The Function of Fear
Fear serves a function in the evolution of human beings. It helps us to stay away from potential
dangers that might harm us and ensure our survival.
With the current Covid situation threatening our survival, it is no wonder that it spikes fear which results in a repertoire of behaviours from avoiding perceived source of threat, to actively trying to get rid of the perceived threat.
The Distinction between Rational and Irrational Fear
In Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, the idea about whether the fear is proportionate to the reality
matters. Therapist examines together with client the evidences which support and not support the fear that is present which help client to come to a more realistic appraisal of his or her situation. For fear that is much greater in proportion that the actual situation warrants, it might require more examination into the client’s history that might be fuelling this. A spark could not grow into a fire without oxygen and fuel.
Helpful Ways of Managing Fear
You might find people with these traits more capable of managing their fears while living out their life:
1. Strong Sense of Self-efficacy
They have a sense of belief in themselves that they can go
through the adversities and still come out of it. They believe in their ability to find a way out
despite it not being clear at the moment. This belief in self might have been build up from
past experiences of them successfully navigating the adversities. Even if the outcome was
not ideal, they were able to make meaning out of the experience for e.g., how they have
grown which adds on to the richness of their personhood and efficacy in dealing with future
How can you also build up this sense of self-efficacy?
If you are capable of breathing in at this moment in time, “congratulations, you definitely
are capable in one way or another to survive until now.” Perhaps it is then about the way
you attributed those experiences. “It is luck that I got out of it.” “It is because I have people
who helped me.” An external attribution leaves us feeling not in control when another
mishap arrives and hence the jittery and fear that follows. However, if we can see the part of
self that contributed to getting out/through the mishap, it gives us a sense of confidence
about what we can control to get through the next one. “I am able to endure the pain this
time round, if it happens again, I know I will get through it.” “I know how to ask people for
help, that’s why the problem was solved.”
2. Strong Sense of Identity and Purpose
If fear is survival related, then it makes sense that those who are grounded in their existence will be able to withstand fear better. They know what they stand for and what kind of life they want to live. Hence even in face of turmoil, they can still respond consistently to the situation in alignment with their values, purpose, and beliefs.
How can you also build up your sense of identity and purpose?
Building your sense of identity and purpose goes back to understanding yourself- your story.
i. How are you like as a person when you grow up?
ii. How have the later experiences shaped who you are as a person?
iii. What are the values that you still hold close to you till this day?
iv. What have been life-giving to you that you want to keep in your life?
Drawing out a timeline of your own history and reflecting on these questions might help you
to get more in touch with yourself as a person. Remember understanding yourself is a
continuous journey with no hard and fast rule, so be kind with yourself and give yourself the
time and space to grow along with yourself.
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Wan Yeng is a counsellor who is interested in observing and understanding human experiences to develop greater awareness and insights for the well-being of people.