Fast Exit

December 4, 2023 Dec 04, 2023 7 min read

Understand the Roots of Your Fear and Create a Bigger and Better Life


  • How fear feels and why we feel fear
  • Understand how trauma gets us stuck in fear and on constant alert
  • Steps to take to control fear and expand your life

Sometimes, even before we can recognize exactly what is happening, our brains go on alert. Our bodies show our fear with a fast heart rate, sweaty palms, trembling or shaking, and a feeling of panic.

What is fear?

Fear is our physical, mental, and emotional response to danger and threat. When the threat and danger are over, we can feel our bodies and minds calm down. If we get help, we can feel relief and move on. But when we cannot get help and cannot take any action, we can get stuck with feelings of fear that don’t go away. They can get buried within us, but they flare up when we are reminded of the event that scared us deeply. 

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Trauma and fear

People who have been in serious accidents and soldiers in combat often cannot just forget about the extreme harm they have experienced or witnessed. A veteran who hears a loud sound can be thrown back into the feeling of fear as if he or she is actually in combat. Someone who was in a car accident may be too scared to drive as it brings back the memory of the accident too vividly. 

For people who have lived through physical, sexual, mental, and emotional abuse as children, it is hard to feel safe.

If you grew up feeling scared and unprotected, you may have a constant nervous feeling and find it difficult to trust anyone. While everyone feels some fear in new situations, if you grew up in constant fear, it is hard to take any risks and take on new challenges. You may have had to shrink yourself down, be quiet, keep secrets, and hide what you think and how you feel. 


But you are not fated to live like this forever. You can look at exactly what happened to you, what scared you, and what you had to do to survive. You may feel out of control and threatened by many things, especially by specific things that remind you of the past. You may not make the connections between things that scare you and the memories that you have been pushing away from your mind. 


If you were sexually abused, you may avoid physical contact, or you may find yourself in a similar situation, unable to understand why because you have not been able to work out what happened to you or learn how to say no. If you were regularly attacked verbally, you may either fall apart if someone raises their voice, or you may fight back and escalate situations into screaming matches. All of these kinds of feelings were defences. You did what you had to do to try to protect yourself. Being assertive without being aggressive and asking for and taking what you need to accomplish your goals in life can be very difficult.


The usual reactions to aggression and threat are to fight back, to flee, to freeze into a state of helplessness, or to surrender your will, your desires, and your thoughts and devote yourself to only pleasing others. All of these are attempts to feel safe. 


When you take a close look at your feelings and thoughts, you can begin to become more aware of your triggers. This will help you realize there is another way to be. You don’t have to be ruled by fear. You have a right to your life, just like everyone does. 

Ways to overcome fear

When you are scared of things that are not really dangerous in the present, you need to stop and consider what you are thinking and feeling. Ask yourself what you are really scared of. Does this moment remind you of something that happened in the past? Do you feel like you are being driven by fear? Take the time to reflect and see what is really going on within you. When fear overwhelms us when there is no actual danger, something has taken over our minds and bodies.


One of the most important things to do is to tell someone in detail about the original events that first caused this terrible fear. It can be very upsetting to relieve this pain, but it can help get it out of you. You may have to tell it several times to begin to lessen the fear. The power of the trauma fades, and you will feel some of the burden coming off of you. You can gradually develop a sense of control. 


Another step is to stop thinking of yourself as a victim or as weak. You were yourself on your own. Reimagine what happened and see yourself acting differently, standing up for yourself, able to say no. Although you cannot change the past, you can change how you think about it. You can change how you think about yourself. When you see yourself as a strong survivor who has a right to live freely, you will develop a better sense of yourself. You will become more able to step over the fear and take action to get what you want in life. 


It also helps to build up your physical strength, as that can also make you feel stronger and safer inside. Physical exercise affects your brain, creating a happier mood. Your brain was hurt and changed by abuse and trauma, but you can heal and change your brain by being good to yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally. 


Start taking more chances with people to find friends you can trust. Being abused gives you the false belief that most people cannot be trusted and will hurt you like you were hurt before. Try to stop generalizing and judging people too harshly.


Most importantly, be loving and kind to yourself. Give yourself the care that you always deserved. You can do it now and begin to have more joy and happiness. With less fear, you’ll discover that there is so much more that you can do and enjoy. 



Fear is an important feeling we all have to alert us to danger. The problem is when we become chronically fearful and cannot move beyond events in the past that caused great fear. People who have been in wars, serious accidents, and traumas of all kinds, including chronic child abuse, can be easily triggered and feel out-of-control fear when there is nothing in the present to be fearful of. 


Trauma can make you feel nervous and scared much of the time and hold you back from doing things that would transform your life for the better. It can make you mistrustful and unwilling to take chances on new experiences and relationships. Irrational fear that is based on the past can make you give up on opportunities to discover your potential. 


You can overcome your fears by taking mental, emotional, and physical steps to free yourself from painful memories. Step by step, you can build up your strength, self-confidence, and courage and feel free to live more fully. 


About The Author

Susan Ellis studied psychology and anthropology at Barnard College and the University of Chicago. She has worked in many aspects of publishing, including editing and marketing scholarly journals, mainstream magazines, and books on psychology and psychoanalysis.  

Overcoming Fear Journal

The Overcoming Fear Journal is an empowering tool designed to help you confront and conquer fears, leading to a life of confidence and fulfillment. By regularly recording thoughts and emotions, you'll gain insights into fear triggers and develop strategies for overcoming them. From mood rating to positive affirmations, this journal guides your daily self-reflection, gradually fostering confidence. Personalize it to your needs; it's a downloadable resource for those seeking inner strength and freedom from overwhelming fear.

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