Fear 1 – Common Fears

Many common fears limit our lives – what are you afraid of?
(750 words)
IELTS Reading Questions:
Matching Information and Sentence Completion

A  Fear is a useful emotion – it protects us by motivating us to act to avoid danger. But even fears that are helpful for us can become a problem, and there are many common fears that are less helpful and that limit our lives.

Psychologist Tara Brach believes that we spend a lot of moments lost in what she calls ‘the tightness of fear’, worried that something bad is going to happen. Many of these bad things don’t happen, but the fear is often unconscious, so we don’t realise how much it’s affecting our thoughts, feelings and behaviour. And when we’re caught in this tightness, with fear thoughts going round in our heads, we can lose our compassion and our ability to experience joy, Brach says.

C  Many people’s deepest fear is fear of death. Psychotherapist Irvin Yalom explains that deep within us there is a conflict between our wish to continue living and our awareness that we will die. But, Yalom says, because we tend to avoid thinking about death, this fear is mostly unconscious and only comes to the surface in our nightmares and when we have experiences of being close to death. Brach adds that many of our common worries, such as health and money are connected to this fear, and says that when we experience any negative emotions, fear is often what’s underneath them, and often it’s this fear. 

D  Another common fear is fear of rejection, a fear from our evolutionary past when we needed to be accepted as part of our groups to survive. Because of this evolved need to belong, rejection can be especially painful, and our desire to avoid it creates a deep fear that affects many parts of our lives. We worry about what people think of us, and we’re afraid of being seen in a negative way, according to psychotherapist John Amodeo. He adds that our fear of rejection may also be connected to an underlying belief that we might be unlovable, and to avoid being rejected, we might only let people see our best sides, or even reject them before they have a chance to reject us.

E  Fear of failure is another fear that limits our lives and stops many of us from growing and achieving our goals. Tara Brach explains that this fear comes partly from a belief that we are not really good enough, and from the worry that there will be something coming that we can’t handle, meaning we will fail in some way. She adds that it’s also connected to concerns that if we fail, we will lose our status in social groups. As well as preventing us from stepping outside our comfort zones and growing, this fear can lead to a lot of trying control the future, and trying to prove ourselves and get approval from others, she says.

F  A fear that has increased in recent years is fear of missing out, commonly known as FOMO. This is the fear that you might miss an opportunity or that good things are happening somewhere else. Well-being expert Tchiki Davis believes that the increase in FOMO seems to be connected to social media, where people tend to show their best sides and share their best moments. And, as we can now constantly see ‘fun’ events happening elsewhere all the time, it’s easier to think that we are missing out on something good. This fear leads to a lot of checking our devices to see what other people are doing, and Davis adds that it reduces our enjoyment of the experiences that we are actually having.

G  Psychologist Susan Jeffers has an interesting way of thinking about fear – she believes that all our fears can be divided into three levels. On the first level are fears we have about things that happen in our lives, but underneath those are deeper level-two fears. Fear of public speaking, for example, is a level-one fear, but the deeper, level-two fear that’s underneath it is fear of failure. Another level-one fear is fear of intimacy, and the level-two fear underneath that is fear of rejection. But Jeffers believes that beneath those, at the third level, is just one single fear: that you can’t handle it – ‘at the bottom of every one of your fears is simply the fear that you can’t handle whatever life may bring you’, she says.

And yet, it’s quite likely that you will be able to handle most things that happen, just like you have handled most other things up until now.

IELTS Reading Questions for Fear Part 1:
Matching Information & Sentence Completion.

Sources and links from Fear Part 1

– Part 1 of Tara Brach’s talk about facing fear. There is a part 2 available on her website.
Irvin Yalom’s website. The information in the article came from his book Love’s Executioner.
Psychology Today article about fear of rejection by John Amodeo.
Psychology Today article about FOMO by Tchiki Davis.
– The website for Susan Jeffers. The information in the article came from her book Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.
– Image by prettysleepy1 from Pixabay 

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This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Suky

    My fear were most about other’s comment/view on me. And after I learning not to care about others , I feel relaxed and happy.

    1. Nick

      Hi Suky. Good to hear from you, and thanks for your comment.
      I think the fear you had is a really common one – good that you learned not to care so much.
      Hope all is going well for you.

      1. Suky

        I’m good these days~ Hope you too!

    2. Kitty

      Im dealing with various types of fears and they are: fear of failures, fear of other people’s opinion against me, fear of talking in front of other people. Those 3 are the reasons why im afraid of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Ive been reading tips and ways how to overcome such fears but its too difficult for me to get over that feelings.

      1. Nick

        Hi Kitty.
        Thanks for sharing, and good luck with overcoming your fears.

  2. Anna

    Wow, really interesting, thanks for sharing! 🙂 I guess one of the most common and “stupid” fears among human is “what will other think about me”. And we need to learn to get over it 🙂

    1. Nick

      Thanks for commenting. Glad you liked it.
      Agreed – it would be a good one to let go of, but it runs deep.

  3. AJ

    This post was very helpful to me. I have an extreme fear / phobia (not sure if it’s the same) of storms. It’s called astraphobia. But interestingly enough, it only triggers an extreme panic attack if I’m in a car; which is ironically one of the safest places to be. It’s completely irrational and hinders me from living my life freely. I can’t wait to read the next article! Following.

    1. Nick

      Thanks for commenting – glad you liked it.
      I hadn’t heard of astraphobia.

  4. Divine

    Thanks so much for this post. I think one of my greatest fear right now is fear of failing, as I’m currently preparing for my IELTS exam. I’ve been nursing this feeling of ‘what if you don’t pass the exam, people will think you’re not brilliant enough’. this article has helped to calm my anxiety.

    1. Nick

      You’re welcome.
      Glad you liked it, and I really appreciate your comment – my hope is that the things I’m writing about might be helpful for people.
      You might like Fear Part 2 … and good luck with your test!

  5. Faroa

    i found it amazing and really helpful for my ielts reading section prep.
    good luck and looking forward for more from you !

    1. Nick

      Hi Faroa.
      Thanks for that; it’s really good to get such nice feedback.
      Good luck with your preparation.

  6. Jolie

    Something invisible and indiscernible like fear, desire, are usually really hard to figure them out.
    It’s nice to talk about it and understand it.
    Thank you for sharing the article.

    1. Nick

      Thanks Jolie.

  7. Anes

    I think I comprise all kind of fear stated above
    I try to get over them but somehow I can’t
    If all of these fears my greatest fear is the fear of being rejected
    Though I try to get over it but it’s hard to overcome for me

    Thanks Nick for sharing this

    1. Nick

      Cheers, Anes.
      One reason I wrote the article was that I think it’s useful to understand these things, and maybe it’s helpful to know that many people are scared of the same things.

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