Understanding Fear: What Is It, and How Does It Affect People?

Posted by Jae Lyn on

Understanding Fear: What Is It, and How Does It Affect People?

Fear is a response that people display when they feel as if they are threatened in some way. Fear is felt when someone believes that an action, situation, or person is going to harm them physically or emotionally.  

Basic Human Emotion and Instinct

Fear is one of the most rudimentary human emotions needed for survival. Everyone feels fear at one time or another, but in western society and modern times, most of the time the fear is totally unnecessary. 

However, it is an instinct that has saved us for generations and one to take seriously. You don’t want to dismiss all feelings of fear, but you do want to categorize them so that you can move past your fear when it’s safe to do so.

Fear Versus Anxiety

While both fear and anxiety produce stress responses such as tension, higher pulse, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms that come from our inborn "flight or fight" nature, they are different in that anxiety is more vague, while fear is felt for a known rational threat (unless it’s a phobia). 

Fear Is Both Bad and Good

Even though most modern people’s fears aren’t life or death, they are still part of the person. The problem comes if fear is getting in the way of achieving success or enjoying life. If you are too scared to leave the house, that’s a crippling fear to have and one that is best worked through with professionals so that you can have a full life. But if you are afraid of that spider, there may be a good reason.

Common Fears

The most common fears involve fear of dirt, flying, speaking, storms, and fear of open spaces. Only a couple of those come with the potential for death, even if very rare. Common fears can be worked through once acknowledged carefully and purposefully so that you can eliminate roadblocks in your life. 

Overcoming Fear

One problem with avoiding fear is that it can cause you to be stuck in your life, stagnant, and going nowhere fast. It’s normal to avoid fear, though, so it’s best to write down your fears and determine which ones aren’t helping you so that you can work toward overcoming those that are stifling your life. 

Analyze each fear to see whether it’s something you need to be fearful of or something irrational and maybe even unreasonable. If it’s something holding you back from success in some area of your life, get help to overcome it - even if it’s a real fear such as fear of flying as compared to a fear of being abducted by aliens. 

Everyone experiences fear. Sometimes it’s helpful and sometimes it’s not. It’s how you react to it and work around it that matters. Don’t allow fear to stop you from achieving or doing anything that you want to do. If the fear is real but you really want to do something, working through the fear can make all the difference. 

380469: What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith, Hardcover What Are You Afraid Of?: Facing Down Your Fears with Faith, Hardcover
By Dr. David Jeremiah / Tyndale House

Everyone is afraid of something--failure, success, loneliness, crowds, death, life--the list is endless. And no one is immune to fear. Fear haunts the weak and the powerful, the young and the old, the rich and the poor. It is the great equalizer.

Some fears--hearing an unexpected noise in the night or encountering an icy bend in the road--attack us only momentarily, passing almost as quickly as they come. But others, such as contracting a deadly illness, being rejected by a loved one, or dying alone, can haunt us for a lifetime, taking up residence in our minds and eating away at our sense of security--and eventually taking over our lives. Well, fear not!

There is hope. In What Are You Afraid Of? Dr. David Jeremiah identifies and explains what is at the heart of nine of our greatest fears and lays out a biblical plan for overcoming each one of them. He also examines one particular fear that should be part of our daily lives: the fear of God.

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