The fear diaries

Record and evaluate your fears to conquer them

Woman with fear

There are many ways to handle fears and worries. Several self-help books have been written on the topic and provide some relief in less severe cases. For more severe fears and worries, you may want to approach a trained therapist. Most of us, though handle our fears ourselves or talk it out with a confidante. This article is about a strategy called ‘maintaining fear diaries’ to handle fears and worries.

The whole process of maintaining fear diaries includes three simple steps, which are described below along with their advantages.

Put your fears in black and white

Make a section in your personal diary, or better still, get a separate ‘fear diary’ that you can keep in a safe but easily accessible place. Whenever you are worried about something, write down your fear in plain and clear terms, on the top of the page. This statement should also include the consequences you fear and not just the thing or event you fear.

For example, instead of writing “I am scared of public speaking”, write “I am scared that people will laugh at me when I make a speech on the Annual Day”. It is in your best interest to be brutally honest and very specific. Now, leave at least two sides of the page for the next steps. Other fears can go on the subsequent pages in the same manner.

What is the whole point of writing down fears? According to Dr Reid Wilson, Ph D and a specialist in anxiety disorder treatment, worrying causes the same thought to repeat in our head. However, writing down worries changes our perspective on the issue. We may even begin to realise how repetitive and senseless some of our worries are.

Lynn Robinson, an intuition expert, coach, author and consultant believes that writing down worries leads to awareness of both our worries and the habit of worrying.

Chart an action plan

The next step is to write down an action plan to get rid of or deal with your fear. For the example given above, you may decide “Write down and practice my speech in front of three trusted and capable friends for at least a week before the function”. Now that you know what to do, what is left is doing it.

According to William Sanderson, PhD, worry can help you resolve problems, anticipate and prepare for future events. This happens only when you are ready with a plan to deal with the worries.

Lynn Robinson has a bit of advice about writing down solutions and action plans. She recommends writing down only four simple steps to resolve your worry. The simpler they are, the better it is, as it increases your likelihood of actually implementing them.

Evaluate the plan

Below each action plan, you will write the evaluation. This consists of two parts. Firstly, you need to evaluate the action plan.

Analyse and evaluate your way of dealing with your fear. Find out what worked for you and what did not. Evaluation of action plans tells a lot about the effectiveness of your coping mechanisms.

The second part is evaluating yourself. This can be done in retrospect and at ease. What do your fears say about you? Is there a common pattern emerging?

For example, if most of your fears are related to people and social events, does this tell you something about yourself? Do you need to get more help overall in that area? Do you need to change your attitude or even get some basic changes in your life? Of course, when we look back at our past fears we learn so much about our lives and ourselves. Studying all your fears together forms the second part of evaluation.

Davis, Eshelman and Mc Kay in their book Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook rightly advocate evaluation of worries, which becomes easy to do if you have all of them written down in one place.

They suggest that this habit will make it possible for us to see if our worries are realistic or if we are overestimating or ignoring certain crucial factors.

Once you have a fear diary, do remember to refer to it time and again and make an effort to learn from it. Real fears run deep and wide. You may choose to include every little fear or just deal with the more serious ones. A fear diary will make all the difference if maintained and used properly. And yes, it will also make for interesting reading few years down the line!

This was first published in the October 2009 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Dhanishta Shah
Dhanishta Shah is a Mumbai-based writer with a background in psychology and special education. She writes because she believes it gives 'sense to her experiences'.


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