Does Your Fear Imprison You?

It can be hard not to feel afraid about what might happen to us, but we must get this powerful emotion into perspective before it dominates and ruins our lives.

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The media regularly gives us tragic news of murders, fatal hospital blunders and abuse of the elderly and vulnerable in society.

It can be hard not to feel afraid about what might happen to us, but we must get this powerful emotion into perspective before it dominates and ruins our lives.

Fear is a basic primitive emotion which is linked to our need to survive.

In the distant past as cave-dwellers, we were right to fear any physical attacks or other threats to our own existence and that of our tribe.

Our primitive brains haven’t really caught up to our present day challenges, and can't tell the difference between a real threat, and one that is vividly imagined. It causes us to react to both in the same way - as if our survival was being threatened.

Our fears of redundancy and poverty nowadays can evoke similar responses within us to our early primitive fears of being chased down and mauled to death by a hungry predator!

Our current fears of loneliness or rejection, can trigger our deepest fears of being abandoned by our tribe and left to die alone.

Our primitive fight/flight/freeze/flop/fawn response system is activated, causing the stress hormones of adrenalin and cortisol to flood our bodies. These can help us to prepare for 'survival' action - or they can overwhelm us into a state of surrender, compliance and appeasement.

Too much cortisol frequently released into the system can harm the brain and immune system.

We all have a part of our brain called the Limbic System, which registers and processes our emotions.

The Emotional/Limbic brain - in particular the area called the Amygdala—can become over-aroused by sudden or frequent threats, whether real or imagined.

It then becomes difficult to turn-down the arousal in this area.

We see the results of this hyper-arousal in both Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Prolonged-Duration Stress Disorder (please click on the link to find out more about these).

We then remain in an alert and vigilant state - in readiness for any possible further threats to our safety - both when we are awake and asleep.

Our fears are fuelling so much of our lives - from the careers we have, the type and quality of our relationships, our home and lifestyle, and the level of our wealth and success.

What do you fear?

Common fears include:-

  • loss of love, care, attention or support from significant adults

  • lack of safety and security – both physical and psychological

  • our own vulnerability and dependency upon others

  • humiliation/rejection/abandonment/isolation/loneliness – loss of connection with others and becoming an 'outcast'

  • being trapped or confined in our life and having much less freedom or choices

  • being seen as not ‘good enough’, or unable to cope, and seen by others as a failure

  • having our trust betrayed by another

  • loss of wealth, status and pride

  • losing our health and/or sanity

  • physical and/or emotional pain

  • facing our past and its effects upon us

  • death - particularly if painful and/or alone

If we allow it to be so, we can become governed, restrained, and thwarted by our own fears.

They hold us down and tie us up so that we cannot feel free, fully alive or spontaneous.

Instead we ‘play safe’ in our lives - perhaps activating some of our other fears instead!

It is not surprising that we try very hard to avoid experiencing what we fear, but this avoidance comes at a cost to our authenticity as a person.

We can then lose sight of what we were fully meant to be, and we don’t reach our own potential.

Well it’s time to loosen the grip of our fears and to become free to take sufficient risks that enable us to have new experiences! Ones which affirm who we are and allow us to grow into who we can become.

The first steps to this comes from learning and understanding about how our past has shaped and moulded our lives in the present day.

Then comes learning how to regulate our emotions and to use our more adult-brain to soothe and calm ourselves, and to see things more realistically.

It's like uninstalling a faulty programme and uploading a better, smarter and more beneficial and functional programme instead.

F.E.A.R = False Evidence Appearing Real is often true!

We should at least be able to tell the difference and respond with our calm adult awareness, rather than simply reacting from our programmed and conditioned emotional state.

Life will bring to you the very things that you fear anyway—the ‘dark night of the soul’—so that you can grow beyond your fears and become free of them.

Realising that this is inevitable, and keeping a clear and realistic perspective, will allow you to cope and to have greater courage and resilience.

Overcoming such challenges will also help you to develop your character and soul - for the rest of your life's journey ahead.

It makes sense to be guided by your past mistakes and bad experiences, but not to allow them to restrict your enjoyment and optimism for the future.

You are only a prisoner of your fears if you have forgotten that you have the key to the cell!

That key is your adult self-awareness, acquired resilience, and robust determination not to be confined by the unbridled terrors of your imaginative mind.

Maxine Harley (MSc Integrative Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR

www.maxineharley.comIf you fears are overwhelming and you think they might be due to your childhood trauma then you'll find a page of free resources to help you to overcome a troubled childhood and difficult or toxic parents and to make peace with the past – including a questionnaire called 'How To Tell If You Need To Sort Yourself Out' – please see

There are also online self-help courses to help you to 'sort out' yourself, your relationship, your children and your business brain! (only £37 each – or £27 if you use the code TENOFF at the checkout)

www.maxineharleymentoring.comTherapeutic self-development mentoring – helping women to understand and manage their emotions, boundaries and behaviours... helping them to stop the past from messing up the future – and to FEEL better, so they can BE, DO and HAVE better in their lives. online self-help workshops (only £27 each) – helping you to help yourself with Psycho-Emotional-Education. The ten online workshops are entitled:-

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You can change your life in 24 hours when you change your S.C.R.I.P.T. (c) Sub-Conscious-Rules-Influencing-Present-Time

Maxine Harley

MIND HEALER & MENTOR - Psychotherapist (MSc), Author, Columnist & Blogger. Please see and, S.E.L.E.C.T. Your Life Company Ltd.

I help women to FEEL better - so they can BE, DO and HAVE better! As a MIND HEALER I specialise in helping women to recover from a troubled childhood and toxic parents, to heal and transcend their emotional wounds, re-parent their inner child, and make peace with their past. This enables and empowers them to become better parents, partners, professionals - and all round happier calmer people :-) As a MENTOR I offer different levels of therapeutic self development - including MINDING YOUR BUSINESS, MINDING THE GAP, and MIND MASTERY...please discover more at


Go to the profile of Diane Priestley
almost 4 years ago

Another excellent, clear and logical article from Maxine! Thank you for sharing your knowledge and wisdom. Understanding the biological basis of fear really helps to manage this primitive emotion so it's possible to take risks and embrace life fully!  

Go to the profile of Maxine Harley
almost 4 years ago

I really appreciate your comments Diane - and that you''re not afraid to share your opinion! :-)

Understanding the basis of our fears tames them - and allows us to see them as our mind's well-meaning attempt to keep us safe from harm... but at a cost to our growth and freedom.

Warmly, Maxine