I’ve been reading an excellent book called Feel the Fear …And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, PhD. Dr. Jeffers’ premise is that there are multiple levels of fear. Fear is a normal part of life but if it paralyzes us from taking action or prevents us from enjoying life then we need to take steps to manage and reduce our fears.

It seems like right now there is an undercurrent of fear with the economy tanking, continual layoffs, companies going under, and a growing sense of uncertainty that any of this will get better any time soon. And what Jeffers states about fear in her book was so helpful that I wanted to comment on it.

The 3 Levels of Fear

Jeffers says that there are 3 levels to fear. The first level includes all those fears we are able to easily articulate and they fall into two categories; those fears that just happen and those which require action. Examples she gives of those that “just happen” include:

  • Aging
  • Loss of financial security (sound familiar?)
  • Illness, and so on…

Examples she gives of those which require action include:

  • Making decisions
  • Ending (or beginning) a relationship
  • Public speaking

The second level of fear includes the feelings or emotional state that lie underneath the Level 1 fears. Level 2 includes fears like rejection, helplessness, loss of image, or failure. Jeffers states ‘that these fears’ “reflect your sense of self and ability to handle this world .” For example, if you have a fear of helplessness, you may fear aging or losing your financial security, or you may develop a fear of flying or driving or even of leaving your home.

Level 3 - The Worst Fear

So what is a Level 3 fear? Level 3 is simply, “I can’t handle it”. Believing that we are unable to handle what may happen is the basis of all of our fears. Therefore, developing the mindset that, “I can handle my fear”, is the beginning of being able to let go of fear.

Handling Our Fear

How do we learn to handle fear? Oddly enough, facing our fears is the best way to reduce their power over us. As we confront our fears, we grow stronger as they dwindle. But we also need to realize that fear is normal and never goes away, but as we face our fears, we gain in power, and our pain is reduced.

I found Dr. Jeffers’ book to be a useful resource for understanding fear and an effective guide for developing ways and means to deal with the fears we face in our every day lives.

Seeking Help for Your Fear

Most, if not, all of my clients deal with issues of fear from time to time. We all do. If your fears are overwhelming you and preventing you in any way from fully enjoying your life and relationships, I encourage you to seek counseling with a qualified, compassionate therapist who can assist you in meeting, managing and reducing your fears.