Some fear is good. We know this, because we can think back to our caveman friend who lived on the lookout for big dino teeth all the time; his fear of being a T-Rex dinner was probably valid and adaptive. But, irrational or excessive fear can hold us back from living the life we want to lead, keep us stuck, and lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness.
Fear is part of our survival instincts; it jumpstarts our “fight, flight, freeze, or fawn” system, helping us kick into gear when we need to run away from danger. It’s the feeling you get when you just missed getting in a car wreck, that rush that hits when you hear that rattling noise on a desert hike, or that tingle you get right before you touch a hot stove. This is adaptive fear that keeps us safe, and we want to keep this part. Survival is good.
But a lot of fear serves little purpose for us. The fear of speaking up because you don’t know how your message will be received, the fear of leaving a job you hate because you don’t know what’s next, maybe even the fear of quitting drinking because you don’t know what other people will think. Many phobias fall into this kind of fear—so many of them are irrational and don’t serve any evolutionary purpose. (Like globophobia, the fear of… balloons? Don’t say we never taught you anything here.)
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “well, my fear of trying new things has kept me safe so far,” you might be right. But you also might have this sinking feeling that you were meant for more and you’re too scared to give it a go. So what do we do if we’re saddled with tons of unhelpful fear and we know it’s keeping us stuck?