– a feeling of distress
– reverence or awe
– concern or anxiety
– to be afraid
– to respect
– to be anxious about something
Psychologists say that it is an emotion induced by a perceived threat where the reaction is to be paralysed, confront or run (freeze, fight or flight). The emotion of fear shouldn’t be confused with that of anxiety which is triggered without an external threat.
Fear is a basic survival mechanism. It is a response to a threat that could result in loss of anything that is held as valuable such a:s health, wealth, status, power, security. It is usually an emotion held about a future event.
The top fears that humans holdare of: demons and ghosts, the existence of evil powers, cockroaches, spiders, snakes, heights, water, enclosed spaces, tunnels, bridges, needles, social rejection, failure, examinations and public speaking. Another study had the following: flying, heights, clowns, intimacy, death, rejection, people, snakes, failure, and driving. Fears held by a group of 13-15 year olds were: terrorist attacks, spiders, death, being a failure, war, criminal or gang violence, being alone, the future, and nuclear war.
If these lists are to be believed then our top fears are as follows:
– Demons and Ghosts
– Heights (inc bridges)
– Enclosed spaces (inc tunnels)
– People’s behaviours (inc social rejection,fear of failure, public speaking, exams, intimacy)
– Being alone
– Evil powers (inc criminal or gang violence, war, terrorist attacks, nuclear war)
– The future
Collected together in one person and you could see why they wouldn’t get out of bed… Ever… Except they’re probably afraid of the enclosed space.
Looked at rationally none of these items seem worthy of much time or energy. There are risks attached to each but all are manageable in the modern world (except perhaps for the paranormal). Psychologists advocate facing your specific fear in a controlled environment. They suggest that becoming friendly with your fear it becomes easier to understand and ultimately less fearful.
This is an approach I’ve always adopted but yesterday whilst skiing I was overcome with fear. It is early season conditions so the snow cover was less than I’m used to. It meant I had to adapt my skiing turning to avoid obstacles such as rocks and bushes and small trees that ordinarily would be covered by snow. I was disappointed that things weren’t going to my plan. At first I was stoic thinking that there was only a small patch to cross. Then, when I caught my ski around a small branch, frustrated. Then, when I started to sweat and breath heavily, angry. I wanted the skiing to be fun. I wanted it to go my way. I was reluctant to accept and work with what was there. I forgot to breath. Everything became harder, every turn was laboured and jagged. When I was offered advice I snapped back. If the mountain could behave the way I wanted it to then everything would be all right again.
I forgot why I ski.
I forgot to enjoy the beautiful landscape.
I forgot to appreciate being in such a wonderful place.
All this effort was a waste of energy. I was not under threat. I have enough experience to ski in the terrain and conditions.
In the end I decided to face into my fear. I remembered to breath. I started to look at the terrain as a puzzle and a game. I got down absolutely safely. Once I let myself accept the situation I began to learn from the experience rather than reject it as something unpleasant to be forgotten.
Would I do it again? Yes, because it means I won’t be as scared the second or the third time. If I’m not scared then I’ll be able to enjoy being out in the mountains – my comfort zone stretched to accommodate this situation.