Where exactly does the fear of change come from, and how we can detect and distinguish fear and panic from reality, and how we can control our fear? For this and many other questions we have spoken with psychologists who work in this field, dealing with young people and their problems.
We spoke first with Isidora Morokvašić, who holds a master’s degree in psychology and who claims that we must, to begin with, distinguish fear as an emotion from fear as a complex emotional state. When we are moving and changing our environment and feeling constant fear, then this is a state that we can call anxiety.
What, actually, is fear?
– Fear is a natural emotion, and when we experience it, our body automatically starts to prepare itself to fight or escape. On the other hand, anxiety is considered to be a longer state of distress, a longer-lasting fear, and it can be connected with waiting for something bad to happen – and anxiety includes irrational fear and also worry. When we don’t know what we will experience, and when we make a big life change, it is completely normal to feel fear and to be worried, because we don’t know how this will affect our future – explains Morokvašić.
She also notes that if we realize that our daily activities are not ever the way we would like them to be, and if we are constantly worried about our decisions, than that state can also be categorized as anxiety. She explains, for example, that if we refuse to go to an interview for a job because we are worried that we will be incompetent or that maybe working conditions will be bad, then we are living with anxiety. Since many young people are passive about changing their lives because of fear of the unknown and therefore lose many life opportunities, Isidora Morokvašić claims that distinguishing unreal fear from real fear is not always easy, but we must try to look at it objectively and try to get the bigger picture.
-We must find out if a fear is useful for us and if we will let this fear stand in our way. For example, if we have to give an important speech in front of a large audience which can bring us a promotion but we run from it because of fear, we will feel relief in the short term, but in the long term we will have made the wrong decision. How people handle fear is highly individual, and the conditions of our growing up, societal imperatives, parental influence, and previous life experience can affect how we deal with the challenges of fear. One of the useful methods in psychology is gradual exposure to situations which have an impact on us either as fear or anxiety – claims Isidora Morokvašić.
We must pay attention to the quality of our life
Psychologist Isidora Morokvašić claims that with time people can learn if their fears are useful for them or not, and everyone can learn basic things about fear and anxiety and how to deal with it as well.
– For example, if we go to the doctor and find out that our health is not good because of the food we eat, we will be motivated to change our habits, and in this situation our concerns are entirely rational. But if we start to worry irrationally and start to go to the doctor all the time, that will bring us to a lower quality of life – explains Ms. Morokvašić.
When people take a step and leave a comfort zone, they typically face fear and uncertainty. Interviewee Morokvašić explains that often when something is well known it will make us feel safe even if we are unsatisfied with the actualities of that “safe” life.
– When we experience life changes, it is good to remember our long term imperatives and our goals. In the end, even if we made a mistake it is not good to look at it as something fatal, we can consider it rather as an experience and a route to something we want. Also, it is so important to feel pleasure in those things which make us happy. We can also look at that experience as leading us to a path to the life we want – says Isidora.
She also states that is necessary to be objective and not to blame external factors all the time. If we blame external forces, we are telling ourselves that we don’t have control of our lives. Also, we risk staying passive and unsatisfied because we believe we can’t change anything. On the other hand, an effort to control our lives completely is not the answer, because it can lead us to useless self-incrimination. For example, if we are sick because of a disease and constantly blame ourselves for it, that doesn’t help us at all.
Isidora Morokvašić /source: personal archive
How we can help ourselves?
Ms. Morokvašić notes that we can always have lists pros and cons for our decisions, and consultation with a psychologist is always a good idea. Anything that works for us and that fits our beliefs can help, and that can include motivational speakers, music, and meditation as well. Of course, we must consider everything objectively.
Kristina Pota Radulović, a Gestalt Therapist who holds a master’s in Clinical Psychology, explains that fenomenology gives us the opportunity to think analytically about what we feel in certain situations and what is the effect of influences from our past. In that case, the unknown is just the unknown, and our fear of the uknown derives from experiences lived long ago.
Kristina Pota Radulović says that the first step is to get as much information as we can, because our goal is for the unknown to become known. One of the ways to do this is to inform ourselves using trusted sources. If we feel fear and only fear, we can create a version of reality which is not fact-based and which can affect our daily lives. On the other hand, if we are well-informed we won’t have much time for fear, because instead of scary fantasies we’ll have real facts which can help us to make sound decisions.
Ask for support
If we ask for support, that means that we care about ourselves.
– We can share our fears with our close friends and family, but we can also speak with people who have had the same experience we are having. In that case we can feel that we are not going through this situation completely alone, said Kristina Pota Radulović.
Psychoterapy and psychological counseling
Also, Kristina Pota Radulović claims that when fear of the unknown is intense and affects our daily routine, the decision to ask for help from experts can be useful. That is how we can be in touch with ourselves and with our feelings. If we focus on that which is present we can be aware of who we are and in which direction we want to go.