Fear is an intense emotion of uneasiness, connected to a real or perceived danger from an identifiable object, person or process. The emotion of fear may have elements of worry, panic and anger, however, fear is typically experienced when it is brought upon by a basic feeling of being vulnerable to a person or process that could inflict harm on yourself, even if that someone is you.
Regarding compulsive and addictive behaviors, one way that fear is manifested in our lives is when fear “hijacks” our thinking by creating thoughts that we cannot live without the chemical or behavior that has “helped” us to cope during distressful times and experiences in our life. Seen in this way, it is our fear that creates a psychological (leading to possibly a physical) dependence with the substance, or with the out of control behavior that we think we cannot live without.
Dr. Sigmund Freud was correct when he documented that many of us will engage in maladaptive behavior to defend our ego from unwanted anxiety. We all want to avoid or escape distressful feelings and the thought of having to surrender our acting out behaviors with chemicals or with mood-altering behaviors will generate fear because these mechanisms have “helped” us to cope with life issues. Let’s see what scripture has to say about fear.
Scriptural Insight (Zodhiates, 1996)
1) Adam and God (Genesis 3:10): The Hebrew word is “YARE” and means to be afraid, fear or to terrify or make afraid. The two main types of fear described by Yare are:
(a) the emotional and intellectual anticipation of harm and danger and the resulting sense of dread that accompanies it and…
(b) …a very positive feeling of awe or reverence for God, which may be expressed in religious devotion or formal worship.
2) Fear (OT— Psalm 91: 5): The word is “PAHAD,” and it means to be afraid, fear, terror, dread and awe. It may refer to the emotion and/or the object that causes the emotion, and it emphasizes either the rapid onset of feeling fearful or the aftermath and trembling behavior afterward. PAHAD is not used to denote the reverent worship of God.
3) Jesus calming the storm (Matthew 8: 23—27): The word is “PHOBEOMAI” (from which we receive our English word “phobia” which means “a persistent or illogical fear”) and conveys the meaning of fear, terror, terrifying or frightening. In classical Greek, it meant to run away, be terrified and frightened.
In the New Testament, it means to be fearful, afraid or frightened and in some cases, of the object that causes the fear. In a moral sense, Phobos also means reverence, respect and honor shown to persons and to Christ, in the sense of a deep and reverential awareness of accountability to God.
4) Fear: (NT): The word is “DEILIA” and means fearful, timid, cowardice, timidity and reticence. It is used in that oft quoted passage of scripture in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (fear), but a spirit of power, love and of self-discipline.”
Signs & Symptomatic Behavior of Fear (“What am I likely to see when I see fear?”)
- A person who demonstrates immediate and somatic (body) changes, such as having difficulty breathing, “flat” or straight eyebrows with eyes wide open, profuse sweating and sweaty palms, a possible report of being unable to swallow, “wobbly knees,” piloerection (goosebumps), nausea and a possible loss of bladder or anal muscle control.
- A person who is vigilant and oversensitive to stimuli, who demonstrates a lessened ability to concentrate resulting in indecision, lowered self-esteem and possibly a loss of confidence.
- A person who feels like they are “going crazy” as well as a person who may demonstrate obsessive thoughts and worries.
- A person who is a “prisoner of their own imaginary fortress” who would like to engage in activity, however, whose fears limit and restrict them from engaging in their desired behavior.
- A person who is wary and distrustful of unfamiliar surroundings, vigilant to the potential of being rejected and/or humiliated by others and is often private, shy, lonely, guarded and withdrawing.
- A person who practices ego defenses and cognitive distortions in response to being confronted (by self/conviction or others) about some form of their behavior that is problematic, addictive and out of control.
In The Emotion of Fear (Part 2 of 2) we will look at suggestions from scripture to address and deal with our fears constructively, for our personal benefit and for the benefit of our relationships.
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