Category Archives: Daily Living

Practical wisdom drawn from the teachings of the Bible.

FEARLESS: WEEK #5

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Proverbs 1:7

“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.

Tom Wise

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FEARLESS: WEEK #4

In this series, you’ve been challenged to overcome fear by letting it express itself and run its course, thereby losing its power. I realize this is counterintuitive to our preprogrammed responses of fleeing, or fighting. But this is a proven way to put fear in its place. This is a method to gain your freedom back, to take your life back, and to fill you with courage to do what you are gifted to do.

I hope you understand that the idea is not to never experience fear again, but to keep it in perspective. If you feel fear in a real dangerous situation, it makes sense and its beneficial. If you feel fear going up the first hill on a roller-coaster, that makes sense, trust me, I feel it every time. But if you are overwhelmed with fear the entire roller-coaster ride, you’ve missed out on the joy. And if you feel consistent fear in everyday life, it can be debilitating and agonizing.

I want to reiterate something I shared earlier in the series. If the methods I’ve shared here aren’t the answer for you, don’t give up. Many people are helped with counseling, medication, prayer, or other methods. My goal for you is simple, overcoming irrational fear.

Regardless of the methods you find useful, here are some way to arrange your life so that fear has less of a grip on you. Fear feeds on chaos, physical depletion, and emotional weariness.

So here we go: I may not be your favorite person after this short list, but this list can make an enormous difference. I understand that some of you may have physical limitations, financial limitations, or other circumstances that can become excuses to avoid the items listed here. But everyone can take at least small steps in each category. Also, each of these categories could be their own series. Concentrate on one at a time. Don’t be overwhelmed, celebrate small victories.

  • Declutter Your Daily Life: At home, work, or school, clean up the mess. For most people clutter causes stress and even anxiety.
  • Get Physically Fit: To the best of your ability, watch what you eat and exercise often. Explore ways to quit habits that are bad for you physically. I can’t explain to you how much easier my anxiety is to deal with when I am physically healthy.
  • Find Financial Peace: Nothing adds stress to my life more than worrying about money. Take steps toward easing this tension in your life. Pay off a debt, cut an expense, find a way to generate more income.
  • Reduce Relational Chaos: For some of you, this may mean having conversations about how to resolve conflict in a more mature way. For some it may mean you need to re-evaluate how you choose significant others. Also, it may mean you need to set healthy boundaries with family and friends.
  • Be Aware of Stress Producers: This will be specific to your life. For me, I have greatly reduced the amount of national and local news I consume. That alone made a huge difference in my life. For you, it may be other areas you should consider, but I imagine there are ways for you to limit the stress producers in your life.

The idea here is to set up your life in a way that reduces the fuel for fear. Fear will still sneak itself back in, but you now can limit the areas of approach. And on top of that, when fear shows up, you have the ability to let it be present and continue moving forward knowing it has limited power and sustainability.

I hope you find encouragement in this series. You are able to overcome all that fear has to offer. Make a small step today towards limiting fear’s control over you. Then begin to build on that.

Next week, we will focus on ways to help others who are struggling with fear. Also, I will give you my opinion on the proper understanding of fear from a theological perspective.

Tom Wise

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FEARLESS: WEEK #3

On the first day of school, in my first-grade year, we were arranging the alphabet backwards with blocks. It was right after lunch and I started to feel an overwhelming fear. I had night terrors and panic attacks before this, but nothing that happened in a public setting. My heart started pounding, my mind began to race, I literally started shaking. I distinctly remember staring at the door and wondering if I could get to it before the teacher could stop me.

Well, the teacher didn’t even see me. I made it to the door, opened it, and I started running. I ran a little over a mile towards my house. In fact, I made it a few houses down from mine. By that time the school had notified my mom who was waiting outside for me. I burst in to tears as my mind caught up with what my body had done.

In the summer of my seventh-grade year a similar event happened. This time I walked home two miles in the dark. Somehow, being at a birthday party with thirty other pre-teens was scarier than walking across town alone.

Fast forward ten years, a decade filled with panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. I am in my twenties and at a party that I tried to avoid in the first place. Things were going ok, listening to music, joking with friends, and then I started to experience the same old fear. I had matured enough to not simply burst out the door and run home. I politely excused myself, and told the woman I was with that we needed to leave. We went for a long drive until the fear passed.

I did things like that so often in my early adult life that a few of my friends thought I must have a secret life. One asked if I had a child at home, because I was always leaving early or disappearing. Another wondered if I “worked for the FBI or something like that.” I never had a problem fitting in or making friends, but I had a very difficult time building deep relationships.

Fear controlled all my decisions even if it wasn’t present at the time.

I was the master of avoidance.

Fear is a natural response to a dangerous situation. When the brain senses danger it floods the body with adrenaline. The heart rate increases, breathing becomes rapid, and pupils will begin to dilate. Blood starts flowing into large muscles in the extremities, preparing the person to take action. All of this can happen in a matter of a seconds. This is an amazing gift. It empowers us to fight for our lives, or run for safety.

There are different reasons for high anxiety and panic attacks. The reasons, be they stress, loss of a loved one, chemical imbalances, or other medicals conditions all trigger the same reaction that an actual threatening situation would bring about. Your personality type, your diet, your overall health, and more variables can all play a part in the frequency and intensity of anxious episodes. There are many causes for irrational anxiety, that is why there are many beneficial treatments. As I said in week two, the goal is for you to find what works for you. But I do believe the methods shared in this series can help anyone and for many will lead to conquering irrational fear.

Here are things we should acknowledge, actions we should take (both from last week), along with some attitudes we should adopt.

Acknowledge these ideas when fear shows up.

  • Allow the temporary emotion and physical results of fear.
  • Accept that they can’t hurt you.
  • Don’t blame yourself or feel guilty.
  • Realize millions of people have felt like this.
  • Most people who struggle with fear are highly intelligent and incredibly creative.

Actions to take when fear shows up:

  • Set your attitude to “fear is present, I accept it.”
  • Call fear’s bluff, say to yourself “I won’t fear the fear.”
  • Use the energy, burn the extra fuel, take a walk or a similar activity.
  • Pick one small thing to accomplish, then find another.
  • Engage in what is around you, co-workers, friends, read or study.

Attitudes to adopt:

  • Be patient, you will have a set-back.
  • Know that small accomplishments snowball over time.
  • Understand change can be good.
  • Problems are opportunities to grow.
  • Let “What If” thinking work for you.

To elaborate on these attitudes.

Be patient with yourself, when you begin to let fear be present and you push through it, you will have success, and a couple times you will have a set-back. Show grace to yourself. This is the time to re-double your resolve to conquer the fear.

Know that small accomplishments snowball over time. Little victories over fear add up quickly. Celebrate and remind yourself of the ways you are winning. Soon you will be able to look at a pile of victories and your confidence will grow.

Understand change can be good. Many of us have a negative view on change in general. We need to see change for what it is, it can be good or bad. But more important, we need to react to any change in the most positive way possible.

Problems are opportunities to grow. I still need to work on this one. I want to get to the point where problems energize me to find solutions. Too often, my progress slows when I see or even imagine problems that could happen. I need to think of them as speedbumps not roadblocks.

Let “what if” thinking work for you. You are likely creative and intelligent, your mind is powerful. For some people this works against them. You can “what if” yourself into a paralyzing state of mind. But the same brain that works in this way is also capable of creating the positive “what ifs”. What if this turns out better than you think? What if you conquer fear? What if you are free to reach your potential? It is an empowering way to think.

I hope you continue to follow along in this series. I pray you are finding answers and encouragement. I want you to know that victory over fear is not only possible, but within reach. You were designed the way you were for a reason. You have potential for greatness in whatever way you want to define greatness.

Keep pushing forward, be confident, and find the courage to overcome fear.

Next week we will look at ways to Arrange your life so that victory over fear is more likely.

Tom Wise

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FEARLESS: WEEK #2

Have you ever stood in the ocean right where the waves break?

If so, you have been pushed around by a relentless force. Even if you withstand the first few waves breaking on you, at some point you will have to surrender to the power and repetition of the ocean. It doesn’t matter how intelligent you are, how determined you are, or even how strong you are. The ocean eventually wins.

There are two solutions to this situation, you can go back to shore or you can move out a little further from shore. Either way, you stop getting battered by the waves.

Anxiety can cause a similar situation inside of us. The waves of adrenaline, emotion, and worry crash against us. At this point many people run back to the shore, it makes sense to get away from this overwhelming barrage. Unfortunately, we become conditioned to run to the shore over and over again, or in many cases we avoid the ocean (situations that cause anxiety) altogether. Other people stand their ground and fight the waves of anxiety at the exact point where anxiety is strongest. These people appear to win for a while, but eventual they succumb physically or emotionally to the breaking waves of fear. Continue reading

FEARLESS: WEEK 1

From an early age and for over two decades I was crippled by severe panic attacks. Damaging my growth as a student, the depth of my relationships with others, and my pursuit of a career. Leading to years of depression and struggle.

By God’s grace and with some very practical steps taken, I was able to overcome the panic attacks and all that came with them. After doing research and gaining understanding on the biological, emotional, and physical realities I dealt with, I now see clearly the actions and mindset that can remove this type of fear from a life.

I instinctively took steps to cope and heal, I now understand the reasons behind the steps I took. I want to share these ideas with as many people as possible. Continue reading