A Spoonful of Sugar

Put Your Fears to the Test

Sometimes it makes sense to be afraid, but it’s much less often than most of us think. Those of us who suffer with anxiety or excessive worry can be especially prone to irrational fear.

To check whether your fear is rational, here are three criteria to check it against:

(If you’re thinking, “but these are fears and fear is an emotion. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense, it’s what I feel!” then see this earlier post):

  1. There is a real danger of damage to you.

    Example: It doesn’t make sense to fear how people at work will react to your new haircut. Even if they hate it, there’s no damage done to you.
  2. The level of fear is proportional to the severity and likelihood of the damage.

    Example: It’s likely you’ll feel pain the next time you get a needle for a blood test, but it’s not going to cause severe damage.

    On the other side, although it is likely you’d be killed if you were hit by a meteor, you’re unlikely to be hit by a meteor so it makes no sense to fear it.
  3. (My favorite) The danger can be avoided and/or controlled.

    Example: It makes no sense to be afraid that the earth will one day be enveloped by the sun because this will be out of your control. Similarly, being constantly on alert that you might have a panic attack does nothing to avoid having one.

If you’re feeling afraid, try to apply these criteria to your fear. If it doesn’t meet them all, toss it out: it’s not a useful fear and it doesn’t deserve your time or energy.

P.S. I know this is usually easier said than done. Sometimes it takes a while. Sometimes we need help.

image by Fsgregs

headshot of Chris Roberts, Naturopathic Doctor

Chris Roberts is a Naturopathic Doctor with an anxiety-focussed practice in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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