The Advantages & Dis-advantages of Fear


Fear, like all other emotions, has both an adaptive and non-adaptive form. In its adaptive form, fear is our friend. It is there to tell us something important. It tells us that there is danger ahead and becomes the fight/flight response. Fear is fantastic if we are standing at the edge of a steep cliff. It will tell us to back off so we do not fall over and die. Fear is also great if there is an immediate dangerous threat such as a vicious bear that is about to attack. Fear will increase our adrenals, pump our blood out to our hands and feet (where we need them) and it will increase the rate of our thoughts to try to get us out of danger. This type of fear response is perfectly normal and adaptive!


When Fear Becomes Distorted: Anxiety

When fear becomes non-adaptive or distorted, then we begin to have problems. Anxiety is what occurs when fear becomes distorted. Anxiety is like losing the off button. The fear response stays on all the time. Some reasons why anxiety is unhealthy include:

  • Physiologically, our bodies are not designed to withstand prolonged stress and anxiety without developing physical conditions
  • It is a great deal more difficult to distinguish between real threats and perceived threats
  • It leads to impaired memory, decision-making and concentration

Anxiety is felt in epidemic proportions in Western culture and can result in a great deal of harm to ourselves and others. One of many examples is when the US Navy accidentally blew up a civilian aircraft over the Middle East in the 90’s. This accident was partly due to technological inadequacies but when the investigation occurred, it was found that the major cause was miscalculation on behalf of Navy personnel due to fear -based expectations.

Anxiety harms our bodies, our minds, our interpersonal relationships, our communities, and our souls. Anxiety holds us back from being all we can be and reaching our potential. Anxiety smothers and destroys love and connection. When we react out of distorted fear, we are far more likely to mis-judge situations and destroy what is most dear to our hearts. So while on one hand, fear can save us, it can have the opposite effect when it becomes distorted.

Danielle’s Story: Overcoming Anxiety

Danielle discovered just how unhealthy her anxiety was when she found herself in hospital. She had what she thought was a heart attack. Her heart was racing, she became dizzy and disoriented, and could hardly breathe. She thought she was going to die. But after a few hours in the emergency ward the doctor said it was a panic attack and she was being released to go home. Dazed, stressed and worried, Danielle was not sure what to make of the news.

After visiting her general doctor, she got a referral to see a psychologist. She did not want to take mediation so she opted for therapy. In therapy, she explored her family background and what may have contributed to her anxiety. She always thought she just had a nervous personality and was not particularly intelligent. In therapy she learnt that anxiety decreases cognitive skills and could have affected her academic performance as a child. She further learnt that people can learn anxiety. There were no traumas in her childhood and her relationship with her parents was loving. But as she explored her family, it became obvious that her mum was a survivor of World War II in London and had high anxiety herself. Her mum’s anxiety was not treated, and even though her mum was a small child in the war, the effects of war trauma were still playing out in Daniele’s life.

Bit by bit, Danielle learnt how to reduce her anxiety by reality checking her catastrophising thoughts, and through practicing mediation and mindfulness. Systematically, her inner demons dissolved and she was able to do things that she never previously thought she could.

Danielle’s story shows us how we can overcome anxiety and learn to empower ourselves.

What experiences have you had where you overcame your fears and succeeded at things you did not think were possible?



[Note. All stories used in this blog are fictional characters based on the wisdom I gain from working with clients. No character in this blog is an actual person or a client]

8 Responses to “The Advantages & Dis-advantages of Fear”

  • Hi Vanessa,
    Lots of knowledge here about fear. Was Danielle a client of yours? I always learn something from your posts.

    • Very good point Madonna… Danielle was not a client. In fact no one spoken about in my blogs were clients. I make up the characters based on my experience working with many clients. So no one character is an actual person. I need to add a note at the end to specify this, thank you!

      Thank you for your comment
      Lots of love

  • Sheb:

    I can so relate to Daniell’s story. I too know the feeling of that anxiety and the feeling of gee wiz I’m having a heart attack .. It all started during my up bringing and my mothers anxiety rubbing off on me. A few other issues were there as well, one of which was fear of death. After seeking professional help, the psychologist used cognitive behavioural therapy (I think that was what it was called). He made me bring on anxiety by breathing deep and fast breaths whilst sitting, he asked me what happened at the end? My response was other than the fact that I felt slightly dizzy and silly, nothing much. He said exactly, in other words there’s no reason why I should be feeling afraid, I’m fit and healthy enough and I posses no risk factors.. Long story but I think you get my drift :).. Thanks Nessie always a great post !

    • Hi Sheb, thank you for sharing your personal journey. Yes, it would have been cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that your psychological used. I use that too, along with other approaches. Yoga, meditation, mindfulness, Thai Chi and any other relaxation practice is great to unlearn anxiety. It is is like re-training our mind and our body from the habit of fear. Active meditations (body movement plus breathing practice) are far more effect than sitting or lying meditations when the anxiety is high. And yes, challenging our fearful beliefs helps too.

      I am so glad therapeutic methods helped
      Lots of love

  • Sheb:

    Thanks for your quick response Vanessa, I guess thats why I love training and when I have a day or two rest, I get that bubble effect starting to appear in my gut again.. Solution: never stop exercising its no wonder I feel so high on life after it heheheh

  • Vanessa, this is a really great post. Many years ago i was blessed to have a wise older woman say to me “What you expect, you tend to realize, so make sure you are conscious enough to have a sense of positive expectancy”. Only time and many challenging life situations would validate this truth.

    I appreciate the addition of Danielle’s story as it gives us as readers a lens through which to view our own lives. Therapy provides an outlet to share the thoughts that plague us so that we are empowered to move out of fear and into love. Keeping a journal and writing every single day helps me to see is-empowering thought patterns and make a shift.

    Appreciating your wise counsel. Have a wonderful day.

    • Hi Kadena, thank you for your great comment. You are so right that our perception makes a big difference to our experience (rather than the other way around) and often to the outcome. Keeping a journal is a great way to take notice of how you are thinking… fantastic. Another great way of becoming more aware of thought patterns is using mindfulness practice. There is a free Ten Days of Mindfulness guide that you can subscribe to on this website.

      Have a fantastic day
      Lots of love

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