Fear and its impact on life
Fear speaks. It perceives a threat and tells you about it—for example, your dwindling finances, your failing health, your uncertain future, or even a dog out to attack you. Fear is meant to be a good emotion because it makes you aware of a threat, however, the thing about fear is that it muddles up your mind and presents weakness as the only option. So you become jittery when broke, thinking where the next meal would come from; you feel you won’t survive the ailment, and this thought gnaws life out of you faster than the ailment you are suffering from; or you run immediately you spot the dog barking towards you.
A popular definition for fear is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This is because the things we are scared of, most times, are not actual threats. And even if they are, our primal reaction to them aren’t what we should truly feel. Can you remember times when you had acted out of fear and consequent desperation, and later wished you had processed and handled your emotions better? That is what fear does to you—it tethers you to impatience, telling you that there is no other way out of the situation save the jittery way. However, if you understand that fear, as an emotion, should not govern how you react to a situation, you are a big step towards surmounting your challenges.
But to understand fear, you must first understand its origin. Where does fear come from? Through research and introspection, I have come to discover that fear comes from two key sources: Information and lack of information.
- Information: A young man in Nigeria was diagnosed of avascular necrosis of the femoral head—that is, death of the hip bone leading to a loss of blood supply. He was told that surgery was the only cure. He googled avascular necrosis and also asked people about it and the surgical procedure. The comments he received were mostly negative: He would have to repeat the procedure every ten years. There is a low to average chance of a successful surgery. There would be possible effects on his reproduction. So the young man decided to live with pain and a halted gait for years instead of undergoing surgery.
This young man was scared because of the information he had received. Information begets questions, and questions begets doubt. He probably asked himself, “What if the surgery isn’t successful?” “What if I become impotent?” “Would I have the financial and emotional wherewithal to keep repeating the procedures?” “What if something goes wrong with one of the repeats?”
And this is so for many of us; we are often plagued by fear because of the information we receive. This information could be from family, friends, movies, books, or even the media. They filter into our minds (consciously or unconsciously), and we suddenly find ourselves becoming wary over issues, or even scared of people.
- Lack of information: Although ironic, lack of information induces fear. This is usually called “fear of the unknown”. For instance, you had a job interview and the only thing the HR told you was, “We’ll get back to you.” Or you applied for a scholarship, and there is no way to tell if your essays were good enough.
In cases like these, you become afraid because you are blind to the possible outcomes of your situation. You have no information to guide you. The only possible hack you have in this case is to tether yourself to faith and optimism. This is the reason why many of us are scared of the future. Because we do not know what it holds; because we do not know if we are going to fail or succeed; because we do not know if we are going to lose a loved one and have our lives altered forever. This is also the reason why we are scared to launch into a new career path, or leave an abusive relationship. Because we fear the unknown, we prefer to cling to the devil we know rather than walk hand in hand with an angel we don’t.
Lack of information sets us on edge. We see ourselves wishing we could peek into our future to have a knowledge that would pacify us. But such wishes never bloom.
Whichever way fear filters into our minds, its impacts are the same. Lisa Fritscher in her article, The Psychology Behind Fear, says that fear is incredibly complex. This is true. Fear is so complex that it impacts our mental, physical, and emotional health.
Mentally, fear makes us build walls so we cannot see or get to the other side where peace and happiness await. A young man once told me that the reason he didn’t learn how to drive a car was because when he was eight all his father implanted in his mind was how unsafe roads were and how there were numerous automobile accidents. Thus, he grew up having a mental picture that the day he drives a car, he would have an accident. He had a well-paying job, bought a car, but never drove it because he preferred employing a driver.
For some of us, our psychology has been reprogrammed by fear that we have become cravens; individuals dwelling in perpetual pessimism and anxiety. This gets worse if we had been hurt in the past. University of Minnesota in an article titled, Impact of Fear and Anxiety, explains that to someone with chronic fear, the world looks scary and their memories confirm that.
Emotionally, fear deprives us of useful relationships. It cloaks us in paranoia and lies to us that people are out to hurt us. With respect to physical health, the University of Minnesota says that fear can cause cardiovascular damage, ulcers, accelerated ageing, and even premature death.
The impacts of fear are debilitating. But while we cannot choose what fear says to us, we can choose what we understand and our reaction to what it says.
In the book, Scarcity to Abundance through “A Winning Mindset” you will learn the steps to rewire your brain, which in turn will upgrade your self-destructive mindset into a winning mindset, putting an end to the unconscious habits that led you to despair.
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