Week Two - Parasitic Fears and Anxieties (Part 1)

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Week Two - Parasitic Fears and Anxieties (Part 1)

Post  Kunoichi on Tue Jul 05, 2011 7:41 pm

(Part 1) Parasitic Anxieties and Fears

Fears and Anxieties as Guardians

Your fears are like alarams that warn of threat and danger. When danger beckons, you automatically freeze or retreat. Your heartbeat quickens. Your blood pressure rises. Blood rushes to your inner organs. You take in more oxygen. This is your natural reaction to threat.
Natural Anxiety and fear reactions are a form of life insurance. In fear, your body is almost instantly energized. You startle at a sudden and abrupt changes, such as the unexpected appearance of a confusing shadow. You jump back from a snake before you know you are afraid.
Anxiety is natural. Apprehension in unfamiliar circumstances is understandable. Picking up a threat or danger before it comes into sight has a big survival benefit.

Parasitic Fear

“I am fear. I make your mind spin out of control. I wind your body tight as a drum. You try to hide from me. I will find you. Look over your shoulder. I am behind you. Look forward. My shadow crosses your path. Look into a mirror and you see me sneering back at you. I control your life. You can do nothing to stop me.”
This brash voice of fear has little to do with self preservation. It’s a parasitic fear that feeds off its host and offers nothing of benefit.

Parasitic Anxieties

Some anxieties are brief. If you have a mild but passing apprehension as you approach someone for a ate, it’s usually no big deal. Parasitic forms of anxiety are much bigger deals that that. They are intense, persistent, recurrent, and debilitating. Left unaddressed, the most intense forms of anxiety will probably get worse or can lead to distressing coexisting conditions. For example, anxiety commonly precedes depression and substance abuse.


If you count yourself among those suffering from parasitic fears, you are neither unique or alone. Twenty nine percent of the U.S. Population will at some time over their lifetimes suffer an intense and persistent fear or anxiety (Kessler et al. 2005).

If the population remained constant at 300 million, this would mean that 87 million people would experience a persistent and debilitating anxiety at some time during their lives. This makes parasitic anxieties and fears the most common form of human distress (Mineka and Zinbarg 2006).

Fear and Anxiety Related But Different

Fear is immediate, perceptual and reactive. Anxiety reflects a future threat. Although fear and anxiety have joint connections in the brain, they also track along different circuits. This distinction between fear and anxiety is important.

Although the ways to deal with parasitic anxieties and fears overlap, you typically do better taking behavioral action to deal with fear. Parasitic anxiety alarms are triggered by fearsome beliefs and imaginary dreads. You can deal with them through counteracting your parasitic thoughts and by knowledgeably engaging in fear-related behaviors. In dealing with both fears and anxieties, reducing or eliminating nonexistent threats also involves developing emotional tolerance.

Proximity And Time Dimensions

Natural Fear on a Proximity Dimension

Fear involves proximity.
At a comfortable distance, you may observe grizzly bears with a curiosity. You see the bear a mile away through a telescope and feel fascinated by what you see. There is no danger. You and the bear exist in the same time dimension, but not in close enough proximity to where the bear poses a threat.
On the other hand, if you see the animal directly in your path on its hind legs with bared fangs, you and the bear are in the same time and space together. The proximity is obvious danger to you.

Parasitic Fears on a Proximity Dimension

In a parasitic fear situation, the moment is now. You are in it. You’re not in danger for your life, but it feels that way. Most people feel frustrated about fears that they know come from parasitic threats that don’t make sense and that feel inhibiting.

Natural Anxiety on a Time Dimension

Anxiety exists on a time dimension. The dreaded event is in the future. When you feel anxious, the threat is not yet there. You still have time to avoid it or figure out how to cope if the threat is unavoidable.

Parasitic Anxieties on a Time Dimension

A parasitic anxiety exists on a time dimension in which you think about a disastrous event that COULD happen.
Dread can center on anticipation: Fearing fear, worrying about looking like a foold, appearing incompetent, or getting rejected; or confronting other parasitic threats. It’s not a question of whether these even will happen or not. They can happen. The main issue is the meaning you give to what often amounts to unprovable assumptions about improbable events.

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