Dr Austin Tay


Fear is one of those emotions that can be irrational. It can come from our own association of things which in turn creates an emotion that can be crippling. For example, most people have a fear of snakes, even though they might not have been bitten or attacked by one. So merely talking about snakes or looking at pictures of snakes can send chills down their spines.


Humans are good at associating things together and then formulate a thought which is further associated with an emotion. This is because we are trained from young how to do so. Language becomes a conduit for us to connect all the things that we see, hear and read and make it lifelike (this is also known as relational framing).  It is also because we are able to put meanings to the way we feel and think that we create a false reality that we believe to be real. When we are in such a state, we will start to sabotage any progress of relieving ourselves from the fear.


full frame shot of text on wood

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When we are in fear, we will try at anything to stop that feeling. This type of response is known as fight or flight. Often, we will choose to flee from that situation that makes us feel uncomfortable as it is a natural response for us to stay in a state of homeostasis. In doing so, while we are able to feel relieved, we are also beginning to establish a pattern of avoidance every time a feeling of fear kicks in. This type of behaviour is counterproductive. For example, when an individual does not how to say no to others because he believes that in doing so, he will be considered as unhelpful and incompetent. The fear of being perceived as unhelpful and incompetent means that he will continue to say yes to others even when he knows that he might be overwhelmed with work. On the other hand, we might choose to stick around and fight fear. We will resort to ways to eradicate fear. For example, we will spend time to rationalise the reasons behind the fear we experienced and will hatch a deliberate plan to prevent fear. All these sound sensible and practical.  But in reality,  your mind is working overtime and plotting to come back with a vengeance.


FEAR has only 4 letters. That’s it. We need to stop associating words with irrational thoughts and emotions. When we are able to just treat them as what they are, we will then be able to learn how to move away from our own irrationality and live our lives with courage and purpose.

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