We are all afraid of something. Fears sometimes originate from stressful or traumatic events. Some may be learned from parents.
By giving fear power over our behavior and lives we can lose clear perceptions of life and the world around us. It also affects our bodies adversely if experienced on a continuous basis.
Fear can cause varied reactions like withdrawal, tears, screaming, withdrawal, tightening in the throat, and even fainting. Then there are chemical changes from adrenalin flowing causing faster heart rate and if continues causes preparation for “fight or flight.”
There is also increased cortisol levels that can increase cholesterol, weight gain, decreased memory, and so many other body taxing effects, all of which are not healthy over a long period of time.
Overcoming fear can make us stronger. We need to face our fears and overcome them. With a victory over fear we learn to be more open to new experiences from which we may learn more life lessons, find a new skill or gain self confidence.
But there are those who develop fears, even obsessive fears, from traumatic events from their childhood. I have a neighbor who is terrified at just the sight of a cat.
There are people who thrive on fear and love to do potentially dangerous activities because they have a sense of adventure and love the adrenaline rush that precedes or follows danger.
But when pain comes to a victim from a traumatic accident or a sudden, severe pain that they’ve never experienced before, most people experience a high degree of fear. This kind of fear is good in a way. It motivates us to go to the doctor or hospital or to avoid the cause of that pain.
As a mother I helped my son when he was a child to deal with his fear of pain. No doubt falling off of a bicycle was frightening for a little child and hurt a lot. He didn’t know what was going to happen to him next. There was likely the fear that he had broken a bone, needed stitches or might need medicine that might sting his wounds.
When he had to do something that would hurt afterwards, I told him to tell me what the worst pain he had ever had was. He always said the injuries from the fall from his bike. Then I would help estimate the level of the new potential situation by saying,”Well this will hurt about half as much as that pain was.” It gave him some knowledge and therefore some power over what was about to happen.
As a nurse I cared for patients with many kinds of pain. One observation I made was that the fear of pain and the lack of knowledge about the cause of the pain actually amplified the pain.
Most of us like to know what is going to happen and be in control of our situation. When we lose control of pain by not knowing it’s cause or the severity or length of the pain, our fear is amplified. Being informed that you will have a certain amount of pain for a certain amount of time, just like in Lamaze Childbirth, helps one get through the pain.
I found that knowing how long a contraction usually lasts, gave me the focus to watch the clock and know the contraction was only for a minute and would start relaxing with the last thirty seconds of the contraction. That knowledge gave me power and reduced any fear of a longer pain. Of course with prolonged labor, fear can take over easily with fatigue.
Being in the hospital can be a frightening experience for anyone. The mind can play the “What if” game, (an expression from the poem by Shel Silverstein, The WhatIfs) filling itself with fears of all kinds. What if they discover cancer? What if they give me the wrong medicine? What if the doctor misses something? What if I have complications?
From my experience learning about a procedure, disease, or surgery gives power to the one experiencing the pain, trauma or event. The interesting thing is some would rather not know anything, claiming, “Ignorance is bliss.”
But I have been able to help some patients gain power over the unwieldy “dragon about to attack them” by teaching them what to expect and explain when some pains were normal and how strong the pain may be.
Of course this is very subjective but it seemed to help some of them. Learning all they could about whatever was about to happen gave them power over the dragon by knowing what they were up against, what its weak points were, what to expect and how to conquer it!
We all live with fears of some kind. We can learn to conquer our fears with our brains, by learning what we can, by de-sensitizing ourselves, and learning confidence too.
What are you afraid of? What can you do about it?