How to Contend with Fear During a Crisis
Fear is a powerful emotion that has the ability to either help or hurt us. However, how we are generally taught to deal with it may not be the best solution. Let’s take a look how re-framing our views on fear may be the first step towards keeping it under control and in perspective during a survival situation.
Fear is an Emotional Response
I have a tremendous fear of cockroaches. I have no idea why. Snakes don’t bother me one bit, nor does blood, bullets or encountering dangerous situations. However, if I see a cockroach I go absolutely bonkers. On the other hand, one of my friends is petrified of lizards. This makes absolutely no sense to me since I love lizards because they like to eat mosquitoes and other insects. My friend doesn’t get why I can’t stand cockroaches.
This illustrates an important principle regarding fear: It’s personal and it’s all about perception. I’m not downplaying the power that fear has over us by any means. It’s very real, uncomfortable and often debilitating. However, it is an emotion nonetheless. Consequently, there are a number of ways to deal with fear in order to keep it in its proper place.
Focus on Containment, Not Elimination
One of the biggest mistakes we make when it comes to dealing with fear is the expectation that we can eliminate it altogether. This is not true, and unfortunately, this leaves people feeling as though they have failed on their quest to be free from a particular fear. A better approach is to focus on dealing with the fear, or containing it, even though it is still present.
This is where the idea of conquering our fears comes into play. We learn how to beat back our responses and to face fear head-on. The fear never really goes away in every situation. The trick is to take control over the fear and work through it. This is particularly true when faced with survival situations. The last thing that we need is to be paralyzed by fear. However, we don’t need to eliminate it in order to move forward. Sometimes the best way to deal with fear is to grit our teeth and suffer the brief discomfort and anxiety until the situation passes.
Embrace Fear to Neutralize its Power
Another option, and this is not for everyone, is to embrace their fears. This usually involves being exposed to the trigger or fear and staring it in the face until we are not as afraid anymore. Sure, we can feel uncomfortable or on-edge, but at least we can accept the fact that chances are what we fear is not going to harm us. Someone once suggested to me that if I eat a cockroach, I won’t be as afraid. Another said that if I played with one or examined it, I would get over the fear.
Neither option is something that I am interested in trying. Rather, I figured out the best thing to do is to just accept the fact that there are times when I will see one and I simply need to deal with the situation as it comes up. Consequently, I discovered that through acceptance, I could then develop strategies and contingency plans in my head that would help me to cope. I never got over the fear, rather I learned to deal with it.
Acceptance is Key
There are many strategies to deal with and overcome fear. These two examples are just to highlight some quick fixes that seem to work for a lot of people. The trick is to find a way to cope with things that scare us so that we can accept them for what they are and still be able to function properly. The last thing that we need during any crisis is to be paralyzed or clouded by fear. So, now is the time to face whatever fears you have and find ways to accept and deal with them. Then, when you encounter your fears during a crisis, you will be less-likely to panic or over react.
Finally, remember that there is good fear and bad fear. Good fear keeps us alive. It activates our fight or flight response and is a very instinctive and intuitive warning system that all of us possess. We want to hold on to that one. On the other hand, the fears that are unique to us on a case-by-case basis should be confronted and addressed sooner rather than later. This will help to prevent them from clouding our judgment in situations when we need to be on top of our game and as clear-headed as possible.