My cat is not afraid of much. He’s pretty weird for a cat actually. He likes going for walks (without the lead thankyou very much, he does not like being controlled!), taking rides in the car (it actually calms him down), visiting new places and new people, and even playing with big dogs (which has gotten him into trouble in the past). But those odd things he is afraid of (other cats is about the only thing I’ve found), he just sits there and hisses at it occasionally. He doesn’t run away, he doesn’t try to pick a fight with it. I like to think he’s being assertive. And he looks it right in the eye and tells it he doesn’t like it.
We can learn something from my cat. A lot of us live in fear. But it is a vital response to physical and emotional danger. We need to feel it to protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear things that are far from life-or-death. Traumas and bad experiences can trigger a fear response in us that can leave us paralyzed, running or fighting for no good reason.
There are 5 types of fear:
Extinction – the fear of death, of ceasing to exist. Think about when you had a near miss in a car, or felt that horrible feeling when looking over the edge of a tall building.
Mutilation – The fear of losing any part of our bodies. Anxiety about creepy crawlies arises from this fear.
Loss of autonomy – the fear of being paralysed, immobilised, trapped, or controlled by circumstances beyond our control. The physical side of it is called claustrophobia, but it extends to social interactions and relationships as well.
Separation – the fear of abandonment, rejection and loss of connection with people.
Ego-death – the fear of humiliation and shame.
Can you identify which of these fits your fear(s)?
President Roosevelt once said “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. Often we end up fearing the fear, and not the actual situation. We remember when we felt that fear, and so when we come up on a similar situation, we are afraid to feel that again. When put like that, it sounds less scary, right? We are fearing fear itself.
The first step in overcoming this is to identify it. Break it down to it’s basest parts. Identify one of the above 5 fears and name it. Even say it out loud. Say it like Shakespeare would have: “I see you fear of separation, you loggerheaded toad-spotted clotpole, and I am not afraid of you!” If nothing else, you’ll be in fits of laughter, which always helps.
The next step is to face it. Yes, go at it head on until you find that you are no longer afraid of it. It actually truly works. I’ve done this many times with trigger points. Things that bring up those bad memories. I keep doing them, or visiting those places, or talking to those people, until it no longer scares me. I now have very few flashbacks because of this.
We don’t need to live our lives in fear. There is much to be enjoyed out there. Like Beenut butter – it’s peanut butter crossed with honey. Yes, you can actually buy this here!