This past week in working with individuals and groups as they move through challenges and making the effort to change, the theme of fear has come up multiple times. Specifically, identifying that there are three different types of fear.
First, let’s remind ourselves that to the nervous system, safety always comes first and if something feels threatening, we will go into stress response. Stress response gets a bad rap, but it is neccesary for survival. The issue is that many of us are living in stress response these days and part of that is because of our perception and interpretation of the world around us. We stress out about running late, not meeting expectations, what others will think, etc. and all the nervous system knows to do is turn on stress response when something feels like a threat.
The first type of fear is what I call “Danger Fear”. This is fear we experience when something is threatening our health, well-being, or life, like a natural disaster, accident, serious injury or illness, etc. This fear comes up when we could be badly injured or killed in the moment due to what is happening. Luckily, this fear turns on stress response, which is how we survive. This is the type of threat that stress response was actually made to help us survive.
However, in today’s world, we more often have perceived threats that are tied to what I call “What If Fear”. This type of fear feeds the stress response based on the stories we are telling ourselves. This is the fear that many people live with on a daily basis. This type of fear listens to and digs into the emotion behind stories about your own worth, how badly something could go, what others might think, what could go wrong in any given situation, and so on. This fear is based on more possible emotional pain, it buys into the messages of the scarcity culture we live in, and it can sound like the voice of reason in the moment.
What If Fear will spin stories based on maybe one previous example from your own or someone else’s life or it will invent stories in an attempt to keep you “safe”. We can become so convinced by What If Fear that we stay stuck, stop putting ourselves out there, stop working toward our dreams and passions, or even stop connecting to other people, which are all very important contributing factors to our ability to thrive.
The third type of fear is what I call “Growth Fear” and this is the uncomfortable feelings we experience when we are on the verge of growth and evolution. This fear arises because once we begin to evolve, we will no longer be who we are currently are and we have not yet met who we are becoming. Moving into that unknown space pertaining to our identity feels threatening even though it is a part of growth. The nervous system does not interpret gaps or empty spaces as safe. If we are not able to identify this fear as being tied to our becoming the next version of ourselves, we may shut down and stunt the growth.
When we can become aware of the type of fear that we are experiencing, we can better decide how to move forward in the moment. We can fact-check What If Fear and embrace Growth Fear. We can move out of living in stress response, feeling stuck and small, and into our own power.
This week, I invite you to explore your fears and to identify what you are experiencing and how you want to show up in your life.
I will be exploring right along with you.
Chat again soon,