In this last installment of FEARLESS we will look at ways to encourage those who struggle with irrational fear. Then we will take a quick look at a psychological understanding of fear, followed by a basic spiritual understanding.
If you have a loved one who battles anxiety, panic attacks, or other fear, it can be overwhelming trying to help. The truth is, if you try to understand the fear completely, you will be frustrated. The one struggling with the fear doesn’t always understand where the fear is coming from either. You likely will find yourself angry, confused, and wore out while attempting to love them through it. But know that your encouragement has an impact, your determination is appreciated, and ultimately the love you show will empower.
Here are some proven ways you can help:
- Pray for Them: Ask God to build them up.
- Listen: Encourage conversations, and listen attentively.
- Learn More: This series is just the tip of the iceberg so to speak, continue to research.
- Build Trust: Let them know you won’t give up and their relationship with you is secure.
- Don’t Assume: You may think you know what is in their mind, you likely don’t.
- Don’t Control: You can’t fight this for them, you can only be the wingman.
- Don’t See Weakness: Know that it takes incredible strength to function with fear.
- Don’t Shame: If they fail, encourage them to get back up.
- Don’t Enable: Don’t be the refuge from fear, be a refueling place between the battles.
- Celebrate: When they progress, find ways to applaud them.
- Pray for Yourself: You will need patience, kindness, firmness, and lots of love.
While I had a pastor, a counselor, and friends help me through my many struggles. No one helped me more than my wife. She stayed true to each one of the points shown above. She loved me, encouraged me, and walked with me through it all. Be that kind of parent, friend, brother, or sister to your loved one.
Now for a little further understanding about fear.
According to Karl Albrecht, PhD there are only five basic fears, out of which almost all of our other so-called fears are sourced.
- Extinction—the fear of annihilation, of ceasing to exist. This is a more fundamental way to express it than just calling it “fear of death.” The idea of no longer being arouses a primary existential anxietyin all normal humans. Consider that panicky feeling you get when you look over the edge of a high building.
- Mutilation—the fear of losing any part of our precious bodily structure; the thought of having our body’s boundaries invaded, or of losing the integrity of any organ, body part, or natural function. Anxiety about animals, such as bugs, spiders, snakes, and other creepy things arises from fear of mutilation.
- Loss of Autonomy—the fear of being immobilized, paralyzed, restricted, enveloped, overwhelmed, entrapped, imprisoned, smothered, or otherwise controlled by circumstances beyond our control. In physical form, it’s commonly known as claustrophobia, but it also extends to our social interactions and relationships.
- Separation—the fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of connectedness; of becoming a non-person—not wanted, respected, or valued by anyone else. The “silent treatment,” when imposed by a group, can have a devastating psychological effect on its target.
- Ego-death—the fear of humiliation, shame, or any other mechanism of profound self-disapproval that threatens the loss of integrity of the Self; the fear of the shattering or disintegration of one’s constructed sense of lovability, capability, and worthiness.
These five basic fears form a simple hierarchy, or “feararchy”
Anxiety uses one of these basic fears and multiplies the physical and mental reactions. Often anxiety misapplies these reactions, and causes further confusion by overwhelming the person experiencing the fear. These five categories of fear make sense to me. I can find a place for every fear I’ve experienced in one of the five basic fears. I understand why these fears exist.
But what makes just as much sense to me, and where I find great peace is a spiritual understanding of fear. To be more precise, a Christian understanding of fear. I will not try to impress you with big theological words here. I am going to sum up what could take a significant amount of time to cover thoroughly. I encourage you to look into a deeper understanding of fear found in the Bible.
The Bible talks about fear quite a bit. It states that “perfect love” (found in God the father) “casts out fear”. It states many times “fear not” or “do not be afraid” while encouraging people to trust God. And then there is a verse found in the book of Proverbs that seems to encourage us to fear.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
In all of the Bible study I’ve done on this verse, and other verses that speak of the “fear of the Lord” using multiple trusted sources, I’ve found this verse more encouraging than fear inducing.
This kind of fear translates to having a humbling and overwhelming respect for an awe-inspiring creator. If you are a Christian, you understand this reverence and awe to be in one since scary and in another since comforting. If you are not a Christian, imagine if you were face to face with a being so powerful it could create the universe. Even if you aren’t a believer, thinking this idea through produces a sense of awe.
Christians of different types believe that no matter how much knowledge we accumulate, how many good works we do, or how great our lives become, God is the source of it all. Having an overwhelming respect for God is the beginning of the real meaning of life itself.
This indescribable being promises that His love will cast out fear. He promises that He will never leave us, He is for us, that nothing can separate us from His love. Even if we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, there is nothing to fear outside of His awesome power.
I encourage you to be open to this wonderful God, who puts fear in its place.
I want to thank you for following along with this series. My personal story is just one of thousands of stories about irrational fear. As I have mentioned multiple times in the series, our goal at Finding Wonder is for you to find peace from fear. If that is through counseling, medication, or another method than the one shared here, we celebrate it.
But we also won’t shy away from what we believe is the ultimate answer to overcoming fear. There is a God who loves you at this moment, just as you are. We want you to be at peace with Him and yourself. We want the best for you because God has been so good to us and He will be the same for you.
We want you to find the source of peace, the source of hope, the source of mercy and grace, Jesus Christ.
We want you to forever be in the process of Finding Wonder in the goodness of God.