Fear is often really sneaky. Sure we all recognise fear when it comes to heights and we are climbing a multi pitch route up a mountainside or perhaps the fear you recognise is arachnophobia when you see a giant spider zip across the floor and under the chair you’re sitting on. This kind of fear is obvious. Our hearts race, we get sweaty palms, we jump up or shake, we scream… Fear as a survival mechanism.
It’s the sneaky fear that is the most devious. Fear can masks itself as other emotions, like anger, without our even realising it. A good example of this is when our child has a near miss with getting hurt. We are SO afraid that they could have been hurt that we get angry at them for the near miss, even if it wasn’t in their control or simply an accident.
Perhaps a less obvious example of anger rearing it’s ugly head, when it’s fear that should be front and centre, is when we fear being unloved or alone because of misunderstandings with partners or friends. Instead of being honest (consciously or not) that it’s fear we are feeling, we get angry with our loved one. The irony is that the anger pushes loved ones away when it’s connection and closeness that is most needed.
Fear can shame us into shrinking away and withdrawing from loved ones. I feel ashamed at the way fear has silenced me when it comes to family crisis. When my cousin’s husband passed away leaving her young family with two little ones younger than my own, it hit a nerve. I felt so afraid. Just the thought of that happening to me was terrifying. It wasn’t happening to me though, and yet I couldn’t shake those (self centred) feelings. Then I was afraid to say the wrong thing. What could I possibly say that could ease the pain of losing your loved partner and parent to your children? At the very least, what could I say that wouldn’t make it worst?
Fear really gets in the way of honesty. Honesty with ourselves and others. So many people are afraid of not being nice or hurting feelings. They say “yes” when they want to say “no”. They stay facebook friends with people they’d rather not be friends with at all. Sometimes it’s the fear of hostility or angry words that make people not want to be honest.
I’d like to say that I hate fear but it does have an important role in my life. It raises alarm bells when I’m in an unsafe situation and will make me act to make myself or my children safer. If I can tune into the fear behind some of my feelings, then it’s a great indicator of what’s real inside of me. We have to accept fear as the important survival measure that it is but we also have to scrutinise our other hard emotions to ensure that they are not fear masquerading as something more destructive.