Sweaty palms, squeezing in the chest, goosebumps run through the body. Thinking about what will happen makes my head spin. It is very scary to endure this life, to take steps, to make decisions, to be in uncertainty. Where do neurotic fears come from and how to deal with them, says psychologist Elena Mitina.
Fear is the regulator of human behavior, it is the experience that gives us the opportunity to take care of security. And this is a good and necessary feeling when it performs its regulatory function — that is, we do not cross the road in the wrong place and do not eat inedible foods.
When Fear Is More Enemy Than Protector
Sometimes fear is more than just a regulator of behavior, it is a panic state, or a strong anxiety that fetters and interferes with life. We face it when we make choices in favor of something new.
Neurotic fear is always fantasy, it is in the future
It is always some model of reality in the head. What if I die? If I get sick? Won’t they help me? I’ll be alone, abandoned? These thoughts are turned into a reality that has not yet arrived.
Fear is necessary to prevent something.
And this something may have already happened to us in the past. If you ask yourself what I’m afraid of, I’m not afraid of the present, I’m afraid of the future — or rather, a repetition of the situation that was in the past. It is the pain that I experienced in the past that I am afraid to experience again.
We can’t fear what we’ve never seen or known
It just doesn’t exist in our experience. We can only fear what we have already experienced.
But what about fantasies about serious illnesses and death, you ask? After all, we have not experienced this before!
Yes it is. But we are not afraid of death itself. We are afraid of the torment that we may fall into before death.
And once we have already fallen into such torment. Perhaps it was such suffering that can be compared with the torment of a dying person. Once upon a time, in the most vulnerable childhood, where they were helpless and relied on the protection of adults.
It was then that they could feel genuine fear and horror of the impending end and incessant torment. And in childhood experience they lasted forever. After all, it is not clear when mom will come and stop them. It is completely unknown what will happen next, will they hear, will they help, will they support, will they take away my pain? ..
The worst thing is not knowing when the pain will stop
And we could be in total impotence. Perhaps they were bound in diapers, or perhaps they were left in the hospital. Alone, with unknown doctors who don’t care how we feel, whether it’s scary… And the worst thing is when there is no mother. Or someone who is «for us.» The one who stands behind his back and makes sure that they do not do anything wrong. And asks us, is interested in us, notices.
And when there is no obvious real danger at the moment, and we are faced with the experience of wild fear and horror in adulthood, this is always about the past. About impotence and horror before the inevitable. About the lack of protection and support. Self defense and self support. About endowing the environment and people with great power over themselves and their lives. And there is not enough own will, there is not enough power over oneself. It is always a need: notice, support, reassure, help …
How to deal with neurotic fears?
When we fantasize about some kind of horror, we see something blurry in front of us. We ourselves do not develop our imagination, we do not detail it.
But as soon as we start to detail our fantasy … For example, the fear of getting cancer. How will it all be, how will we do tests, how will we find out about the diagnosis, what kind of tumor? Where is it located and how. Detailing, we can notice that our overwhelming fear changes a little, perhaps some other experiences appear. After all, we begin to understand that everything we think may not be true, and even that we fantasize can be lived and there are many options for the development of events. Fear begins to take on some observable forms, becoming not blurry and boundless, but, on the contrary, targeted, understandable. Ideas and ways are beginning to emerge, how to protect yourself, what measures to take.
On the other hand, one might wonder what exactly leads to such a fantasy?
Suppose there are no objective reasons for getting cancer. No diagnosis, no real disease. But in my head, it already exists. Where does it come from? Why exactly — cancer, and not hepatitis or lupus erythematosus, for example …
And here you can explore what fears grow from. It’s always some kind of past experience. What is he? Someone got sick and died in his arms? And then we can be “in mergence” with this person and for some reason now “should” also suffer, like him, to try on his fate.
Or maybe something similar happened to you? Have you already experienced some element of a kind of “cancer” disease? .. For example, you could have something removed, cut out, you could lose some organ.
Fear, illness, some kind of evil directed at oneself — this is a very auto-aggressive action. That is, in my fantasy I realize a lot of aggression and anger (and maybe hatred) directed at myself. That is, for some reason I want to torture myself, kill, mock myself. Why? What is it about my life?
Fear in questions
Why should my organs be burdened with a malignant tumor. Why can’t they be healthy?
And if these organs are responsible for some area of our life — for example, the reproductive system — for the sphere of sexuality, childbirth, respiratory organs — for the sphere of breathing as a manifestation of life, the right to life in this world, the ability to breathe this air, to have one’s place , claim it. The digestive system — on the ability to use us, «absorb», digest what we need and get rid of, reject the unnecessary.
Isn’t such an aggressive fantasy about illness a manifestation of self-denial, hatred for oneself or for some particular organ or system, which for some reason should not live? .. Why shouldn’t my liver live? Why shouldn’t I breathe?.. Is there a place for me in this world?.. Am I giving myself the right to live? Why shouldn’t my reproductive system live, do I allow myself to be sexual, to realize my arousal? Do I allow myself to get pregnant and give birth to children? ..
Can I absorb what is in this world — food, information, care, relax, enjoy it all, appropriate something for myself? Digest, reject? What about throwing something away? Perhaps I am not eligible? Or did I not deserve it, did I not do enough to “eat”? Or maybe I swallowed something and I can no longer refuse, I can’t spit it out? How much and what will I owe for being “fed”?..
To start contacting neurotic fear, to start dealing with it — it is important to “unpack” it and detail it.
Neurotic fear deprives us of the freedom to contact needs.
Indeed, behind this horror there can be many complex experiences — for example, guilt or shame, pain, humiliation, from which one wants to fence oneself off.
Behind panic fears there is always some important need that the psyche hides from itself. During psychotherapy, you can touch the deeper layers of the psyche to understand what is behind it all.
And in the end, to make fear more real, and therefore — focused, targeted, conscious. Make it your resource and real protection.
If you want to better navigate your psyche, understand more about yourself, about people, about relationships, about generic scenarios and life in general — we invite you to get deeper into psychology and psychotherapy, and such popular areas as Gestalt therapy, explore yourself by visiting The annual psychological gestalt festival «Puzzles», which will be held near Kyiv on the first weekend of June.
Author — psychologist Elena Mitina
The opinion of the editors may not coincide with the opinion of the author of the article.