The 4 Phases Of Fear

The 4 stages of fear

Fear is natural in the prudent, and knowing how to overcome it means being courageous.

(Alonso de Ercilla y Zúñiga)

Fear is a universal feeling, we have all experienced it sometime. It is characterized by the  feeling of anguish that occurs when faced with the perception of a threat. However, this does not mean that it is only negative, it also has a positive side that protects us.

The feeling of fear arises to warn us of a danger.  It leads us to put in place the necessary resources to face the situation if we believe we are able, otherwise, we will opt to flee, moving away because we do not feel capable of facing the situation.

It is important to keep in mind that the negative aspect is not fear, but the fact that it indicates to us the presence of a problem.

However, what happens when fear becomes irrational? That is when we project this feeling towards an object that immobilizes us, that we cannot control or know how to overcome. To find out the answer, we explain the four stages we go through when we are afraid.

First stage: imagination

Many times, when we are afraid, we imagine everything. We get carried away by our expectations of what might happen, in an exaggerated way. In reality, however, we imagine and create in our mind a situation worse than the one that exists, without knowing what will really happen.

We precede events, generating fear and, at times, anxiety in ourselves.

Why do we do it? the answer is simple. As we have said, being afraid prepares us to protect ourselves and to face a difficult situation. When we start to imagine in an exaggerated way, it means that our mind is  considering possibilities that may present themselves in order to be prepared and face them.

The worse the situation we are thinking about, the better we will be able to deal with it if we think we have sufficient resources.

Our mind works fast and we cannot avoid thinking the worst. This can save our lives on many occasions.

Second phase: fear

The second phase of fear is fear itself. We have previously imagined what can happen, the possible alternatives, how we can escape from a certain situation … now comes the fear.

Fear manifests itself in thoughts, but also in the body.  When fear comes, we begin to  hyperventilate, the heart beats faster, the voice fades and the body will feel full of nerves. We can no longer imagine, nor think. Only one prepares to act, nothing more.

An example of fear could be public speaking. We think that we will do it badly, that we will make mistakes, that they will laugh at us … creating expectations and imagining the thousand possible alternatives. This situation causes us a feedback that does not allow us to get rid of this fear, the result, many times, of our insecurity.

Third phase: paralysis and acceleration

When we focus only on what we are feeling, without giving space to our thoughts, we can get stuck.  This is the third stage of fear. When we can no longer think, when we are faced with a situation that prevents us from acting, what everyone fears occurs: being paralyzed by fear.

This situation is usually lived with powerlessness, sometimes without knowing how to get out of it. However, what can we do? Wait. When fear paralyzes us, we have to wait for it to pass . It is not a feeling that goes away quickly, it takes a few seconds. Our body triggers the alarm and needs time to understand that there is no risk.

At this stage, however, fear can also accelerate us,  rather than paralyze us. And that’s when we start doing nonsense. An example is when we cover ourselves with the sheets of the bed or look in the closet… if we think about it, what could the sheets protect us from? We know it is ridiculous, but at that moment fear controls us and we are not aware of what we do.

Fourth stage: remember

The imagination leads us to pure fear, which can paralyze or accelerate. However, what is the last step in the chain of fear? Memories. Everything remains stored in our mind, especially stressful or highly emotionally charged events. 

If we have had a bad experience with an ex partner, every time we get close to someone who wants to be with us, the previous memory will be activated. What happens then? That memories affect us, and at the same time protect us from the evil we have experienced and that we want to avoid.

These memories can cause us to miss some opportunities, so they are not always positive. It is true that it is good to learn and act differently in order not to suffer, but we must not get around the obstacle. We must try to overcome our fears, not let them control us or condition our life. If we are afraid of public speaking, we bring out our willpower to overcome it. Fear is in our mind and only we can overcome it.

As you have seen, these are the four stages of fear that we go through when something scares us. It is normal to be afraid, it is even good at times, but we cannot allow it to affect our life. We must learn to overcome it. Remember we can learn from our fears; they only indicate the presence of a problem and the possibility of solving it. Don’t turn fear into your enemy.

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