Fear of Humiliation and Embarassment

 Vijai P. Sharma, PhD. Clinical Psychologist

"For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me."  Job 3:25

Running away from our fear empowers fear and weakens us.  On the other had, by doing the very thing we fear we can reduce the anxiety related to it.  This is difficult to believe because we are so sure that the opposite it true.

We might take it to be a "fact" that people become more anxious as the go near the object of their fear.  Such knowledge of these so-called facts is bases rather on a "near vision," a kind of myopic distortion.  If we employ farsightedness it will show us that, in the long run, dealing with the feared situation rather than running away from it lessens anxiety.

The more we perform the feared  action the less anxious we feel.  For example, remember how anxious you felt the first time you tried to get on a bicycle?  But you didn't give up; you kept on practicing.  The more you practiced, the better you got.

Every child who stands or walks for the first time wobbles on legs untrained and unaccustomed to such an action.  As a result, the child falls quite a few times.  But it never stops him or her from trying again and again.  Have you ever heard of anyone who quit trying after a fall or two?  As a result of not wanting to quit, they all learn to stand, walk and even run

We often envy people who look fearless and even comfortable while performing an act that would make us very nervous.  The secret is this:  They too were anxious when they first started, but they kept on doing it in spite of the initial anxiety.  Others who never try or give up too soon don't get the opportunity to learn this secret.  You can find them saying, "I wish I was like him (or her)."

If we have to run from everyday things or avoid them at all costs because of undue fears, we will be living under the shadow of fear all the time.  It is like the sword of Damocles hanging over one's head.  When people begin to avoid talking on the telephone, meeting other people, going to a store, or any other activities of everyday living, they stay constantly nervous.

If you are afraid of gorillas but don't have to work in a zoo for a living, why should you care?  You don't need to invest a lot of time and energy in mastering the gorilla fear; you can get busy with matters at hand.

It's a different story for things we come into contact with on a daily basis.  We can't run very far from these everyday things, for they come to haunt us again and again.  Moreover, since there is always a possibility of encountering this everyday object or situation, our anxiety stays extremely high all the time, even when we are not consciously thinking about that object or the situation.

It is said that 95 percent of our problems are self-created.  Perhaps this is because we spend a lot of time worrying about encountering situations that are really harmless and add to that all the additional time spent in planning ways to avoid them.  The outcome of such a pattern is an ever-increasing anxiety.

In some cases, social fears can interfere with driving.  One woman couldn't take left turns.  She took right turns even when she needed to turn left.  She would rather go a block and come back.

She was afraid that if she took a left turn she might hold up other cars behind her and upset drivers coming for the opposite lane.  She thought that people waiting for her to complete her left turn would think she was a stupid and clumsy driver.  And what would happen if other drivers got impatient with her and started honking!

No way would she risk offending other drivers and draw everyone's attention to her.  She stayed anxious all the time even when she was not driving.  She worried about the time when she might have to drive.

If this anxious driver would just stop worrying and start taking left turns over and over again. Her fear would just wear out.  The more she would practice, this, the easier the left turns would get.  Practice makes perfect!

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 


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