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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

What We Mistake for Fear

Updated: Jun 22, 2022

Be Careful What you call 'Fear'

I want to talk about fear and what fear really is and why we may not actually be afraid.

I’ve come to a personal understanding over the past few months about fear. I don’t consider myself to be a particularly fearful person, but it can rob me of joy and ambition - maybe just like you?

So in my journey in reading books like The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker and taking courses like Know Fear with Tony Blauer I have a good understanding of what fear really is. And I know we often mistake another emotion for fear.

2020: The Year of Fear

In 2020 I’ve watched our country, talked with friends, and coached my family and I’ve come to an important understanding.

We don’t fear as much as we think we do. More often we are anxious.

We sometimes mistake anxiety for fear.

There's a big difference between fear and anxiety and how to cope with it. And this is an essential understanding that we need to grasp in 2020.

Everyone has fear. It’s a survival instinct that we’re all blessed with. Fear has kept humans alive since the beginning of time. Anxiety can be a debilitating emotional response.

Fear jump-starts your brain and your body to act to save itself. Fear is focused on something and when it’s over, the fear passes. Anxiety won’t get us ready to run. it is ambiguous and can be overwhelming and long-lasting.

‘Bear’ with Me

As an example let’s think about a bear in the woods.

Fear is coming across a bear on a hike. Your blood starts pumping and your mind focuses on running and avoiding the potential of death. (BTW running from a bear is not good. They'll chase you.)

Anxiety, however, is realizing you might come across a bear on a hike you’ll take in two weeks and dreading the potential of death. Your emotions weigh you down and you feel apprehensive about ever taking a hike ever again.

See the difference?

Your Inner Voice

Now, where these two things collide is in our vernacular and it spreads to our thinking. We say, “I’m afraid” all the time. That’s normal, I do it too.

But we’re not often afraid, we’re anxious.

When we only see our problem as fear we think we can’t do anything about it because fear is a basic instinct that we can’t cure. We really don’t want to cure fear, remember it’s useful!

This is where anxiety robs us of a solution and enjoyment. Anxiety is something we need to minimize in our lives. Don’t say you are afraid when you’re actually anxious. Knowing that difference will help you cope with your situation.

There are many different causes of anxiety. Fear is just one of them. Fear isn’t essential for anxiety and anxiety isn’t essential for fear.

What did the Bear Teach us?

So let’s go back to our bear in the woods scenario. If you are anxious about coming into contact with a bear that might eat you, try to push past your anxiety by thinking about a solution.

How do you avoid getting close to a bear on a hike? Better yet, are bears really a threat in that area? If so, how can you actively deter them from getting close to you? Don’t let anxiety consume you and control your thoughts.

Remember, fear is essential, anxiety isn’t. Fear is useful, anxiety isn’t.

The Bible tells us in 1st Peter how we can trust in God in this situation, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

Helpful Links:

How not to Get Attacked by a Bear from National Geographic


Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.


Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

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