We all have fears. We are born with them, they grow with us, they define what makes us truly afraid. Where they come from is based on who we are, what we’ve been through, what we have experienced in our life. They can be big, they can be small, they can be real, they can be imaginary. Thinking about them too much or too little can have an effect on us in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.
Say you’re in a car accident. Every time you get into a vehicle, whether you are driving or not, you have that fear of another accident coming. That is the physical part of the fear. You went through a traumatic experience that might have left you physically hurt in some way, somehow that caused you pain. You think about the air bags going off, you think about what it felt like when your seat belt locked up and bruised you, you might even remember the feeling in your chest as you realized what was about to happen.
But what about the emotional side to the accident? What about how you felt? You felt fear rush through you, you felt the shock soon after it had happened, you felt your life change in a second. Being in the accident has caused you just as much if not more emotional trauma than you can think of. Every time you see a car that looks like yours or the person you hit, you get a twang in your heart for a while after. You think about how it could have been much worse; you think about all of the different factors that lead up to that moment, what you could have changed.
The accident traumatized you. It could have just shaken you up a bit, it was just a fender bender, right? No major damage done. It could have been a huge crash that totaled your car completely, but you’re not dead, right? But you think about it, you process it. It can take time to do that, or it can be something you never think about again. There are some people who get in a fender bender and never drive again. There are people who got in the worst crash of their life where they almost died, and they shake it off in what seems like no time at all. Everyone is different in this way; everyone processes fear in different ways.
Each person has their own brain which controls them and their emotions. Every person has their own brain chemistry makeup that makes them unique in many ways shape and form. The fear comes from within us, it is part of our chemistry. The way we deal with it on an every day basis is part of our uniqueness, what makes us want to be fearless or hide for the rest of our days.
I recently listened to a TED talk by Dr. Brene Brown, link found at the bottom, a research professor who studied for many years about the different types of fears, how we cope, and where they come from. She mentioned that there were two types of fear; physical and emotion. That makes sense right? You don’t become fearful of something physical until something bad happens to you personally. You then deal with it emotionally in your own way. Some have major physical traumas brought on by another human being; those tend to be the most difficult to overcome.
Dr. Brown looked more into the emotional side of things when it came to her research. It focused on what a fear looks like, what it does to our self-esteem, how we cope everyday with them. She list vulnerability and shame as main stems into our fears. Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of the unknown. She talks about how we tend to cope with them, what we should do vs. what we actually do.
When she was talking about vulnerability, I thought about relationships. I thought about the times when a boy said they would never leave, when they said they would always be there for me, when they said I was the only important thing in the world; and then they left. You put yourself in a very vulnerable situation when it comes to having a partner. You have to put all of your trust and faith in them and hope and pray that they don’t end up hurting you. You let your guard down, you share your secrets, you share your pain, you share your hopes and dreams, all with the idea that the person is going to accept you. Sometimes that backfires; they leave because they can’t handle it, they don’t want to handle it. That’s their right to do so, but it hurts.
I thought about how your vulnerability can lead to shame. You become upset with yourself for letting your guard down, for being trusting, for loving someone. When they take that away from you, you feel such shame for letting that happen to you. You are more upset with yourself than with the other person. You become fearful for your future relationships because what if it ends up the same?
I like to think of the fear that comes with my relationship as something I know I can get past if that day ever comes. I try and be hopeful that it won’t, but I am human. I think of the worst before I think of the best. I let my guard down, he knows everything about me. I haven’t lied about anything, if he asks a question I answer it as best as I can, and I try to do the same for him. It’s a two way street. So far, this hasn’t been an issue. We both have pasts that we can’t change, but it always helps to talk it out with someone you love.
We as humans are tough by nature. We can cope in healthy and unhealthy ways to make our selves feel better. Coping skills for when something does happen, where your become fearful of something for whatever reason, can be what saves you. Dr. Brown talks about how therapies, talking with the people around you, sitting with your won thoughts can be very helpful in helping you learn to live with the fears. Some people go to the gym, ride their bikes, dance away their problems. These, and many more, are fantastic ways to cope with fear, I’ll have to agree, but they aren’t the only way people cope.
There are the few that don’t take the healthy route when it comes to fears. They bottle them up, let them sit, push them out of their minds, etc. This builds up over time. It becomes unhealthy to the point of no return for some. Others push away the fear with substances such as alcohol, drugs, sex, whatever it may be. They never deal with them, they never think about them, they create their happiness in anyway they can think of so that they don’t have to deal with the fear. They never think of the trauma they went through, so it must feel good temporarily, but in the long run is still there, still festering inside until you become vulnerable again.
I have fears just life everyone else. I have more common ones like rejection, horses, getting hurt in someway that leave me disabled, but I also have ones that are more personal to me in my daily life. Like what if my medication is off and I lose who I am again for a time period, what if I say something that hurts someone close to me and I lose them, what if I feed my animals the wrong thing on accident and hurt or kill them? I try not to go to the extreme with my fears, but I do think of them often so I can emotionally prepare for them.
We all have things that terrify us, some more than others, some bigger than others, some more rational than others. Dr. Brown ends her talk with the saying “I am enough.” I like to think of that at times when my mind wanders to the dark side. We are all human; we make mistakes, we fall, we get back up, and we do it all over again. No one is ever as perfect as they seem. I would like to leave you with the thought of speaking to someone if you’re going through a tough time, even me. Just talk it out, don’t try and force the happiness in unhealthy ways. You are enough, you always will be enough; never forget that.
Dr. Brene Brown’s TED talk on fear: