WHILE MOST INSTANCES OF anxiety and panic originate from a once real situation, those feelings are maintained long after by a ‘fear of fear’. Instead of being scared of the situation itself, a person is now afraid of the unpleasant feelings that accompany a fear of it.
An unpleasant feeling of apprehension or distress when you think something bad, dangerous, or frightening might happen.
As you already know if you’ve read some of the other anxiety pages (see the menu right), the purpose of fear is to focus the mind and get the body into a state of readiness; preparing to deal with some kind of physical threat. But this time there’s nothing there; only the imagination.
When a person imagines something vividly the mind cannot tell if it’s real or not, and responds with fear as if it were real. So instead of focusing on a fearful situation in the real world, they now focus on the fearful thoughts in their mind. And whereas a real situation is usually soon resolved, the mind can maintain a scary thought indefinitely.
Fear is designed to keep a person locked onto the object of that fear because it might pose a threat. It would be foolhardy to take your eye off it, and that’s what maintains the cycle. Anxious panicky thoughts induce fear in the mind, and there’s no choice but to focus even more on those thoughts, thus creating even more fear.
Essentially, the threat – the object of the fear – has become the body’s own natural fear response, therefore creating the perfect perpetual cycle. Worrying thoughts create a feeling of fear, which in turn creates more worrying thoughts... and so on...
Trying to ‘not’ think about the object of your fear doesn’t really work because before you can process that thought, you have to think about what it is you don’t want to think about...
Now you’re already thinking about it. Doh!
Fear of Fear Cycle
Breaking the cycle
This may at first seem like an impossible cycle to break free of, but the secret lies in recognising the one element you can take control of. The feelings of anxiety and fear are inevitable consequences and nothing can change those, but the one thing you can control is the worrying thoughts that create those feelings.
When you have more realistic thoughts about a particular situation, you experience more realistic emotions about it. Better still, if the situation isn’t immediately relevant, why not have no thoughts about it at all for now?
Now there are no unpleasant feelings.
Facing your fear
Facing your fears is an issue Susan Jeffers deals with extensively in her best selling book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. The book’s main message is that fear stems from uncertainty; in particular, uncertainty about your ability to handle the situation. Susan states:
“All you have to do to diminish your fear is to develop more trust in your own ability to handle whatever comes your way.”
When you ‘feel the fear’ but take action, you find that fear and anxiety soon vanish.
Susan goes on to explain that it’s not so much about eliminating all the risks in life but rather, facing your fear and training your thoughts to work for you rather than against. This is because just the right amount of fear actually helps you get the task done to the very best of your ability.
Light bulb moment!
When you really and truly aren’t afraid of panic and anxiety, it’s physically impossible for your body to generate the feelings of it.
Self hypnosis – a helping hand
A good book can provide invaluable understanding about a problem and teach you new ways to tackle it; however, there sometimes comes a point where you know what to do but can’t quite manage to put that knowledge into practice.
While you’ve learnt it at a ‘conscious’ level, your ‘subconscious’ ultimately has the last say in what you do in any given situation. The subconscious mind can be very stubborn and reluctant to learn something new when it believes it already knows what’s best.
Self hypnosis communicates directly with your subconscious mind, making it an ideal companion to traditional learning from a book, or indeed other more practical forms of therapy such as CBT. With one working at the conscious level, and the other the subconscious, some people find this a formidable combination.
Hypnosis helps in several ways because:
- It communicates directly with your subconscious mind; the place where the memories and associations that trigger anxious and panicky feelings are stored. New, more helpful responses can then be learnt for those situations that were once causing anxiety.
- It naturally lowers your stress level by helping you feel calm and relaxed. It’s actually not possible to feel anxious and calm at the same time.
- When you learn to relax, the mind naturally works much better. So if there does happen to be a cause for concern, you’ll be better able to find a solution.
If you think self hypnosis could help you overcome your fear and anxiety, you might be interested in one of these downloads:
Fear can only apply to something in the future yet it’s based on experiences from the past.
What do you want to do now
The trouble with doing nothing is that you never know when you’ve finished!
Anxiety & Phobia Workbook
Edmund J. Bourne
The mastery of anxiety and phobias.
Latest (5th) edition of this classic best seller; The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook has already helped over one million readers make a full and lasting recovery from:
- Generalised anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety
- Specific phobias
- Panic attacks
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Other anxiety-related issues
Packed with the most effective skills for treating anxiety, this workbook can be used alone or as a supplement to therapy; helping you develop a full set of skills for quieting worried thoughts and putting yourself back in control.
Each worksheet will help you learn the skills you need to manage your anxiety and start living more freely than you ever thought possible.