Fear in all it’s many guises is probably the biggest obstacle survivors of abuse are confronted with. Even though fear is vitally important in warning people of impending danger, most survivors will experience fear, anxiety, panic, or even terror in a very crippling way. Rather than being a warning sign, fear is over-generalized and becomes psychologically unhealthy.
Rather than assessing the situation that causes feelings of fear and looking for solutions, people focus on the fear itself trying their hardest not to feel the feeling with a general stance of avoiding. Avoiding places, avoiding people, avoiding thinking about their inner life, and avoiding challenging irrational beliefs. A lot of recovery time is spent avoiding those things and situations that trigger feelings of discomfort, fear, and doubt.
If you feel fear it’s no use to ignore it, avoid it, or push it away. Don’t hold your breath in the hope it will disappear. All you do is creating a power struggle between the part of you that feels fear and the part that doesn’t want to feel it. Fear turns into panic and ultimately you end up becoming fearful of the fear, feeling betrayed by your own body.
If you want to help yourself you need to find a way to access your adult rational thinking capacity and assess the situation you are fearful about. Is this about HERE AND NOW or is it about THERE AND THEN? Is your fear realistic, are you in some form of danger? If not, embrace your fear, welcome it, befriend it. Don’t ask it to go away, thank it for letting you know that there is something – probably in your past – you need to deal with.
It helps to regularly ‘stretch’ by putting yourself in situations that, although safe, create feelings of discomfort or fear for you. Make the fear your friend and you will see, over time you will lose your phobic avoidance reaction (that cause fear to increase). Try it out! You have nothing to lose but the stronghold fear has on you.