Understanding the Fear Cycle

I am fortunate to have a great set of friends online and they are part of my personal support network. Part of building relationships is sharing the tough times as well as the successes. This is true whether you are a Fortune 500 CEO explaining recent layoffs or a small shop owner sharing news about a great new employee. For that reason, I’m sharing my recent experiences and some of the tools I’ve used along the way.

I recently made a huge career choice. Before making the decision, it took some time for me to separate what was fear from what was instinct. One of the tools that I used to help me clarify things was Rhonda Britten’s book “Fearless Living.”

The Wheel of Fear

In Fearless Living, Britten describes how we all have a Wheel of Fear. The Wheel of Fear is our fear cycle, the pattern that we follow whenever fear is triggered. These are the elements of the Wheel of Fear:

Wheel of Fear

    1. Trigger– Fear is triggered by an event, a recollection, or by the environment. My recent trigger was finding out that my position was being terminated due to a reduction in forces.Other triggers might be receiving any kind of news (finding an unaccounted for lump, hearing an ex is getting married, finding out that your child is getting bad grades), remembering something unpleasant, or having a negative thought about the future.
    2. Fear Response – When I also heard that I had the option to move to Denver for a different position with the same company, my initial response was to jump at the opportunity. It would mean packing up and moving, being a thousand miles from most of my family, and probably leaving behind my dog Ivory (@niceblog). My fear response was to accept the new job right away.

Other fear responses could be to panic, start blaming or ridiculing, compulsively buying something, drinking too much, cheating or many others.

    1. Negative Feeling– After a few days of scrambling around to piece together a move plan, I realized that I would have to abandon a lot of people and things. During those days my bright smile turned into sadness, despair, and pain. I felt as if I was about to abandon myself. I felt powerless.Other negative feelings could include feeling foolish, helpless, unlovable, feeling like a failure and more. (Britten, p.50)
    2. Self-Destructive Behavior – My self-destructive behaviors were to shut down then to scramble and start looking for immediate opportunities, any position. I was overwhelmed.

Other self-destructive behaviors could be drinking, being promiscuous, eating unhealthy, whining, procrastinating, comparing yourself to others, and many more. (p54)

Hacking the Fear Cycle

The main driver of the Wheel of Fear is one’s perception of the triggering event.

When I heard I was being laid off, I felt stupid, rejected, and incompetent. I didn’t think these things consciously, but I reacted based on those feelings. In order to avoid those feelings, I felt I needed to continue working, no matter what.

Fearless Living helped me understand that these underlying feelings are extremely powerful and they cascade throughout our lives. Our fear is triggered and we jump on the Wheel of Fear. Once we’re on the Wheel of Fear, we experience the symptoms of fear which may be feeling exhausted, self-righteous, misunderstood, paranoid, paralyzed, or out of control or more. (p. 58-60)

Seeing these behaviors and patterns as symptoms instead of seeing them as the cause is a very powerful concept. Before, I thought “If I can just get control of my life, I can make things work.” But what I didn’t see was that the core feelings were driving things, not the symptoms. I was procrastinating, missing phone calls, and blowing off opportunities that were right in front of me.

What I needed was to identify my core negative feelings, how they are triggered, and to find an alternative way of perceiving the situation. In order to do that, I had to have a sense of who I was, my essential nature. I’ll discuss that process in a future post.

Do you recognize your reactions and behaviors in any of these examples? Does the concept of the Wheel of Fear resonate with you?

There have been over 200 comments on JesseLuna.com and I’m honored that you find this a useful (and even fun) place to have meaningful discussions. I appreciate your comments.
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5 Responses to Understanding the Fear Cycle

  1. Hendog says:

    That may have changed my life. I can reginate with on so many levels but on completely different grounds. Makes so much sense its a joke. love your work

  2. Shalanda says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story and the information regarding fear. Someone told me a week or so ago that I lived in fear and to research fear because I was destroying myself. This is my firt attempt in researching fear but not for the purposes of self discovery or help. I’m researching fear because I teach a youth group in anger management and the topic of discussion for this week is fear. But after reading your story, its clear that God is in control. I came for one reason but now, I realize God sent me here for me. Because of fear, I’ve made some terrible decisions thaqt affect me today but could have a tremendous impact on my future. I recognize the pattern of fear in my own life. First, there is the trigger. For me, the trigger has been seeing someone from the past who is doing or appears to be doing much better than I in life. They seem to be further along in life than I am. They have the house, kids, wife or husband, nice cars, nice clothes, etc. I do not. I opted for a different lifestyle in an effort to pursue my dreams in life. When I see them or hear stories about them, I begin to panic and put together a plan to get my life back on my own.

    • Jesse says:

      Sorry I didn’t see this comment earlier, Shalanda.

      I can certainly empathize with your situation. Several of my college classmates have done some amazing things in business and technology on a global scale. But I wonder if they could be as happy as I am with my wonderful wife and caring family and friends. I can’t control what they do or have but I can control what I do and work to be more thoughtful when I react to seeing people that appear to have more of whatever.

      In this post I mention that the reaction to the triggering event is important. Does hearing that someone is doing well make you feel stupid, worthless, or rejected as I initially felt after having my job downsized? That’s the part that I had to work on and now I see things differently.

  3. Shalanda says:

    I then begin to put into action the plan that I’ve developed only to see the reaction of others which makes me think negatively about myself and the plan I’ve put together. I start to feel hopeless and that there is no way out. Now that I have a better understanding of fear, I realize that its a sin for me to think this way. At this point, the reason I feel hopeless is because its my plan and God is not in it. If I allow God into the plan or seek Him first before consulting with myself, He would not allow me to succumb to a sense of hopeless or despair. Although I didn’t go into a lot of detail regarding my specific triggers of fear, I definately know that its my perception of events that have caused me to react the way I do. Going forward, I know that whenever something unpleasant or unfortunate happens to me, to seek God first and allow Him to lead me. Again, I just want to thank you so much for sharing. God Bless.

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