Overcoming Fear for a More Vibrant Experience of Life
Fear is an emotion I used to view in a negative light. However, understanding how fear influences my emotional state has helped me to harness its power and use it to my advantage. In certain situations, overcoming fear helps me achieve my goals, contributing to feelings of accomplishment, happiness, and a more vibrant life experience.
Learning to Overcome Fear
While we may generally consider fear a negative emotion, there are ways to use it to your advantage and even to create happiness. Through my experience with rock climbing, I've found myself facing fear numerous times. Sometimes the fear is simply due to being high off the ground on an exposed rock face. Feeling terrified in such a position would be only natural without a rope, safety harness, or helmet for protection. But with protection measures in place, climbing can be made relatively safe, and there's no real reason to be afraid. Even so, fear can still take over, and learning to overcome the fear and stay composed in these situations is a big part of climbing.
Just as climbing demands a high level of physical fitness, it also requires me to focus entirely on what I'm doing at any point in time. There's no room for error, which means no room for trivial thoughts to invade my mind. It's as close as I get to being completely engaged in the present moment. The feeling of awareness brought about by fear in these situations is intense, and the sense of accomplishment after completing a tricky climb is hard to beat.
The Debilitating Effects of Chronic Fear
The other side of the coin is irrational, chronic fear. Having suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), I know this fear can be debilitating and lead to extreme despair. It hampered my ability to enjoy life on many levels. For example, the fear of having a panic attack in public caused me to avoid leaving my apartment unless it was for something absolutely essential. Similarly, OCD restricted my ability to enjoy what were once everyday hobbies and pastimes. Overcoming these irrational fears was a long and challenging process for me.
Interpretation of Fear Can Change with Age
Our interpretation of fear may also change as we age. In general, adults are more cautious in comparison to children when faced with extreme or challenging activities.1 Fear of heights may also become an issue in later life due, in part, to a deteriorating sense of balance.2 Personally, I now find myself contemplating the future in ways I never did when I was younger. Sometimes I worry about injury and illness, and other times whether a decline in physical abilities will one day prevent me from doing what I enjoy now.
In contrast, as we age, we may develop greater resilience and be better equipped to cope with the intense fears we might have encountered when we were younger. One of the reasons these once difficult or alarming situations may no longer trouble us as much is that we produce less of the hormone adrenaline as we get older.2
Overcoming Fear Can Direct You Toward Happiness
Learning to distinguish between productive and unproductive fear has helped to direct me toward happiness. The stimulating fear I experience when climbing can be used to help me achieve goals. Counterproductive fear, on the other hand, can interfere with my ability to enjoy life and become a barrier to experiencing happiness. By understanding how I interpret fear, I've been able to take steps to manage my emotions and live life to the fullest.
- NoCamels. (2015, June 4). Age Dramatically Increases Our Fear Of Everything, Study Reveals. https://nocamels.com/2015/06/age-influences-perception-of-fear/
- Kennard, J., Ph.D. (2016, May 20). How Fears and Phobias Change as We Age. HealthCentral. https://www.healthcentral.com/article/how-fears-and-phobias-change-as-we-age
Brocklebank, M. (2023, May 29). Overcoming Fear for a More Vibrant Experience of Life, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 22 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/livingablissfullife/2023/5/overcoming-fear-for-a-more-vibrant-experience-of-life