The difference between Fear and Anxiety
As we learn to recognize and differentiate the emotions we hold inside, we are able to find triggers, change patterns, and lessen the activity of these difficult emotions so we are able to live happier.
First, let’s start by making the distinction. Fear is a natural alarm for potentially dangerous situations. When this alarm is activated by our brain, our nervous system kicks in and we respond. On the other hand, Anxiety is not a reaction but is more of a desire to anticipate what could happen in the future. In other words, fear is more of a spontaneous response to an immediate threat, with the goal of surviving. Meanwhile, anxiety is more of a future threat that is tied up to chronic tension and worry, in order to be prepared.
For example: — Let’s say you are hiking, and all the sudden “Ah!! There’s a snake” — That is Fear! A spontaneous reaction to something we find threatening. As Anxiety gets triggered by this fear, you might say next time — “I won’t go hiking because I may get bitten by a snake” –
Usually, anxiety is triggered by recalling negative past events that were associated with fear. For example, if you said “I have a fear of water”, in reality, what you are experiencing is anxiety about being in the water. This feeling is probably triggered by something that caused you fear in the past, so now, it makes you want to avoid this situation again, which is reflected in the form of anxiety. In this case, for example, you may perceive as a threat the idea of standing on a dock, close the water. As thoughts of fear come into your mind of falling into the water, Anxiety is triggered.
Although these two emotions are different, they are interconnected as fear causes anxiety, and anxiety aggravates fear. In this case, it may be difficult to differentiate what we are feeling. If you have recurrent thoughts of worry from predicting future chaos or running scenarios through your head, you can be certain that what you are experiencing is Anxiety. So in this instance is important to rely on your Mindfulness meditation practice in order to observe what type of events or fears may be related to your anxiety. Also, explore any sensations that you may be experiencing in your body.
As you continue to advance in your mindfulness practice, you’ll develop a deeper awareness of your fears, which will allow you to face them or simply accept them. And as soon you do, you will diminish the importance of these overwhelming thoughts and shift your attention to more positive and productive things.