Rational & irrational fear

I had trauma around me from a very early age and even though I was physically well, emotionally I began to live with irrational fears around illness.

When I found out that a little girl in my school had cancer, I subjected myself to believing that I would get cancer too. Of course my fears were irrational, because someone else having cancer doesn’t mean I was going to get it, but I wasn’t capable of working it out. Because of neurological impairments I still struggle today.

So what is rational and irrational fear? Rational fear is a reaction about a real threat where we have to protect ourselves. Irrational fear is something we fear, even though there is no direct link or threat to us. Rational fear is something that we are consciously aware of. It comes from the human brain and is brought about by genetics.

This kind of fear keeps us alert and can be somewhat of a challenge. We can be fearful of certain situations like being afraid of heights; or being afraid of sleeping in the dark. With this type of fear, you know you have fear but you also know you have to face that fear.

An irrational fear is an unhealthy fear that is usually brought about by a traumatic experience, which eventually compels us to avoid certain situations pertaining to that fear. Irrational fear is also know as a phobia or unhealthy fear that we may also be predisposed to through our genes and environment.

So how do you work through fear?

Be patient with yourself and give yourself time. Try to look at your fears objectively so that you begin to see why you have those fears. If the fear comes from a traumatic experience, try to ascertain as much as you can about the experience. There is usually a lesson we can take from our experiences. Traumatic experiences are usually one off experiences that never happen again, although that doesn’t always stop us worrying that it will happen again.

I believe that once we begin to understand more about our experience and we can rationale our fear, we will begin to look at our fears differently. It is only at that point, we may think about bringing about change.


9 Mar, 2012

2 thoughts on “Rational & irrational fear

  1. Good post. I have a severe fear of spiders and it comes from a bad experience as a child. I can’t even stand to see a picture of one.

    Snakes don’t bother me and neither do other little vermin, but spiders will cause me to run in the other direction screaming. It doesn’t matter how big or small they are.

    I’ll try to use your suggestion for this fear but I think I’ll always be afraid of spiders.

    1. Thanks Lisa!

      I know for more deep routed problems such as a fear of spiders, Hypnotherapy has been known to help. I am sure your phobias with spiders would become less with this type of treatment. It’s possibly worth a try.

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