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Facing Fears: Real or Imagined
Every time I walked into my office, I would start sweating profusely, and I felt I would not be able to talk … There exists an intense fear of being scrutinized by others.” The person believes that all eyes are on him/her. This anxiety leads to shortness of breath and sweating.
Phobia is defined as an excessive fear of a specific object, an event or a situation. Many people just live with their phobias and suffer in silence.
Phobic people avoid so many situations that they, at times, become housebound or live with constant anxiety. Simple phobias focus on insects, darkness, dirt, water, fire, height, flying, open or closed spaces and fear of strangers.
Social phobia identifies people who have a fear of being embarrassed in public settings. They are conscious of being watched or judged by others. They worry for days or weeks before attending an event.
People with social phobia fear any situation that involves mingling with others. So, they avoid people. Avoidance imprisons rather than protects, since it leads to loneliness and boredom. It interferes with daily functioning and interpersonal relationships.
Many fear losing face, of being degraded by their seniors or fear the future and material losses. Fear seems to be contagious. It is a painful emotion marked by alarm, dread, and anxious concern.
Fear is like a disease spreading epidemic, too large to grasp. It can also be a fantasized event that appears real.
Today, fear is the dominant mood in neighbourhoods, in offices and even in homes. It poisons our life and makes us prisoners. Paradoxically, much gloom originates not from the difficulties we are actually experiencing, but from incidents that have not yet happened. We fear the uncertain and the uncontrollable.
Many feel they are living in a chronic state of alertness and helplessness. With distress all around us, most of us are unaware of how our daily decisions are governed by fear. Has fear led you to avoid traveling alone? Or has fear of people you have to deal with affected your choice of work?
Sometimes, having a sense of fear protects us, preventing rash actions. Healthy fear makes us act prudently. But constant and intense fear brings a detachment from one’s surroundings. It saps our energy and ruins our health.
Fear is a kind of trap. One knows what one should do, even wanting to do it, but one is paralyzed and unable to act.
We live in a climate of mistrust. Like air, it envelops us.
Most of us are afraid to reveal our personal thoughts and experiences. Trust from a relationship vanishes after a minor disappointment or a broken confidence. One finds it hard to trust others again, living each day behind an emotional wall. Emotional isolation produces sickness.
Uneasiness will increase if we dwell on what others might think. Attaching too much meaning and importance to rejections can be disappointing. Keeping a realistic view of oneself will help us to accept them as part of life.
Living with a fear of disapproval can make a person self conscious. Realizing that people have better things to do with their time than to analyze and judge us, can aid us in overcoming fear of condemnation. Also, the opinion of others does not change our value as a person.
Sooner or later, we will need to face our fears. Facing them tends to reduce anxiety. Keeping a balanced outlook and weighing the risks and benefits is a good strategy.
Rather than a single, mountainous problem, it is often the accumulation of small agonies that induce fear and anxiety – like running many electrical appliances on the same circuit can cause a fuse.
Sharing disquieting thoughts minimizes perceived fright.
We can reduce the intensity of nervousness by practicing slow breathing. Also helpful is regular physical exercise and muscle relaxation.
Making some lifestyle changes and getting sufficient rest gives inner strength. Eating at irregular times and consuming caffeine stirs anxiety.
Thoughts like, ‘What if I collapse?’ ‘What if no one is there to help me?’ fuel panic. Focusing on the present situation is instantly calming.
Feelings of foreboding flow like the waves on the beach. These feelings rise, peak, and then they disperse. By responding calmly, rather than reacting, we can better fight our fears.
Fear is a mental poison, the destroyer of reason and more destructive than any physical malady. Each one of us is unique with different fears to face and different strengths to rely on. So, we can reassure ourselves… we can help ourselves.
The views expressed by the author are personal