Fear is an emotional response that alerts you to potential danger like a car’s warning light. Without a warning, you could get into a lot of trouble.
On the other hand, if that warning light is as loud as one of those security alarm systems, which screech at you “INTRUDER! INTRUDER!” it will scare the day lights out of you. Being overcome by fear can cause mental paralysis and panic, and it will make it difficult to deal with situations rationally. As a result, the warning grows louder and the fear compounds.
It’s more effective to treat fear as an indicator telling you to be alert and look at your situation with an eye toward short and long-term consequences.
Obviously, if the danger is a life and death matter like a child falling into the road then you must act quickly in defense of the child. But in most cases we can take time to resolve things that we fear.
First, with a pen in hand and the serenity prayer* in mind, be creative and imagine various potential actions you could take. Second, look rationally at your priorities and carefully weigh the pros and cons. Third, figure out and take the appropriate first step.
Once you start creatively listing potential actions and thoughtfully analyzing those choices, you have engaged other parts of your mind. This will help alleviate the panic, as well as help avert or minimize any potential danger.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD
* The Serenity Prayer:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…”