- things related to school, work, and even familywise- I would feel increased anxiety, and even fear sometimes. And even when I know that I am capable, worthy, and valuable- that fear encroaches on my confidence and leads to a lot of self-doubt.



    Fear- an emotion that is evolutionarily important: our number one priority as humans is to survive. In order for us to do so, our brains have to tell us when danger is approaching. Fear served as a cue for humans to get into a fight or flight mode so physically, humans could run or fight to survive.


    Today, fear continues to serve as a cue when our brains think we will get hurt- except our brains no longer just cue us to the physical dangers, but to emotional ones as well.


    When we experience trauma, our brains can change, particularly as it tries to reconcile what happened. It will start to pay more attention to cues that may lead to similar damage (emotional or physical). Sometimes, it may misinterpret situations, leading to fear responses that may not be appropriate to the situation (e.g., if I see dark spots on the way, I am on high alert for spiders).


    So when we are doing things-or think about doing things that are important to us- maybe interviewing for that unicorn job, going on dates to find a partner, it’s natural to feel some fear or anxiety. If it’s something that’s not important to you, it won’t affect you- you won’t care about the outcome.


    We don’t want to be disappointed. Feel broken-hearted. Fail. Often times, when these types of things happen, we attribute the outcome to something being wrong with us. So we hesitate, go back and forth in our minds, maybe even avoid doing that thing that is really important to us- because of fear.


    In doing so, what do you miss out on? Maybe something really great. Maybe a lesson that will help you be stronger, or make better decisions the next time. So how do you push past that fear? More on this next time.


    What are some of your fears that get you stuck? How have you overcome them? I would love to hear your comments!