Mental and Emotional Health

Embracing Fear to Control It

Author: Halee Smith, LMFT

The definition of fear is “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.” During this time of uncertainty in our world, we all have experienced the impact of fear. It is important to clarify, fear has been present in our world for far longer than the recent pandemic, riots, and political battles. It is something that people often avoid because they do not know how to feel or experience it.

I think of the characters from Inside Out. Fear is a scrawny guy who is often overlooked because the movie is focused on Joy and Sadness. I often think of this guy because, let’s be real, isn’t that an easier vision of fear to swallow instead of the horror depictions we grew up with? Fear is a real emotion that we must accept as part of who we are. In the movie, viewers learn that all emotions are important in order to create one’s own identity, because one can’t truly feel one emotion without the others. Now, isn’t that an empowering idea? We have to feel emotions of vulnerability and weakness in order to feel strength. That is not what many of us were taught. I wonder what it would be like to grow up learning that these emotions should be embraced instead of shamed.

Our fear often manifests itself as a different animal that may be “easier” to accept, but still causes issues in our self-perception, our confidence, our relationships, perhaps even in our faith. So, what does this look like? Have you ever experienced high levels of anger or anxiety, but were not quite sure where it was coming from? If you really look deep inside, there is a good chance that fear was a factor in those circumstances. Everyone at some point is afraid of being hurt, of failing, of the unknown, and sometimes we are afraid of succeeding. As humans we are fearful of the unknown because we do not have any aspect of control there. In true fashion, this is when we will avoid these feelings of fear by creating different issues that we “believe” are easier to manage. However, if we allow ourselves to feel and understand our fear or our vulnerable emotions, we gain more control. Even though it is difficult in the moment, the understanding that we attain makes our future selves stronger. Emotions are not supposed to be the enemy, but instead tools to help us become our truest selves. Fear does not have to be unpleasant, but instead should be viewed as an emotion that needs attention, care, and acceptance so that we can grow to be the best version of ourselves.