Everybody is afraid of something — perhaps it’s an insect, a person, an activity or even death. Fear is a natural and psychological response, and there's no need to be ashamed about feeling it. However, that doesn't mean that you have to let your fears exert control over your life. Recognising the different types of fears can help you to better formulate a response to them and put you in a position of control. Here are the 3 key types of fear and how you should react to each of them:
As its name suggests, healthy fear can be a force for good. It helps us to detect dangerous situations (usually physically dangerous ones) and induces a response to this danger. For example, the sensation of such fear causes our body to release adrenaline — a type of hormone which increases our sympathetic response levels. In turn, we experience an increase in heart rate and other adaptive responses which gives our body more energy to respond to the dangerous situation. When you experience such a fear, listen to your “gut”. Though it might seem illogical at times, do not downplay it as it just might save your life.
This type of fear is based on real, actual events and usually comes about after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. Such fear is common and sometimes inevitable; one of the most common examples is a near-death experience or the death of a loved one.
There are two sides to real fear. Positively, real fear can push us to do something meaningful. For example, if we fear the death of a loved one, we might be compelled to spend more time with him/ her. On the downside however, real fear can also be paralyzing when it causes us to become unreasonably paranoid to the point of mental paralysis. This might ultimately result in various missed opportunities.
Illogical fear is the complete opposite of real fear; it arises from a hypothetical situation and there is no firm reasoning or basis for it. Common examples of illogical fear include heights, insects, claustrophobia, public speaking, etc.. Despite their triggers, these fears tend to be the most paralysing sort and are the ones which are most deserving of being tackled head-on. If you currently have some illogical fear, here are some tips for you to overcome them:
- Be open about your fear, name it and understand it. Consider the reasons and basis for your fear as well.
- Consciously remind yourself that there is no good basis for your fear and challenge your thoughts about it.
- Take small steps to expose yourself to your fear – this might help you to gradually become more comfortable with it.
Fear is very much a double-edged sword. While it can be very useful in warning us about danger, excessive levels of it can also render us incapable of moving forward in life. Ultimately, we need to know the type of fear which we harbour and strive to overcome the ones that hold us back from being the best possible version of ourselves.