The generic definition of fear is written in dictionaries and encyclopedias as, "An unpleasant feeling triggered by the perception of danger, real or imagined..." Felt, Perceived, Imagined. How amazing it is that "fear" is not an object; does not exist in and of itself; and cannot be outside of the confines of our own minds and judgements. All that can be said to disprove fear could never truly abolish it from the mind, because although it is only a figment of our emotional construction, it continually persists as if self-existent and autonomous in its own operative state.
Jim Folk, President of Anxiety Centre says in his article, Fear Is Not Real, that in a post-apocalyptic psychological thriller movie called, “After Earth” there is a segment that discusses fear and states specifically that, “fear is not real.” Folk goes on to explain, “meaning that it’s not physically tangible or made of anything material. Fear is a thought process that triggers the fight or flight response. So, fear itself is imagined only (but does cause real physiological, psychological, and emotional consequences due to the triggered stress response and how stress responses affect the body and mind).”
I recognize that as our premise for the point above, we’re talking about a fictional movie here, but let us consider that the point made in a movie is not based on the storyline or characters, nor is it necessarily dependent upon any scope of realism that is measurable in our own lives. It is the very concept of emotion that exists outside of the movie. The point made by Jim Folk is not that what the movie portrays is infallible, but that the conceptualization of fear that is represented in the movie is accurate. Just as 99% of other emotional content written within film-based script, and especially regarding human emotional reaction, is also accurate. Script regarding emotion is written from emotion, by a human feeling emotion - that’s as real as it gets.
But we’re not here to argue about fear’s grip on the human mind, nor to find the source of rhetorical fear written into the artistic persuasion of stagecrafting and theater. We are, however, discussing the reality of fear itself! If we take a moment to analyze some of our own fears as only a shred of evidence for this theory, we may just be able to prove that fear might just be… fake.
Now, obviously with respect to those who experience seemingly real phobias, there is no doubt that the mind can be a tricky thing. Bringing people to their knees with desperation to evade the terror of facing their “worst fears,” as we so often say. It is clear that something about fear can and does deeply haunt our psyche in many cases, but that does not make it any more tangible beyond a mental and emotional concept built by our personal life experiences. An example of this bogus bully called fear is the dynamic part played by our own fear of public speaking.
Big Fish Presentation of Baton Rouge LA. states in their article that, “According to Forbes Magazine, the number one fear for the average person is public speaking. The second fear is death. This means that most people would rather die than give a speech in front of a crowd…” The fear of public speaking is rated first even among the fear of large animals, the fear of scary movies, and the fear of death… What does this definitively tell us about fear?
Well, large animals, death, and some elements of horror films present potential threats to our lives, quality of life, or the lives of those that we love… Giving a speech presents ZERO potential life/death threats... Obviously much of this has to do more with what we DON’T know rather than that which we DO know… the unknown is generally what provokes thoughts which lead to feelings of fear. The Paul Ekman Group says, “Persistent fear can sometimes be referred to as anxiety if we feel constantly worried without knowing why. The inability to identify the trigger prevents us from being able to remove ourselves, or the actual threat, from the situation.”
If fear was based in reality, then the reality of death would place it higher on our list of fears.
So then why does fear seem so real?? And what is it that we must do to conquer fear?!
Well I can't give you all the answers, but I can give you 2 steps to point you in the right direction.
While I am a devout Christian and Bible-reader, I would not generally bring the Bible into theories of psychology, but there are many precepts of biblical wisdom which speak to the issues of today’s society. I often find it quite compelling the grit and relevance with which the writer’s of biblical times address our 20th and 21st century generations. Two passages to consider in regards to fear would be the following, beginning with: II Timothy 1:7, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” According to Washington University School of Medicine, a mental/emotional illness such as Depression or Anxiety is likely something that can be predicted from infancy stages and can begin developing from a very young age, but in their official report, they could not conclude that a single child submitted to their study was ever born with anxiety, depression, or other clinical mental illness related to fear. They confirmed the developmental process of such “Analyzing brain scans of newborns, the researchers found that the strength and pattern of connections between certain brain regions predicted the likelihood of the babies developing excessive sadness, shyness, nervousness or separation anxiety by age 2. Such symptoms have been linked to clinical depression and anxiety disorders in older children and adults.” This does not conclusively prove that fear does not reside with waiting to be awakened, but it is commonly understood by mental health professionals that “fear” as a concept, is what we call “learned behavior.” I remember that day, when my daughter was 2 years old and she finally became afraid of bugs… it was a revelatory moment for her and surprise for us, considering all the times that she would bring bugs right to my feet and give them to me as some sort of odd gift. If fear is learned, then can’t we unlearn it? Or relearn confidence, faith, and courage in the face of “fear” or emotional response? The second Scripture to consider in this vein of thought is, Proverbs 12:25 NIV, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” The primitive root in ancient Hebrew for kind 'word' in this passage is the word 'dabar' meaning good speech or good thoughts. The personal process of "Self-Talk" also well-known in the theory of Psychology as "Internal Dialogue" or "Inner Speech" might be the very key to unlocking subconscious decision-making. This idea may be illustrated in your average child's cartoon as an angel and a demon arguing on either shoulder of the protagonist over various decisions he/she must make throughout the narrative giving the character reasons to take action or to hesitate. Fear begins to dissipate when we are able to rationalize away any variables that cause us to hesitate. We fear many times for "unknown" reasons that are deeply rooted in our subconscious. When we can process our emotions through an internal discourse with "self," we can often overcome doubts and fears which carry little-to-no logical ramifications in regards to physical or otherwise harmful consequences. In other words - it don't hurt to try.... Question yourself; your fears; your own inhibitions, and that one thing that would keep you from trying to do great things, or even just simple things that are challenging!
***I AM NOT ENCOURAGING YOU TO DO ANYTHING THAT WILL BRING HARM OR DANGER TO YOU OR ANYONE ELSE***
But I am saying live your life to the fullest and don't allow fear to dictate the course of your day-to-day life or lifestyle.
You weren't born with fear. Relearn Confidence, Faith, and Courage.
Ask for the encouragement of others and encourage yourself. Self-Talk can be very effective.
ALSO, just as I exemplified in this article, free yourself to learn and study from many different resources and materials whether that's someone's blog, the Bible, another ancient text, even wikipedia for goodness sake!... Just make sure to cite and reference to confirm its validity!
Have a blessed week,
6. KJV & NIV Bibles - Biblegateway.com