Positively Speaking: Irrational fear

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

If I were to walk down the street and ask each person what they were afraid of, they would most
likely say, “nothing.”

What is fear? One definition is to be afraid of someone or something likely to be dangerous,
painful, or threatening.

When we think of fearful situations, we may think of something dangerous like a war, painful like losing a loved one, or threatening like being face-to-face with a serial killer.

How many people would consider following your dreams dangerous, painful, or threatening?

Some dreams are dangerous and can result in death; think of Martin Luther King or Amelia
Earhart. Other dreams are not so dangerous but may instill similar amounts of fear.

Is fear a bad thing? Fear is an emotion that can help protect us. It’s like a warning that cautions
us to be careful. It makes you alert to danger and prepares you to deal with it. Imagine if you
weren’t afraid of touching a hot flame, falling down the stairs, or walking off the edge of a cliff.

Fear can cause indecision, which in turn causes doubt, and when all three begin to mix, a person can become paralyzed. When overcome by fear, it can cause a person to stop moving forward, overcome with worry. Worry is a subtle sustained fear that little by little, destroys your reasoning, self-confidence and initiative.

What are the different types of fear? What symptoms do they cause? What, if anything, is the remedy?

There are many types of fear. Some fears are rational, others are instinctual, and others are
irrational; they tend not to make logical sense and vary significantly from person to person.

Rational and primal fears serve a useful purpose. What about irrational fear? They might also
be helpful, but irrational fear is the type of fear that could also be holding you back from your
dreams and doing what you want to do with your life. Irrational fear can cause one to live in a
false reality, not be present, and influence one to make unhealthy decisions.

On the face of it, none of these fears sound irrational, but how they can make you behave can
be irrational and detrimental.

  • Fear of Poverty: It can be good if it makes you work hard or not waste money. Often this can cause someone to behave irrationally, like being dishonest in business and taking advantage of others.
  • Fear of Criticism: If you’re afraid of criticism, you may be more self-conscious, unable to
    express your true personality, and generally feel inferior to those around you. This fear is a significant impediment to following your dreams. What’s more rational — living your life’s purpose or being so afraid of what others think that you never try.
  • The Fear of Ill Health: When studying the placebo effect, it’s been suggested that those who fear a disease the most can sometimes have symptoms of that disease even though they don’t have it. To be in constant worry about ill health isn’t healthy! After taking proper precautions, will you still let the fear of ill health keep you from living life to its fullest?
  • The Fear of Death or Old Age: We are all growing old; embrace it. Don’t let the fear of old age cause you to live a lesser life. I’ve heard of 30-year-olds say they are too old and 60-year-olds say they are too young. Do you have an old or youthful state of mind?
  • The Fear of Loss of Love: Most of us lose love at least once. Don’t let this fear cause you to be jealous, find fault or overcompensate, and block you from finding new and lasting love.

Fear is a double-edged sword. Sometimes it’s healthy; sometimes it’s unhealthy. Just like
anything, fear might be best in moderation.

If you suspect your fears are irrational and causing you to make harmful decisions, you may need the help of a mental health professional. Don’t be afraid to find help if you need it.

Are you letting fear control your life? I encourage you to let go of the fears that are holding you back and start living the life you always wanted.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of
Cubestream Inc.

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