Today’s post aims to educate (while entertaining) its readers about irrational fears. Before we jump onto the real discussion, please read the following story first because it’s highly pertinent to today’s topic.
FEAR BECOMES STRONGER WHEN…
Pennywise is a demon clown that likes to wake up from a long period of hibernation every now and then to hunt for children. The evil creature has a vile habit of playing mind games with his victims before he ends them. In other words, the demon likes to terrorize his preys before eating them.
One day, a group of young kids become the demon’s next target. As a result, the children start having horrific visions involving some of their worst fears. Unable to ignore the demon’s presence any longer, the group of friends decide to take action and track the demon’s refuge. As a result, they go to an abandoned house to confront the demon. Things escalate and one the friends ends up impaling Pennywise. The blow makes the scary clown retreat but it doesn’t kill him.
A few weeks later, the demon strikes again and kidnaps one the members of that group. The other members go on an extensive search to look for the missing girl and they find her in the sewers. Down there, they find several belongings from other children (presumably dead). At this point, the girl is catatonic because of a demonic spell.
After a couple of attempts, the boys succeed at waking the girl up. Meanwhile, the demon negotiates with the children: if he gets one of them, the others get to live. The group rejects the proposal and choose to fight the demon. As a result, the scary clown started to lose his powers. In the end, the demon’s body falls into pieces and disappears into the deep sewers.
So what’s the moral of this story? Pennywise’s strength comes from the children’s fear. Having said that, the more his targets fear him, the more powerful Pennywise becomes.
There is a reason why Pennywise didn’t kill the girl right away: she wasn’t afraid of him any more. When the other kids stopped fearing the scary clown, the demon started to lose his powers. Without the kids’ fear, Pennywise cannot exist, that’s why the demon broke into pieces and disappeared.
SOURCE: You can find the full story here.
This story is a fine example of how irrational fears can take over one’s life. However, it also emphasizes that no matter how big those fears might become, one still has control over them, but it’s a process that requires a lot of will-power.
Difference Between Normal Fears And Phobias (Irrational Fears)
Let’s be honest for a second. Who doesn’t have irrational fears? Mind you, irrational fears extends to not only things, but emotions too. For instance, did you know than an extreme fear of failure is considered a phobia? And it has a name too: atychiphobia.
So, what’s the main difference between normal fears and phobias? One has a reason to exist, while the other, does not. If fear existed on a spectrum, then normal fears would be somewhere in the middle, while irrational fears would gravitate towards one of the extremes. Why? Irrational fears tend to be more intense than normal fears.
When one sees fire, it’s normal to be afraid of it. Why? Common sense dictates that fire burns. Having said that, if fire touches skin, it will not be a pleasant experience. In addition, in a more extreme case scenario, it can kill. Therefore, it’s a reasonable reaction if one chooses to stay away from fire, especially if they are big or out of control. This a classic example of a normal fear, it’s based on a sound argument.
Any type of phobia is an irrational fear. Take the fear of flying as an example. Accidents can happen, but statistically speaking, planes are one of the safest means of transportation in the world and yet, there are people who refuse to fly on a plane. Just the thought of getting inside of a plane can send people with fear of flying into a panic mode. However, how realistic are those fears? Sure, something can always happen to the plane. But how big is that probability? Is it big enough for one to even consider it? Probably not. This a classic example of an irrational fear.
How To Overcome Irrational Fears (What You Need To Know)
The first step towards dealing and coping with irrational fears is to understand it. As mentioned before, there are normal fears and irrational fears. The latter is a more extreme manifestation of fear and it’s most likely inside your head. Therefore, try to understand the following principles as they’ll help to conquer your deepest irrational fears.
PRINCIPLE #1 – IRRATIONAL FEARS ARE NOT REAL
As mentioned before, irrational fears or phobias are not real. They might feel real, but they are not. In the story above, Pennywise knew that each kid had a different phobia, so he used it against them. In the real world, that demon is most of times ourselves.
Some fears are real, while others, are fabrications from our mind. Irrational fears take over when we have very little control over what’s going on inside our head. Therefore, in those situations, it’s best to take a step back and assess what’s in front of you. If the things that you’re afraid of is not going to realistically cost your life or put you in danger, then, let it go. By the way, being self-conscious or being afraid of other people’s opinions are not good enough reasons to stop pursuing or doing the things that your really want.
If you believe that your irrational fears have been holding you back, then it’s time to dig deeper and see where do they really come from.
PRINCIPLE #2 – DON’T FEED OF YOUR IRRATIONAL FEARS
Do not give too much thought to your irrational fears. They are all over your head, because you allowed them in.
Back to the story above, Pennywise’s power stems from the kids’ fear. The more the children were afraid of their own hallucinations, the stronger the demon clown became. However, the very moment they decided to stand up and face Pennywise, the demon actually got weaker. Having said that, fear is a like a monster that needs to be fed in order to exist. Therefore, do not feed your fears.
What’s the real danger of feeding your irrational fears? They might cripple you. The fear becomes so overwhelming that we stop doing the things that we really want, to enjoy life in general. This is what phobias do to people, it stuns them.
PRINCIPLE #3 – ACCEPT YOUR IRRATIONAL FEARS
If you can’t just walk away from your irrational fears, then just accept them. Sounds confusing, right? One the main reasons why irrational fears triggers so much anxiety is because they do not make any sense and yet, you can’t stop thinking about them or feeling a certain way. That of course, brings a constant inner conflict: on one hand, we are aware that what we feel is not real, but still, we are unable to just shake it off. As you can image, that alone can cause all kinds of stress on someone. So what can one do?
Sometimes, it takes time for someone to walk away from their irrational fears. It’s hard to forget or ignore them. However, there’s something that you can do meanwhile in the process of overcoming your irrational fears: the best thing that you can do in these situations is to accept them.
The process of overcoming a certain phobia should never have a deadline attached on it. Why? It’s not about getting over your extreme fears fast, but the right way. The more deadlines you set in the process, the more stress it will bring to your life. And you do not need that. Anxiety can take over, when people set goals and fail to achieve them.
One of the easiest ways to understand irrational fears is to view them as a chronic illness. It never really goes away and it usually gets you when you’re not feeling at your best. By accepting them, you are giving yourself permission to feel “not okay” when your phobias strike. Therefore, instead of pushing them away, try to accept them and walk with them. Guess what? Phobias don’t like you when you accept them and they’ll walk away from you on their own.
I forgot to tell you something about today’s story: in the end, Pennywise did not die. As mentioned before, irrational fears are like chronic illnesses, they never really go away. In other words, Pennywise is always going to be there, whether the kids like or not. Now, how is this supposed to help you?
The ending of today’s story helps us to understand that overcoming phobias is an on-going process. However, this should not discourage you. Quite the opposite, this mindset helps you to be kinder to yourself when you’re trying to face your irrational fears.
One more thing, irrational fears are not real, but that doesn’t mean that whoever is struggling with a phobia is weak. When it comes to regaining control of your mind, it’s not about being strong or weak. Those thoughts come from a place of vanity: you’re still thinking about how you look in front of others or yourself. That’s not the right way to go about it. You are trying to overcome your irrational fears because you’re trying live better.