The Disgruntled Life Coach Podcast is not something to fear, so what are you REALLY afraid of? First though, definitions and quotations, then the main segment talks about how fear and anxiety can be self-perpetuating, and we’ll finish off with a Disgruntled Nugget – a little piece of wisdom you can take with you, or not, I don’t care. Also thx to Audionautix and Partners In Rhyme for the music and sound effects.Support the show
Today we'll take a look at what we fear. Not collectively of course, because we don't all fear clowns, but we all should, just saying. But we're going have to tackle what fear is first. Some think of it as the opposite of courage or bravery, but fear has to exist first for those to become reality, so they're more yin-yang than opposites. And we have to make a bit of a distinction between fear and anxiety as well. Anxiety, unlike fear, does not have the substance of your fear in front of you right now; it's more forward looking and intangible. And that's the problem for many, but we'll work through it together.
First, let's get to a definition. Fear is defined as "an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat." Because we're also going to talk about anxiety, which The American Psychological Association defines as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” So the key is that fear has a specific subject attached to it, and it's temporal in that it is in the present. So fear the evil clown outside your window and driving an exploding 70s Ford Pinto. Or not. Now let's move on to some quotations for perspective.
Our first quotation comes from James Douglas Morrison - Jim Morrison for most of us - who was an American singer and songwriter who was the lead vocalist of the rock band the Doors. Morrison was found dead in the bathtub of his Paris apartment at 27 years old, we think, according to reports, or something. Anyway, not important, his words of wisdom are “Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.” The important take away here is facing your fears to give them less power, and we'll talk about that later.
Our next quotation comes from Leigh Bardugo who is an Israeli-American fantasy author and one-time vocalist for the once semi-active pop band Captain Automatic. She is best known for her young adult Grishaverse novels, which include the Six of Crows duology among many other titles. She said, “Fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.” This is the truth about much of what we experience as part of the human condition. We accept things, and then when we don't confront or change these things, they come back. Like using duct tape to fix your stupid headlight lens, just for example, don't judge me.
Finally, we have Daniel Gerhard Brown - known to us as Dan Brown who is an American author best known for his thriller novels, including the Robert Langdon novels Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code, among others. Although Brown takes extreme and gratuitous liberties with what I like to call "actual truth" concerning history, religion and illuminati, he did, apparently piss of many far right Christians, so because of that I'll forgive him - this time. He said, “Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire.” Although it sounds a bit too much like some smarmy motivational poster, he's right that if you change your mindset, you can adjust how you live with your fear. Let's get started.
So why are we talking about fear in the first place. There are actually two reasons. The first is that there are many people who are living with actual fear or anxiety, and that can cause a great deal damage both emotionally and physically. The second is that many of us have fears that really aren't fears at all, we just call them that. FOMO - the fear of missing out is among them, but there are others, like imposter syndrome, that fit this category. These are not actual fears, but by defining them as such and then living with them, we create a situation where we start to believe them to be fears. And, as a result, our bodies and minds start to react in much the same way. But wait, it gets worse.
Fear, just like anger from my last episode, is a subconscious response and triggers our fight-or-flight reactions, which is good when you're faced with, say, a horde of angry rabid vampire weasels but not so good if you think you might miss an episode of Murder, She Wrote. Either way, your body and mind will react to the perceived threat, and will change accordingly, whether it's real or just perceived fear. But if it's not a real fear, we may also have a sense of shame that we did this to ourselves for no reason. In an article title The Self-perpetuating Cycle of Shame and Self-injury by Nina Veetnisha Gunnarsson published in Humanity & Society, we read that "there is always the likelihood that shame leads to more shame, and that it leads to self-injury, but also the opposite that self-injury eventually also triggers more shame and so on." It's this self-perpetuating cycle that we need to avoid. Well, that and licorice ice cream, I mean, who thought that was a good idea?
It's important to distinguish what we're talking about here from the very real world of phobias. Phobias are actually defined as an overwhelming and irrational fear of objects or situations that pose little real danger but provoke anxiety and avoidance. But it's important to know that the irrationality is not, necessarily, self-inflicted, and we can generally function well even if we have phobias. If that's not true for you in that your phobia is stopping you from functioning in your day-to-day life, you should really seek professional guidance, because some pretend life coach can never really help with that. However, we all seem to have a much better grasp on phobias then we do on, say FOMO or other contrived fears. So let's look at those for a minute.
We'll start with FOMO - the fear of missing out - because it has fear right in its name. It has been established, over time, that FOMO is a phenomenon that makes us believe that others are having more fun or living better lives than we are. Confusingly, FOMO causes some users to feel regret before an event or moment on social media has even happened. I mention social media here because the various platforms have, for the first time in human history, given us the ability to know when something fun is happening just because you have a smart device. According to a study titled "Negative consequences from heavy social networking in adolescents: The mediating role of fear of missing out" published in the Journal of Adolescence, this, then, leads to "the development of negative consequences of maladaptive technology use in adolescents." But, really, it's not just adolescents, it's all of us. But, as already stated, this is not actual fear, it's a fear construct, but comes with all the negative health consequences that we get with chronic fear. So it's like getting a punch in the head AND a kick in the gut.
Another take on self-imposed fear structures is our never-ending self-doubt. Many people today work hard to get an education and work experience so they can get their dream job, if such a thing even exists. But once there, we fill our minds with the feeling that we're frauds and shouldn't have ever gotten the position in the first place.
This imposter syndrome is so prevalent that a paper titled "The impostor phenomenon: recent research findings regarding dynamics, personality and family patterns and their implications for treatment" was published in 1993 describing the phenomenon as "a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents, or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud' ". More recently, Dr. Carole Lieberman, a Beverly Hills psychiatrist and author posited, "someone with [imposter phenomenon] has an all-encompassing fear of being found out to not have what it takes." There's that fear again and, as with FOMO, we made it up, yet we still feel the fear. So let's stop talking about the ridiculousness of these fears and look at what we can do to actually not miss out on life.
The first thing that you can do is to identify and connect with what you fear. We talked about this in the beginning, but there's more to it than the three words "face your fears." It's important to understand that fear and anxiety are storehouses of wisdom. They can tell you more about yourself than stupid Ancestry DNA can. Well, so can astrology for that matter, but I digress. The key is to know yourself, understand why you fear what you fear, and take the time to realize that all of us have traits that we may not like about ourselves. You cannot alter your views and values if you don't understand how you got to where you are, but it's never too late to do that. Tap into that fear and anxiety and use it to learn more about yourself.
Also, things like good health - physical and mental - are keys to a better life. Yes, healthy eating and exercise help, especially with anxiety, but it could help you work through your fears as well. Things like a good night's sleep and better physical health can actually make you stronger mentally, more aware of what you are doing or need to do, and less likely to suffer from sickness or injuries that compound negative thoughts. And don't forget your body’s powerful ability to create endorphins when you exercise - these are powerful compounds that make you feel better, reduce stress and even alleviate depression. It's like a miracle drug that you make on demand, maybe you should try it. Go ahead, I'll wait...
And finally, use humor to deflate your worst fears. There is a multitude of studies in the world that detail the many ways humour, laughter and joking can help us live better lives. Laughter can increase oxygen to your body, and can even help you release endorphins, and we just talked about that. But it can also improve your mood, relieve stress, improve your relationships and, long-term, can release neuropeptides that further help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. So, honestly, just take a step back and laugh, at the world, at yourself and, especially, at your fears, both real and made up. It's easier than battling that horde of rabid vampire weasels, am I right?
Okay, so that's it for this episode. As always, I'll leave you with a Disgruntled nugget in a second, but first I want to thank you for listening. Remember to subscribe to this podcast, I’m on all the major platforms platforms, and please visit www.disgruntledlifecoach.ca for all my podcasts – yes, w-w-w- blah, blah, blah. Please also follow me on twitter @lifedisgruntled, there's a link on my website – DM me if you want some stickers, seriously – free stickers. Right? Also, if you like what you've heard today, tell your friends. If you think this is ridiculous, still, tell your friends, I mean how hard is that.
Helen Keller once said that "Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold." More recently, the drug-addled brain of Hunter S. Thompson agreed with this sentiment when he said "There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment." But 19th century writer Christian Nestell Bovee helps to contextualize this when he said, "We fear things in proportion to our ignorance of them." So we need to not be paranoid because fear won't stop at our ignorance whether we're bold, or not, because bad things happen, or something, I don't know, whatever ...
Again, thanks for listening, and thanks also to Audionautix and Partners in Rhyme for music and sound FX, thanks again to Neatnik for visuals, and thanks for your patience - see you in two weeks, or not, whatever...