Some Thoughts on Fear and Anxiety

In my practice, I like to introduce the idea that there are several ways we humans experience the emotion of fear.

Fear is often specific, with an immediate object to be feared, like a lion, an armed robber, a tornado, Etc. This kind of fear is an alarm for us to take immediate action to protect ourselves and others. Our most basic reaction to it is often characterized by variations of the “Fight or Flight” response.

Anxiety is less specific. It is experienced as a generalized sensation of possible future danger of some kind, often, but not necessarily, based on actual, negative past experience. It is defuse, less time-specific and can exist without a conscious object.

Fear-of-Fear has all of the power of the actual fear-alarm we experience when confronted by a danger-object, lion, robber, tornado, Etc. in the present moment. But, in fact, it is often just “smoke-and-mirrors.” This can be a result of the human brain’s designed and routine ability to create scenarios for us that seem very real as we imagine them but are only there in order to prepare us for the possibility of some similar event happening in the future. Fear-of-fear can also be a result of fatigue, isolation, loneliness or the loss of our spiritual connection to the Universe.  

These varying experiences of fear have something in common. They can overwhelm our ability to assess risk properly. When this happens, life can seem too risky to live. This can prevent us from setting out on the inevitable adventures required of us to lead a productive, fulfilling, happy and healthy life.

Crippling fear, anxiety and fear-of-fear are often topics brought to my practice. There is no shame in seeking help to learn how to use these often-troublesome emotions to our benefit. So, instead of being afraid to face fear, we can welcome it and better understand its nuances as potentially helpful “signposts” along the paths of our lives.