The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
This is a quote of a statement made by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in relation to our involvement in World War II.
In my opinion, President Roosevelt captured the essence of the power of fear in this statement. As we know, fear is basic to our survival system and, under threat, mobilizes us to become motivated for “fight or flight”. All of us have experienced the effects of such fear in our lifetimes. However, because fear is so powerful and unpleasant, we come to a point of not wanting to experience it any more than necessary and, quite frequently, our desire to avoid it becomes so strong that we start developing fearful feelings, which we call anxiety, when we think about situations that can cause us fear or when we just think about the feelings of fear itself. Because anxiety comes along with thoughts about what may happen, it can be seen as anticipatory anxiety, or a fear of fear itself.
When unchecked, anticipatory anxiety can become a powerful and consuming motivation to seek ways to avoid or control situations that can cause us to experience fear. The more anticipatory anxiety we have, the more we may try to avoid anticipatory fearful situations and the more we can close off aspects of life to the point of finally feeling comfortable only in our own home or basement or room. This condition is what we call agarophobia. On the other hand, we may try to control our fears and anxieties by developing fear reducing behavioral styles, like repetitive cleaning, counting, or other behaviors that are typically described as obsessive or compulsive behaviors, or by acting out in ways that cause the energy developed by our fears to come out through fighting or other risk-taking activities, or by using drugs and medicines to try to shut down those feelings.
Whatever our styles are, it is always helpful to know when you are being motivated by true fear because of real threats or by anticipatory fear because of expected or imagined threats. The latter is the fear of fear itself, and it could be much more powerful in affecting our lives then true fear.