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Fear feels terrible, but it has an advantage. So do it in your favor

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There is much to be feared these days. Between the loss of loved ones and the financial burden of family stress and fears of illness, many of us struggle more than ever. In one Survey 2021 of more than 3,000 adults, 47% said they felt anxious and 57% of black adults said they were worried about their future. In addition, 54% of employees in key areas admitted drinking alcohol and overeating to relieve their emotional pain.

Anyone who has experienced anxiety knows the stress it can bring. This prickly emotion often causes palpitations, headaches, and a knotted stomach. We often interpret these sensations as signs of danger. For example, we might mistake social anxiety as evidence that anyone dislikes or believes that performance anxiety means that we are really cheaters.
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While fear certainly feels terrible, it does have an advantage. In her new book Good fear, Neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki positions fear as a potentially positive force in our lives that can open the door to self-care and resilience – two things that vaccinate us emphasize. From this perspective, social nervousness could be a sign to seek support, while performance issues could be a signal to practice our craft a little more or spend two minutes in a power pose. When we realize that fear can be a helpful messenger, we can let it work in ways that benefit our psychological wellbeing.

From this perspective, fear is not a symptom that we treat solely with medication or behavioral therapy (even if research shows these treatments work); it is also a cue to look for the underlying cause. Like a detective, we can first ask ourselves some exploratory questions. For example: “How does fear show up in the body?” “What does it tell us?” and “What core emotions are brewing under our fear?” The lighting up of the relationship between fear and the underlying core emotions can lead to permanent changes, Emotional Focused Researchers Clues.

Core emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, disgust, joy, excitement, and sexual arousal affect the whole body to move it so that we can survive and thrive. Therefore, fear mobilizes the body to run and anger makes us ready to fight. However, we also have another category of emotions called inhibitory emotions, better known as fear, guilt, and shame. The key to managing fear is understanding the difference between core and inhibitory emotions.

As emotion-focused therapists and educators, we convey this relationship to our patients. Like a high-speed motor, fear drives us up and makes it difficult for us to think clearly because our thoughts and feelings become one threat. When we find ourselves in this tense state, fear blocks core emotions and makes it impossible to sense our emotional needs, let alone use them in a way that helps us.

The good news, however, is that we don’t have to get stuck. Fear can be an indication that we need to identify and experience our core emotions, which leads to calm and clarity.

Here are some tools that can help defuse fears and turn them to our benefit, not just now, but for years to come.

Acknowledge fear.

When children are awash with great emotions, adults often tell them to “use their words” because speaking of fear helps reduce it. Researcher Call this “effect labeling”. One to learn found that naming negative emotions calms the amygdala, the part of the brain where feelings light up. When this happens, the emotional reactivity loses its charge because the right and left parts of the brain are more closely connected, says psychiatrist and author Dr. Dan Siegel in his book Mind power.

For example, many of our patients tell us they are obsessed with their mistakes or thinking about their jobs, which are common symptoms of anxiety. In situations like this, just saying “I feel anxious” can lead to what psychologist Diana Fosha says, Developer of accelerated experiential dynamic psychotherapy. calls a “Click of recognition. ”The naming of our emotional experience is an affirmation that enables us to be authentic. Additionally, accepting our emotions disarms the need for defense mechanisms – behaviors such as overexertion, denial, and addiction that numb the pain but soak up vital energy. Without these patches, we are better equipped to use our energy for work and relationships.

Slow down the fear.

When you’re feeling anxious, slowing the body down using body-based tools like grounding and deep abdominal breathing is a crucial step.

When we are in a state of anxiety, being asked to “take a deep breath” can seem too easy or downright annoying. However, science tells us that breathing can slow down the engine of fear. Neuroscientist Steven Porges, who developed the “polyvagal theory,” says that diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which triggers the body’s relaxation response. When this happens, stress hormones like cortisol decrease and we feel immediate relief, we say Researcher.

When a patient tells us they are concerned, we invite them to slow their nervous system down by saying, “Can you now give yourself permission to move away from your thoughts and into your body? Focus your attention on the soles of your feet as they hit the ground. Feel the solid ground beneath you. “

Next comes the invitation to deep abdominal breathing. We teach: “Breathe in as deeply as possible and send the air down to the lower part of the abdomen. Pop out your stomach like a Buddha and try to keep your chest down. ”We recommend placing one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach to aid in this process. Then we teach them to hold their breath for a bar and then slowly exhale through their pursed lips as if they were puffing up a hot soup. We coach them to tune into their body throughout the breathing cycle so that they learn how to breathe with maximum relaxation.

Get curious about your core feelings.

According to Dr. Judson Brewer, a doctor and scientist, curiosity can be the companion of fear. Defined as “Desire for new information,“Curiosity can open the mind to possibilities, which helps us to find new solutions. Researcher Jordan Litman calls this “interest curiosity” and studies show that it can increase motivation and improve learning. Hence, through the lens of curiosity, we can see fear as an invitation to identify our underlying core emotions.

To do this, we encourage our patients to adopt a compassionate and non-judgmental attitude towards themselves. Then we invite them to scan their body from head to toe and determine where they are afraid. Next, we ask them to imagine putting the fear aside so that they can notice the core emotions they are feeling. For example: “Is there sadness?” “Is there anger?” “Is there any excitement?”

There can be more than one core emotion, and they can be opposing. For example, we can feel sadness and anger at the same time. Recognizing each core emotion can help us listen to the message they are sending. Fear always has a deeper meaning. It’s never the end of the story; it is the beginning.

Identify the conflict.

Fear can be a symptom of something deep inside conflict that throws us into agonizing thinking. For example, a patient might want to go home on vacation but is afraid to be with their parents, which causes them to ruminate and feel tense.

To get out of this bond, it helps to validate each side of the conflict or, as we say in our practice, to change the “but”. This negates each opposite side to an “and”, which creates space for both feelings to coexist. For example, we can affirm our desire to see our families and honor the anger their hurtful behavior arouses. Then we can find solutions to deal with their behavior – for example, set boundaries, which can also say: “Dad, if you continue to abuse me, I’ll go.”

Unfortunately, our dysfunctional society, with its many antiquated myths about emotions, sends the message that fear is pathological or a genetic defect. But means of emotion education can turn this formidable enemy into a wonderful teacher. In the end, fear is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of being human.

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