This blog post was written by Pooja Shah, PsyD.
“We have become increasingly disassociated and estranged from the patterns of life and death, uncomfortable with messiness of our own humanity, aging and ultimately, mortality.” –Ted Gup, New York Times.
Some existential philosophers and psychologists believe that fear and anxiety are based on a feeling of influx in relation to various existential givens for life. In other words, because we may experience an imbalance with natural and normal parts of life (death, relationships, meaning, responsibility), we experience fear and anxiety. As in the quote above, this often manifests as becoming dissociated, estranged and uncomfortable.
To start to understand your fear, it is best to begin by recognizing what is fear, as you perceive it. Often how we perceive fear is not the fear in its entirety. More times than not a fear will have a deeper meaning and cause. For example, a fear of commitment may really have to do with fearing rejection and loss. In most cases, it is related to being extremely uncomfortable with our own experience of “humanity, aging and ultimately, mortality.”
In a previous blog I had written about how some individuals find themselves existing and not living, they are merely going through the motions. This is due to fear. Only a handful of individuals will actually seek psycho-therapeutic help to address this experience. As humans we look past our own strengths, our own resources and coping skills and live in constant fear by avoiding the moment, the reality, honesty and the fear itself. In a culture where it feels as though time slips away from us and we are constantly in crisis or survival mode and we forget who we are, what defines us, and what we are capable of. It is difficult to recognize that we are in crisis or survival mode because we have been taught that if you are able to cope, things will be fine. However, to recognize and overcome fear it is not only about surviving or coping, it is about growing from the experience. Existential and Humanistic Psychologists have been practicing with this notion for years. When we focus on the negative, the difficulty, we become stuck in it. If we search for positivity, hope and strength, even during difficult moments it allows us to open ourselves to things that seemed impossible once before and move towards personal growth.
To triumph over your fear, the answer is not to resolve it. Not to let it go. Not to get over it. But to acknowledge and accept it, and to choose to continue to live despite it. Just because you fear rejection, loss and dying, does not mean it is okay to stop living. Fear is normal, it is time to start understanding it.