It´s already mid-October, and Halloween costumes and decorations are everywhere in the shops these days.

I can´t say Halloween is my favourite time of the year. As I said last year, I don´t like scary things, not even a little bit.

Child hiding in a fort made of sofa cushions

I always wondered about the people who actually enjoy watching horror movies and things like that; I guess part of the fun is because it´s “fake” fear, I mean, it´s clear that it´s a made-up story, not reality.

But what happens when our fear is not fake? What is fear, how does it appear, and what´s its purpose?

Fear is one of the emotions that are recognized as universal, that is, all human beings experiment it since birth. We also share this emotion with the animal kingdom, and as you can imagine, it´s very closely related to our survival instinct.

Every emotion is an indicator, an alert sent by our brain to let us know that something important is happening, and each emotion brings us a different message. In the case of fear in particular, the message talks to us about danger, about a situation that can threaten our safety; that´s why our body reacts by staying still and sharpening its senses, to get ready to face the danger.

But the most interesting thing of it all is that our brain can´t distinguish a real threat from an imaginary one, and on top of that, when faced with an unknown situation and lacking information, it also thinks that there may be a danger, and sets off the alarm just in case. It´s our brain´s way to say "I can´t protect you beyond this point, because I don´t know what´s out there". This is how our fear of the unknown appears, making it so difficult for us to get out of our comfort zone.

Of course, fear is a tremendously useful emotion when there´s a real danger: thanks to its warning we can get to safety. But, what about situations when it shows up for other reasons, for example when faced with an important decision and worrying about the consequences, or in an uncertain situation that reaches out into the unknown? Here are a few suggestions:

  • First of all, stop fearing fear itself 🙂 It´s nothing but a messenger, an emotion that may feel a bit uncomfortable, but is here to help us.
  • Dare to dig a little deeper into that fear and discover the reason that brought it here: what is it trying to protect us from? What´s the danger in this case? And to what extent is it really a danger?
  • Use that information to make a more conscious decision: what´s hiding behind that fear? What´s the worst that can happen if you go ahead? And the best?

Interesting topic, this of fear, right? Just to finish, I´d like to mention two books on this topic that I think are very cool:

  • “Feel the fear and do it anyway”, by Susan Jeffers - it´s based on the idea that our deepest fear is not being able to face whatever happens to us in life, but in reality, we humans are extraordinarily capable of adapting, and overcoming all kinds of situations. By practicing going ahead despite feeling fear, we gain confidence and get ready to face bigger and bigger challenges.
  • “Yes, yes, hell no! The little book for making big decisions”, by Brian Whetten - this one I have to confess I haven´t read yet, but I love its premise: when presented with an important decision to make, we can first ask reason, then intuition, and lastly, fear, and if the first two say yes and fear is the one saying no… Then the answer is a yes 🙂

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