Guest blogger: Rita Schiano
Fear is a distressing negative emotion brought on by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that triggers the 'fight or flight' response, that jewel of a primordial response mechanism that helps safeguard our survival. Our fears, however, can often take on a life of their own and stop us dead in our tracks.
While there is a distinction between fear and anxiety, for many people it is merely a matter of semantics. For example, I will say I have a fear of water when, in fact, what I experience is anxiety about being in the water. If I truly feared water, I would not shower, drink it, cook with it, or enjoy a refreshing walk when it sprinkles on a hot summer day.
Standing on a dock or in water that is more than roughly six inches deep is a whole other matter. Fear is a natural reaction of the fight-or-flight response that is triggered by danger. Once the danger passes, so does the fear response. The body calms down and returns to normal state of balance.
However, as we have evolved and the dangers to our survival have morphed, bypassing our rational mind, the fight-or-flight response is more accurately a biological and psychological change that occurs in the body when a danger is perceived.
Standing on a dock is not a threat to my physical survival. The thought of falling off the dock and into the water creates anxiety, trapping panicky thoughts. The voice of fear paints scenarios of disaster that seem believable. And panicky thoughts can quickly become obsessive.
As anxiety takes hold, it becomes more difficult to make rational decisions and the voice of fear becomes more believable. Rationality is bypassed; what you believe is what matters. And most of the time, what we fear, what we worry about, never materializes.