Franklin D. Roosevelt identified fear as a powerful enemy lurking within – an enemy that can strip away a person’s vitality and vision, and replace it with the chill of self-doubt that leads to defeat.
For years, beginning in my childhood, fear was an all too familiar feeling. Alcoholism and constant fighting in our house were the very difficult realities that put me on edge. At any given moment, all heck could break loose. Looking back, the best way I know to word it is that these debilitating feelings were always hovering in the air – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified feelings that seemed to own me.
Living in our world today takes great courage and strength. For both our mental and physical well-being, we must examine our fears to determine whether we have fears thatdebilitate. Consider the progression:
- Fear is an immediate and intense internal alarm system that alerts us to the presence of real danger. It kicks us into the fight or flight syndrome – an innate, God-instilled response that helps us with a truly dangerous situation. It revs up our whole being – body, mind, emotions – and rivets our focus on one primary goal: self-protection.
- Anxiety is the pervasive feeling of apprehension that lingers long after the danger has subsided. This nagging feeling of dread uses a great deal of emotional energy worrying about future negative events that are both unpredictable and uncontrollable.
- Panic is a sudden sensation of terror which is so strong that it dominates our reason and logic. It can produce irrational behavior, hysteria, and body sensations that can drop us to our knees.
- Phobias are either social or specific to things. They are intense fears of people, situations, or something specific such as snakes, spiders, lightening, black cats, etc. Phobias tend to be irrational and debilitating. Most phobias pose little real danger.
Many people I work with struggle with debilitating fears that consume their lives and valuable energy. As I so often say, physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand. Physical sensations that result from fear, anxiety, panics and phobias include, but are not limited to:
- muscle tension
- rapid breathing
- heart palpitations
- increased pulse rate
- breaking out in a cold sweat
These sensations cause tremendous stress to the body, raising blood pressure and bathing the body with stress hormones that shorten our lives – something we cannot afford. It is my desire to walk people through the same journey I took to overcome my fears so many years ago. Treatments vary as each person’s situation and coping skills are different. Two very practical tools I always recommend are: Journaling – helps as you write your thoughts, feelings, and fears on paper. It allows you to be more objective with what is going on inside of you. I have a list of questions for the client to help them with the process. Blessings and Gratitude book – clients are encouraged to list all their blessings and gratitudes, especially the blessings granted after they feared something would go poorly…and it didn’t! My Gratitude Journal had its beginning in 1983! The most important technique I use is reliance on God. Larry Crabb wrote, “We live in sheer dread of giving up control and abandoning ourselves to God. Only when we discover a desire for Him that is stronger than our desire for relief from pain will we pay the price necessary to find him.” My favorite counseling tool is Ephesians 6:10-18…The Armor of God!
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.
Blessings to you and freedom from fear! Dr. Sherry Baker