Many of us know the pattern well. We find ourselves repeating the same actions time and again — despite the fact that they lead to the feelings we are trying to avoid. Sometimes it even happens unconsciously — like a compulsion — and we don’t intend on causing ourselves pain, but somehow we do. We can even be intensely afraid of the outcome, and yet, almost as much as we try to avoid it, it happens.


Yet what we can be more afraid of is how this pattern makes us feel. When fear becomes the default emotion, the one thing that seems to override everything, it can be extremely distressing.


And yet what is, or is not, distressing to an individual can be just as varied as the plethora of self help tools to reduce fear. Simply put, what is upsetting to one person may not be to another.


However in trying to mitigate fears, there is one commonality. When a person seeks help for their fears, what they are inevitably looking for is a sense of normalcy — a way to know that what they feel is, in fact, normal.


The problem is of course, no person can give that information to another. Sure, a therapist can tell you that flashbacks after a car accident are a normal response to trauma, or that hyper-vigilance is normal after feeling threatened, but what they can’t tell you is if this will or will not bother you. That is an individual thing, and something only you will know.


Instead, the one question you should ask yourself about fear is:


Is it upsetting to me?


For example, if you find yourself checking over your shoulder when you are out in public, you may or may not know why you do it, but more importantly, you will know if it bothers you. Maybe it helps you feel safe to do this, and it doesn’t really impair your ability — you can still go out in public. On the other hand, maybe it does make it hard for you to go out in public, but perhaps this doesn’t bother you because you feel that keeping your distance is what you need to do. No one can tell you what is or isn’t a problem in your life. The definition of a problem for you is something that is distressing to you. What doesn’t matter is whether other people think it is normal or not.


And often what many call “problems” are not really problems at all. They may in fact be necessary adaptive patterns — stepping stones on the road to growth.


For more information about post-traumatic growth, leveraging adversity, turning fears into fuel, visit