The end of October will see us enjoying some spooky thrills thanks to Halloween. But what is this complex emotion about anyway? Oasis Living dives into the psychology
By Sana Panjwani
Emotions are a fickle thing, capable of changing in an instant depending on a situation. They’re instinctive and intuitive and steer our actions,sometimes without conscious control. Fear is one such emotion.
I’m afraid so
Essentially, the purpose of fear is to keep us alive. Imagine you’re enjoying some downtime at the local zoo when, suddenly, there’s a leopard break-out. There’s a high chance your instincts will push you to run – hopefully in the opposite direction.
This is an extreme example though. As we are all too aware that fear exists in many situations where your life isn’t directly threatened.
Some of the most common fears that exist among the public are the fears of loss, flying, heights, death commitment, rejection, water, closed spaces, animals, failure and success, and the number one fear cited (unofficially), public speaking.
How is any fear developed though?
“All of our fears originate from childhood. The only two fears that we are born with is the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear is acquired through our experiences and from our social, environmental, economic and religious inputting,” said Dr Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi, Hypnotherapist, Holistic Wellness Constant and Founder of Illuminations Well-being Centre in Dubai.
“Our subconscious is highly aware of our environment from a young age. When we are exposed to environments which threaten our survival, we tend to hold on to these fears in our adult life as a defense mechanism so that the subconscious mind can do its job of protecting our survival. For example, getting your hand burnt from a fire or being bitten by a dog.
“At each stage of our psychosocial development, if we are exposed to situations which make us feel threatened, unpleasant and painful, these experiences create strong impressions deep in our subconscious mind and negatively influence our thoughts, behaviours and actions,” she added.
Facing your fears
Fear then is nothing to be ashamed about. Putting aside rational fears which threaten our physical well-being, it would do well to keep in mind that fears are rooted in our psyche and much can be done to undo them.
It’s an ongoing process though and you might wonder if it’s worth it because if a certain situation brings up unpleasant feelings, isn’t it best to avoid it? Wrong.
If you allow your fears – public speaking, for instance – to control aspects of your life, you’re essentially stifling your growth as a person and closing yourself off to opportunities that a certain circumstance might open up.
The first step to overcoming a fear is to identify the trigger. After, there are a number of tools and methods to deal with it.
One popular method is to face your fear head-on.
“F-E-A-R has two meanings – Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise,” said Dr Punjabi.
“In theory, this appears to be great advice and in some cases it is applicable. However, this is not always the best solution. Let’s say you have a fear of commitment and then you face it by making the choice to marry, hoping you will overcome it. If the fear is very strong in your subconscious, and if you have not dealt with the emotional triggers, you might end up falling back in the same destructive behaviour patterns and create more issues in our life.
“In our centre, once we identify the trigger, we normally do a regression session and allow the person to go back to that incident and release all the toxic thoughts, emotions and feelings that they are holding on to. We then create new associations of positive thoughts, feelings and emotions and rewire their thought patterns into this new positive state,” she added.
The approaches taken at Illuminations include a mix of psychotherapy and counselling, desensitisation through hypnosis and hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and life coaching.
Many people choose to deal with their fears by either avoiding situations which prompt it or by actively ignoring their existence. Mental health is just as important to a healthy lifestyle as is physical health, yet it isn’t afforded the priority it deserves.
“If left unresolved, our fears seep into our mind, emotions, our body and eventually threaten to disrupt and limit our experience of life,” said Dr Punjabi.