Fear and Freedom
Recently, I’ve heard friends and clients claiming to have phobias about something or other, including a particular kind of hair dryer and cold milkshakes! And on cue – my old friend and colleague, Dr Bruce Wilson, sends me this fascinating list of recognised phobias. Read what Bruce has to say about what some of these are and why challenging our real or imagined phobias is a path to freedom.
“Ultimately we know deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.”
When we have fear, we build walls to feel protected. These walls may protect us temporarily but they also limit our freedom and potential to be who we want to be. Removing the walls of fear will begin the process of unleashing our courage. Another positive outcome of being less fearful is that it will open the gates to new and challenging commitments. We are now moving in a direction that eliminates confinement and emulates freedom.
Atychiphobia is an intense fear of failure. It may cause you to put off or avoid any activity or scenario that has the potential for an unsuccessful outcome. Someone with this condition may be scared to try new things, take risks or embrace growth for fear of failure. Avoidance is restrictive by nature. Whatever we choose to avoid is a lost experience. Repeated avoidance puts limitations on our freedom. To overcome avoidance requires an investment. When we become invested in something, our commitment has commenced. Remember, failure can be a great teacher. We tend not to learn much from our successes but usually take note and learn important information from our failures. Failures force us to make adjustments and positive change to improve the probability of success. And, since everyone fails eventually, there is no exclusivity to experiencing a failure.
Veritaphobia is displaying hesitation or refusal to admit or recognize that something is true, or to accept the concept of truth itself. Usually, this phobic reaction is born out of a fear of offending someone or being held accountable to something constant.
The denial of truth thrives in people who embellish doubting everything and everybody. Being sceptical about all things is their way of denying absolutes. The social costs to people who are constantly sceptical are huge. How do you trust anyone or anything? This lack of trust becomes the flashpoint where fear replaces freedom.
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold.” – Helen Keller
Xenophobia is fear of the unfamiliar or the unknown. Racial and ethnic bias are well known by-products of xenophobia. Avoidance of all that is unfamiliar and unknown eliminates most of our possible exposure to new and novel ways of living. The xenophobic personality restricts their experiences down to only what they are already familiar with and what they already know. The freedom to explore alternative lifestyles and experiences is lost, or at least very restricted.
The fear of being ridiculed or embarrassed is katagelophobia. Numerous freedoms are lost due to this social phobia. One might be so self-conscious they forego seeking a love interest, avoid trying to get a job they want, and sometimes go years without seeking medical or dental attention for their personal health. This particular fear of being judged is so powerful it limits personal freedom across a whole lifetime.
“Find out what you’re afraid of and go live there.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Face Your Fear
Because fear restricts freedom, we have to decide what we want. Are the fear and avoidance strategies worth the price of freedom? Do we want to maintain the chains or release them? Freedom opens opportunities while fear closes them down. Facing our fear moves us to a new place. Not facing our fear keeps us stationary. We have the potential to become a river and leave the pond behind.
Dr. Bruce Wilson is a psychologist with 25 years of experience. He enjoys sharing his ramblings with friends and colleagues. He is currently in private practice at Mind Health Care in Geelong, Australia. This article is solely his work.