Turmoil and Fear

The turmoil in Egypt and elsewhere is exhilarating to some, terrifying to others. What’s going on emotionally that distinguishes these two kinds of feelings? At this time of uncertainty, all eyes are focused on the future. How will it play out? And that’s the key to understanding the nature of fear.

Fear, unlike other emotions–love, happiness, anger or sadness–is all about the future. Anticipating a bad result makes us afraid, while expecting only good things will happen feels like excitement. Fear also includes something of the unknown, as is clearly the case in Egypt.

The same two elements are present whenever we feel afraid. We are anticipating an uncertain future, and suspect it’s not going to turn out as we might like. It’s helpful to have this frame of reference when fear, in the form of a sinking feeling in the gut, tightened throat, shallowed breathing and other symptoms, grips us.

If you feel scared and can’t identify why, look for these 2 features: what’s the element of the unknown and how might it impact your future? Understanding the fear response empowers us to begin to respond, to take action where we can or prepare ourselves for what might happen, instead of just feeling helpless and afraid.