Say Yes to Fear

How to Harness Its Power for Optimal Psychological Health


FEAR. It’s the 4-letter word for an emotion that most of us strive to avoid. Playfully representing the common flight reaction, F*ck Everything And Run, fear can cause us to fight unnecessary battles thereby exhausting ourselves and contributing to the development of neuroses over time. Fear also causes many of us to freeze and become stagnant and suffocated in our own lives.

While fear has its downsides, it can also be a powerful tool for personal growth and psychological well-being. It’s a necessary survival aid that has supported the propagation of humanity for eons. That’s why I prefer a slightly more balanced, rational definition of fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. The ‘E’ in fear may also stand for Emotions, which we often take as evidence that something is wrong.


This take on fear leads me back to an extremely powerful yet simple reminder that Meditation Teacher and Clinical Psychologist, Tara Brach, suggests we use when experiencing obsessive or overwhelming thoughts or feelings: real but not true.


Real but not true. A fear-provoking thought or emotion may feel real, but most of the time, it’s not true. Rather, it’s a result of very strong conditioning that is so intertwined with our personal belief system that we can’t see if for the bullshit it is.


Let’s take the example of the COVID-19 pandemic. Very few of us have the scientific knowledge required to understand how this virus behaves. Even fewer of us have the inside political information that would support a true understanding of government response to it. But that’s another story. The point is that once fear has its hooks in, it can spread like wildfire, throughout society but also through our own inner terrain and in spite of our better, more rational judgement. This process doesn’t just create personal mini-dramas; according to psychological experts and health professionals, it also affects our mental health.


How do we distinguish between these different takes on fear? When is fear a helper versus a hindrance? In this article, we will explore the different aspects of fear, its impact on mental health, and strategies to effectively manage and harness its energy.


Fear as a Helper


In my books, fear is always a helper, whether it’s the evolutionary-type fear that puts a mother in front of a bus to save her child, or the fear based on false beliefs.


While fear can serve as a protective mechanism, prolonged or excessive fear can have a troubling impact on psychological health, which we’ll explore next.


The presence of Fear almost always tells us something about ourselves by the way in which we respond to it. That’s a good thing. It can point out where we have work to do if we are to grow and thrive. So, the point isn’t to get rid of fear fully and completely forevermore, but rather to harness its wisdom and become more discerning players in our lives.


We’ll explore how to do that in an upcoming section. But first, let’s take a look at the impact of fear on mental health.


F*ck Everything And Run: Fear as a Hindrance

The mechanics of the mind are to behave as your own worst enemy at times.


As an adaptive response, fear  triggers the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism, preparing us to face perceived threats. But chronic or irrational fear can lead to all sorts of problems, like low self-esteem or feelings of powerlessness.


“The emotion of fear often works overtime. Even when there is no immediate threat, our body may remain tight and on guard, our mind narrowed to focus on what might go wrong. When this happens, fear is no longer functioning to secure our survival. We are caught in the trance of fear and our moment-to-moment experience becomes bound in reactivity. We spend our time and energy defending our life rather than living it fully.” – Tara Brach, Radical Acceptance


In an evolutionary context, the limbic or primitive brain was a necessary part of interacting with our environment. Our frontal cortex, responsible for our more discerning or rational responses, is a fairly new development, so it’s less fit, say, than the limbic brain which sets off all the alarms before we can make heads or tails of a situation.


Another challenge is that fear often masquerades as Good Sense, which may relegate its presence to the unconscious realm so we can’t recognize when its manifestations are ruling our lives. Indicators of unconscious or unrecognized fear include: chronic worry, social isolation, problems sleeping, anxiety, phobias, neurotic behaviours, and numerous physiological conditions like gastrointestinal issues or inflammation.


Additionally, fear can hinder personal and professional growth, preventing us from taking risks or pursuing opportunities that could enhance our well-being.

Face Everything and Rise: Strategies to Manage Fear

Before we start buying into the idea that we need to be superhuman in the presence of fear and “face everything” all right now, I want to stress this: Humans are as fragile as they are strong. First of all, it’s okay to feel fear, and as I mentioned previously, fear can often act as a signpost in our personal growth journey. Acting courageously in the face of fear may involve baby steps – first dipping in a toe, then the foot, and so on. This is especially true in the case of Trauma. So, don’t push yourself to jump when stepping in would be more appropriate. A little discomfort is okay and indeed necessary for growth, but shouldn’t retraumatize you.


Here are a few strategies for recognizing, confronting, and making friends with fear.


Recognizing and addressing fear is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Here are some strategies that can help individuals manage and overcome their fears:


Education and Awareness

The more we know about something, the less power it has to scare us. Becoming more aware of the presence of fear in your life can involve being present with uncomfortable physical sensations as they arise in the body. Acquaint yourself with your body’s responses to fearful thoughts or situations. Most times, our reaction to a fear-inspiring event is simply a reaction to unpleasant sensations in the body, like tightening in the chest or belly, and a desire to get rid of them.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT techniques, such as exposure therapy, can help you gradually confront and become more aware of and less triggered by your fears in a controlled and supportive environment.

Mindfulness & Relaxation

Practices like meditation, deep breathing exercises, and mindfulness can calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and provide a sense of control over fear-inducing thoughts and emotions.

Social Support

Sharing fears and concerns with trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals can alleviate the burden of fear and provide valuable support and perspective.

Self-Care & Healthy Living

Engaging in regular exercise, maintaining a balanced diet, and prioritizing adequate sleep can strengthen resilience and improve overall mental well-being, making it easier to manage fear.


Working with Fear’s Energy


As a Holy Fire III Usui Reiki Master & Holistic Health and Wellness Coach, I use energy healing modalities to help my client’s meet fear with resilience, kindness, and compassion in a safe and supportive environment. I’d love to help you transform your relationship with fear into one that supports courage and growth so you can have the life you dream of.


Contact me to schedule a time that’s convenient for you. I’m located in Durham Region, serving clients in Clarington and surrounding areas. I look forward to hearing from you.