Friday, 27 July 2012

Social Fear


Sometimes we don't do things because we're afraid of the outcome, that's perfectly normal, because ultimately our fear response is our “I want to live” response to situations, and to ignore that would be like wanting to die, or something. That being said, we often find ourselves fearing the most mundane situations. The question is, do we acknowledge this fear, or do we just power through it?

Now, we have to understand that fear exists for a reason. It is our ultimate survival response, and often it is associated with our fight or flight response, (or maybe even always, I don't actually know.) So when we feel fear, it would be silly not to take it seriously, it's as if our body is moaning to us “Get ready you fool!”

Our fear response doesn't signal an aversion to something, it signals the readiness to commit to something, it's the release of adrenaline, that's why its called “fight or flight.” The problem is, we've probably often had this release in a social situation, one time or another. But how should we react to this? Fear tells us that what we're thinking of doing is a bad idea, but we must not forget, we would not be feeling fear in such a situation if we did not want to do what we were thinking of, and it may not be as straightforward a concept as “It is a bad idea,” which acts as the catalyst to our fear.

I thought this article needed a picture, so I dug up this.
I think it explains things pretty well
Although our immediate response may be “It's a bad idea,” that may not be the underlying problem which causes our fear, especially in social situations where we're afraid to be assertive in whatever way. The thing to do is ask yourself “Why do I fear?” For example, I want to go over to someone to talk to them, but I am worried how they will view me afterwards. Now, someone with that mindset, as tantalising as it may be, seems to have every right to fear. Why? Because with such a mindset, the person is likely to not get a good impression of you! The result is strangely paradoxical.

It's easy to say, “Don't care what anybody thinks about you,” as a form of advice, and while that is often sound advice, it also leads to the conundrum whereby being someone unlikeable is appreciated, which again acts as a paradox within itself. If you don't care what people think about you, you're likely to generate negative attitudes. So what do you do? You have to understand why you fear, and solve that, rather than trying to force your way through fear. Remember, fear exists for a reason.

Going back to the example of being assertive and beginning a conversation: If you're afraid of the impression you're going to give, then you're going to be extra careful not to give a bad impression, which means you're going to go at lengths to conform to the other person to make sure that they appreciate your mannerisms, which means that ultimately you're not being yourself. Now you're setting quite an arduous task up for yourself there; in a sense you're having to delve into the relatively unknown abyss of conformity towards a person you don't even know. That in itself is quite scary.

What I'm trying to get across is that we always fear for a good reason, but that doesn't make it a straightforward reason. “I'm afraid of what they may think,” may be the base of our anxiety, but there's still an underlying reason for that mindset. “What may they think?” or “Why do I think they will think these things?” are questions to ask. Often it leads to the paradoxical situation where fear creates fear, “Because I am afraid, I can not conduct myself properly,” but understanding this paradox is the first step to overcoming it. However, always take note, it may not be that particular paradox which causes you to fear, there are a multitude of reasons why fear may be caused, but ultimately your fear is there to be listened to, not ignored.

I must stress that this does not mean it is always right to follow your fear, but remember that fear is there to tell you something about yourself, whether it be that you're a raving lunatic for even thinking of doing what you just thought of, or that something is not quite right about you, (whether it be your mindset, attitude, focus, or anything,) to carry out whatever it is you wanted to do. The important thing is to take note and amend the problem, rather than just trying to power through the fear itself.

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