According to Wikipedia, "The English suffixes -phobia, -phobic, -phobe (of Greek origin: φόβος/φοβία ) occur in technical usage in psychiatry to construct words that describe irrational, disabling fear as a mental disorder …"
Most of us are familiar with the common phobias, like acrophobia (fear of heights), agoraphobia (fear of open places or being in public) or claustrophobia (fear of small spaces), but many are unaware of somniphobia (fear of sleep), gephyrophobia (fear of bridges), phobophobia (the fear of fear itself), or the countless other phobias a human being may have to endure.
Fear is self-sabotage. It can be one of the most debilitating conditions a person ever experiences, both physically and emotionally. It can impede you from seeking medical help when you need it. It can stop you from being financially stable. It can prevent you from leaving a bad situation, whether it's a relationship or a job. Fear can obstruct you from moving forward, becoming successful or simply living a healthy life.
Some fears are healthy. It's natural to fear the unknown, to want to protect ourselves and others, and to take risk assessments of any situations that could be perceived as "dangerous" or "risky." Having healthy fears makes us more conscious of our actions and their consequences. Most of us will find ways around or through these fears.
But some of us may be gripped by fear to the point that it's no longer healthy. When fear gets out of control and dominates our lives, it is no longer of benefit to us, and we must intentionally make an effort to overcome, control or manage these fears—before they control us. Decisions should not be made out of fear but from rational analysis and thought.
How do you overcome or manage fear?
- First, you must recognize it. When that little voice inside your head says, "I'm afraid of flying in a plane," you must first acknowledge the fear. Admit it's there. Confess that it is holding you back in some way.
- You must understand where that particular fear comes from. What experiences have you had, witnessed or even heard of secondhand that could have led to your feelings about this fear?
- Ask yourself why you're experiencing this fear and what is it trying to tell you. Most fears stem from a feeling that you'll be physically harmed in some way.
- Accept that you have an irrational fear. Then search for ways to deal with it. This could mean intentionally putting yourself in front of your fear, or finding alternatives around it. If you fear flying, you may choose to drive. If the distance is too long, then you need to find a way to rewire your brain into choosing the destination over the method of travel.
- Talk about your fears. Find someone you trust who will listen to you. Sometimes just having someone hear you out can make your fears diminish. They may not disappear completely, but there are healthy ways, like meditation, that can help you manage the damaging thoughts that come with fear.
There is no absolute guaranteed method to abolish whatever fears you may be experiencing, but as long as you are making conscious decisions to not let fear govern your life, you are in control. Fear can control you—if you allow it to. Or you can take back control, seek counseling and move forward with your life.
Living in fear is a choice. So choose NOT to let fear control you. Go ahead. What are you afraid of?
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Cheryl Kaye Tardif is an international bestselling author from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Her new release, SUBMERGED, is a terrifying, hold-your-breath thriller that deals with a fear that the author can relate to—the fear of being trapped in a submerged vehicle.