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Healthy Fear vs. Unhealthy Fear

By 24.02.2021March 1st, 2021No Comments


Fear is a natural part of existence. At its core, fear is a defense mechanism, a means for survival. Fear creates hormones in the body like adrenaline, communicating threat and danger to the brain. In responses like fight or flight mode, the body makes instantaneous decisions on how to react to a perceived threat. Beyond survival, fear can be a figment of the mind. Fear can be the creation of self-limiting beliefs.

Healthy Fear

In the presence of imminent threat, the mind should react with a healthy level of fear. Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the body in fight or flight mode. It gets the blood pumping and creates a heightened sense of alertness in order to efficiently fight for life. Action is inspired by healthy fear. When that adrenaline kicks in there is a burst of energy that in circumstances can create nearly super-human strength. Mothers, for example, are associated with the ability to lift cars if it meant saving the life of their child.

Healthy fear is short lived- as soon as the threat has passed, the fear begins to diminish. There is also no confusion with healthy fear. Whatever is being feared is rightfully feared, without need to rationalize, justify, or combat any shame. Of course, not all healthy fear is going to be a matter of life or death. Healthy fear can stem from major life events, performances, and other high pressure situations. Anxiety also produces the fight or flight reaction in the brain by making the brain believe there is danger present. Some people find motivation in this energy, changing it from fear to focus. Focusing on fear itself, however, is a turn into an unhealthy relationship with it.

Unhealthy Fear

Whereas healthy fear is temporary and situational, unhealthy fear is enduring beyond its necessity. Unhealthy fear does not inspire action, motivating adrenaline, or hyperfocus to survive. Less like a fox and more like a possum, unhealthy fear creates paralysis. Immobilized and incapacitated, unhealthy fear is stagnant and stale. Usually, feeling incapable of getting through a situation creates shameful feelings of inadequacy. Anxiety is pervasive in some circumstances. Feeling a consistent fearfulness feels like a problem that cannot be fixed. Such a perception of brokenness can have damaging consequences.

At Refuge Recovery, we see our patients rise over their fears every day. Through our daily Buddhist practices and proven methods of psychological treatment, our patients transform their lives. From the heart, we welcome you here. Your life starts to change, now. Call us today for more information on our programs of recovery from drugs, alcohol, and trauma 323-207-0276.