Middle age woman in deep thought dealing with depression.

Being Afraid is Okay, but Having Anxiety is Another Thing

Living in fear has to be the worst feeling. Waking up with the same fear you had when you went to sleep. You’re constantly in fight or flight mode because anxiety has a stranglehold over you. It doesn’t help when we’re going through an election year, and we’re constantly getting fed with fear. It’s almost like this is the way of life now.

Genuine Fear vs. Anxiety Based Fear

The truth about fear is that it’s necessary. Without genuine fear, we wouldn’t be able to survive. It was given to us at the very onset of life to make sure we either fight or flee away from danger. The only real purpose of fear is for us to act. Once genuine fear has placed you into action, you are no longer afraid, you’re making sure that the action is successful. The problem is that we aren’t hunter or gatherers anymore. We don’t have to run from that mountain lion. That typically means that we deal with fear with no action. We deal more with anxiety-based fear that last longer than the seconds needed to know whether to run or fight.

The best part about genuine fear is that we are only afraid when there is a thought of fear. That’s to say, we are only afraid when we think something is going to happen, but nothing is actually happening. We’ve never experienced fear during the thing we are afraid of. For example, during flu season people are afraid to get sick, but when it comes to actually being sick, we are no longer afraid. It’s the same for any other circumstance. We’ll also use jumping out of a plane. It’s scary to even think about jumping out of a plane, but once you’re in the air, there is no longer fear.

It’s impossible to be afraid of something that is happening you. The good news here is that if you’re fear seems to linger, it’s safe to say that nothing is happening to you. At this point, you should have a bit of relief. Instead, we typically try to predict a future that’s probably not going to happen. That’s when fear turns into anxiety, and anxiety turns into worry. The best thing you can do with your fear is embrace it as reassurance that nothing is happening to you.

Your Anxiety Isn’t Real

You’re probably hating that I just said your anxiety isn’t real. I’m not here to discredit what you feel. Just by what’s written above, we can come the conclusion that fear is definitely real. Anxiety is fear, but of a different form. It’s an artificial form of fear created to serve some hidden purpose. Just look back to something that gives you extreme anxiety. It would probably last longer than the split seconds of fear. Why is this?

If you really think about it, anxiety serves as a symptom for something else rather than the thing you think you are afraid of. Let’s take public speaking for example. People have a fear of speaking in public. The anxiety doesn’t actually appear because we are afraid of speaking in public though. We are actually afraid of not speaking well, or not saying anything at all. We’re afraid of how the audience will react to what we have to say, not necessarily the act of going on a stage. So, if a person is called to go on stage, and they mess up, it’s the anxiety to blame. That makes you, the person, powerless to your own anxiety.

The Worst Case Scenario

Public speaking is just a small example in what people go through when it comes to anxiety. Other reasons why people manufacture anxiety include avoiding change, defending against future disappointment, or doing something you have to do, but you have to, so there’s the allusion of you doing it. You can start to see that anxiety is based from uncertainty and uncertain predictions of the future. This is different than what we defined as genuine fear because of the time factor. When you have genuine fear you make a prediction and if it happens, you’re no longer afraid. Here, you make a prediction based on no information and that fear deters you from every taking action. Your prediction may not even be that good. Most of the time, what you predict won’t ever even come true.

It’s more the case that your mind will go to the worst case scenario. One negative thought turns into another negative thought and that becomes panic. By the time the panic attacks happen, you’ve forgotten what you were actually afraid of and can only remember the worst case scenario. What was once fear is now something that has yet to happen, but seems very real to you.

I’m not writing this to condemn your anxiety. I just want you to be more aware. Being aware of fear and how it interacts with anxiety gives you the steps you need to overcome it. If you feel like you are going through a situation in which you don’t feel there is a solution, it’s best to take a step back and breathe just to remember what you were afraid of in the first place.