Working with Fear


“Non-fear is the greatest gift we can offer to those we love. Nothing is more precious.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh, Understanding Our Mind

Fear is a strong emotion that all of us will experience at some point in our lives. For some, it can be a passing response to a stressful situation in life, such as public speaking, a job interview, or a close encounter with a big spider in our room. For many others though, fear can unfortunately pervade our lives in ways that cause great suffering. This happens when our fear begins to dominate our emotional spectrum and trigger thoughts that cloud our minds. Whether it be a specific phobia or a more general sense of dread surrounding our lives or our future, it’s clear that fear can be a powerful and harmful feeling. But how our fear affects us depends greatly on our relationship with that fear.

Fear & Evolution

Just like all of our emotions, from the emotions we enjoy to the ones we might prefer not to experience, fear occurs for an important reason. It has value to us as spiritual and physical beings. In our evolutionary past, fear was an indispensable tool that allowed our ancestors to avoid dangerous situations and survive long enough to reproduce. So, in that sense, none of us would be here today without fear! More importantly to us in the present, though, the reason that we might feel strong fear in situations that are not life-threatening is that our minds are using fear in an attempt to protect us from situations that could harm us or our loved ones psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Our minds may have used fear during childhood as a way to care for us and protect us from trauma when that comfort and protection wasn’t available from anyone else. Looking at it this way, we can see that our fears are born from a deep, loving desire to protect and care for ourselves and the ones we love. But now, that old fear may still be hanging on when it no longer serves us, so what can we do to release it and the suffering that comes with it?

Releasing the Fear

The first and most important step in releasing the fear that we’ve decided is harming us is to acknowledge it. We might want to say to ourselves, “I’m feeling fear” or “I’m feeling scared”, either in our heads or out loud. Trying to ignore our fear is only going to worsen it by allowing it to build up more and more inside of us. But the only way out is through, as they say, so we must face our emotions head-on to release them. As we begin to acknowledge the presence of this fear, we can next work on characterizing the feeling using mindfulness.

Ask yourself: Where do I feel the fear in my body? What thoughts come along with this feeling? It’s also helpful to remember that while negative emotions are part of our experience, they are only a small part of our true self, and we are not defined by them. After we have truly felt the fear, we must learn how to release our resistance, to accept. We have to find that part of ourselves, that wounded child within us, and care for them. We need to let that part of us know that it’s okay to be scared, but that we are safe now. Then, and only then, will that fear know that it’s okay to leave us.

Torus is Here

Now this process of releasing fear may take much time, effort, and personal exploration on our part, of course. But here at Torus, we are to help guide you through that process, every step of the way. Our therapists are all intimately familiar with helping clients release their fear, and many of our therapists are trained in EMDR therapy, which is a powerful tool for helping with this process. Also, stay tuned for upcoming posts on the Torus Blog which will walk you through helpful techniques for dealing with fear and anxiety when they come up in the moment!

Written by: Caden Hines, MSW Intern

Psychology Today. (n.d.). Fear. Psychology Today.