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  • Sugimoto Shoujin

About Fear and Overcoming It

Why do we experience fear?

Fear is normal. Everyone has their own fears. Fear can help us and is meant to protect us. But sometimes, fear can destroy us. Fear can make us feel sick and uncomfortable. Fear can prevent us from doing the things that we want to do. Constant fear will most definitely prevent us from reaching our full potential in life. Many of our fears tend to be irrational and are based on feelings, not facts.

When we are confronted with dangerous stimuli, we engage in a fight or flight reaction. If someone spots a snake, the natural instinct will be to run. It provides us with adrenaline and tenses our body up to improve our speed and reaction time.

However, when our body is tense for an extended period of time without any direct trigger, or if we perceive too many things to be threats, that is when it adversely affects both our mental and physical health.

Normally, fears are formed when we experience a traumatic event earlier in life.

Fun fact: We are only born with 2 fears - Fear of Falling and Fear of Loud Noises. The rest are developed.

For someone who has experienced a near-death experience due to drowning, he most definitely will not want to experience that same fear and pain again. His instinct might be to protect his life at all cost and minimise pain by avoiding swimming pools. But even looking at a swimming pool can raise his heart rate and he might struggle to breathe normally. Why?

Think about it:

Is the water going to harm him? Is the water by itself going to inflict pain on him? Not really.

It is his imagination of what the water is going to do to him that is inflicting pain and fear on him.

Let’s explore the following situations:

  1. Taking an exam

  2. Participating in a competition/performance

- When you sit for an exam, you are likely to feel nervous or scared. Why? The paper is not going to eat you up. The difficult questions will inject you with poison and kill you. What many people fear instead, are the worst case scenarios or imagined consequences.

“What if I do badly and don’t manage to get into my dream course?”

“What if my parents are disappointed?”

“What if I embarrass myself on stage and people are going to judge me?”

It is all the what-ifs that give rise to our fears. These fears and expected outcomes are learned earlier on in life.

“If I don’t get to my dream course, I will feel inadequate. I don't want my efforts to go wasted.”

“My parents punished me the last time I failed my exams and I don’t want it to repeat.”

“Last time when my friend performed, people made fun of him and he got bullied.”

These are the reasons for our fears.

If our fears are imaginary and lies we tell ourselves, how do we stop them? We stop them with the TRUTH.

If we are intelligent creatures capable of thinking and rationalising, how is it that we still have so much fear that we can’t regulate?

Everybody has a conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind as suggested by Sigmund Freud, one of the most influential psychologists to ever live.

Our earliest memories are buried deep within our unconscious mind. It consists of traumatic events, rejections and interpretation of our earlier life experiences. Unbeknownst to us, they impact our actions and thoughts to a certain extent.

If we have experience being rejected as a child, we may naturally develop defence mechanisms such as not trusting others easily and the fear of attention. They lie deep in our unconscious. Thus, we are not aware that we are doing it most of the time.

Iceberg Model by Sigmund Freud

What can we do?

To solve any problem, we must seek to understand the cause of our beliefs.

  1. What experience might have shaped this belief that you have?

  2. What did you understand or interpret out of this experience?

  3. How did this experience affect the way you thought and viewed life afterwards?

When you experience fear:

  1. Stop and distance yourself from the stimulus (if possible)

    1. Removing yourself from whatever is causing you fear or stress will help to calm your emotions and feelings, and gives you space to breathe and be yourself

  2. Relaxation Techniques

    1. 4-7-8 Breathing Exercises

      1. Find out more here!

    2. Focusing on an external object

      1. Notice everything about the object, the shape, the texture etc.

      2. This helps you to shift your attention away from your thoughts

    3. Speak to someone

      1. Don’t be afraid to approach others for emotional support

      2. Consider seeking help from counsellors or therapists

  3. Write down your thoughts

    1. What thought is making you experience fear?

    2. Templates such as the Socratic Questioning Process helps to put your fears in check and gives you clarity and perspective

    3. Writing down your fears and thoughts helps to put things into perspective and allows you to better organise your thoughts and understand yourself. The more self-reflection you do, the more self-aware you become.

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the present. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” - Lao Tzu

Done by: Sugimoto Shoujin

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