What is Fear? How can we cope?

By Jimmy Warden

Our brains are wired for survival.

When fear strikes, we take action based on how we perceive it.

We fight, fly, or freeze.

At its core, fear is an emotion that forces us to take action to survive.

The intriguing part about it is how it has evolved.

The first humans had legitimate survival concerns. Animals hunted them, and tribes tried to take over each other’s land.

It was constant.

Today’s terrors, however, are dramatically different.

We fear judgment from others. Embarrassment. Being ostracized from social groups. Getting fired from our jobs. Never finding a partner.

Where do those fears come from?

The root of those phobias is a form of cognitive distortion called catastrophizing.

Catastrophizing is when our brains warp our perception of a tiny problem into something enormous.

It creates unnecessary fear. We get paralyzed or run from the problem altogether.

We do this unconsciously because today’s worries revolve around social status.

Making sure we’re part of a group. Making sure we’re doing enough.

Catastrophizing leads us down rabbit holes we don’t need to go down.

How do we minimize catastrophizing?

1.) Awareness

State what’s causing angst. Becoming aware of it lets us analyze it and deal with it.

2.) Reality check

Zig Ziglar once said: fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.

Analyze whether or not the fear is a cognitive distortion or legitimate.

3.) Circle of control

Most catastrophizing comes from events that are out of our control.

We need to let go of them.

Focus on what we can control.

4.) Take action

Fear consumes us because we let it.

Don’t.

Make a plan to tackle it and follow through.

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