Anxiety can grip us like a vice. Once the worry sets in, the body reacts with a host of anxiety symptoms that vary from person to person. Headaches, pain, stomach trouble, sweating, trembling, and breathing difficulties are some common ways anxiety makes itself known from head to toe, inside and out. Intertwined with the worry and the physical sensations, and an integral component of anxiety is, often, fear. What, exactly, is the meaning fear? And if we deconstruct it, can we reduce our anxiety?
Fear: a four-letter word, to be sure. Merriam-Webster defines it as “to be afraid and worried.” Well, that certainly is most unhelpful in its simple obviousness. Fear is indeed to be afraid, to be worried, and thus, to be anxious. There must be more meaning in it, though.
Breaking fear apart can help us think about it rationally. Because anxiety doesn’t operate in a rational, logical manner, becoming analytical can squash it, or at least stifle it a bit.
One Acronym for the Meaning of Fear
I’ve seen a clever acronym for fear:
False Emotions Appearing Real.
That’s quite a concept. Those of us who live, or have lived with, anxiety might argue that the emotions of anxiety and fear are not, in fact, false but instead are quite real — fair enough. I would never deny that our anxiety is false, and, initially, I believed the acronym was the thing that was false.
However, when pondering it, I realized that there was truth and wisdom in it. When anxiety grips us, our mind often plays tricks on us. Things that perhaps aren’t accurate seem very real to the anxious brain. The notion that our fear is completely real and justified stems from faulty thoughts. We think that there is a threat to ourselves or our loved ones, so, there truly is, and suddenly we’re highly anxious. We think that people are judging us harshly, so therefore they truly are, and again, suddenly we’re highly anxious.
The Meaning of Fear in a Second Acronym
When fear rears its ugly head and anxiety has us in a choke-hold, we need to do something, anything, to make it stop. Out of that very real need is born another meaning of fear.
Fear has another poignant acronym:
Forget Everything and Run.
It’s one component of the fight or flight response to a threat. Our entire being, when anxious and afraid, screams at us to get the heck out of Dodge. Fear makes anxiety rev up, and our mind and body prepare to flee. If we can’t truly flee, we panic. We avoid. We hide. We’re miserable.
When we’re running or avoiding, we do avoid a temporary situation. The frustrating thing is that we don’t actually forget. Forget Everything and Run just becomes Run. The fear and anxiety are still there. We need a new meaning of the word fear.
The Meaning of Fear in an Acronym I Can Embrace
I have heard yet another acronym of fear, and it’s one that I embrace:
Face Everything and Rise.
It’s not easy to face our fears. Happily, though, it’s possible. Those faulty thoughts referenced above, truly, are at the root of so much of our fear and anxiety. Of course, we’re not purposely creating false beliefs. Many things contribute to our thinking patterns. Anxiety likes to mask those thought patterns so we’re often not consciously aware of them.
There are techniques to combat irrational thoughts and beliefs. Doing so is the foundation of cognitive behavioral therapy. As we recognize our thoughts and begin to challenge them, we are truly facing them. We are facing everything, and by facing our fears we rise.
Just rise? I think we can go beyond that. We don’t have to live with fear and anxiety. We don’t have to merely rise above them. We can break them apart and we can soar free.