There are plenty of synonyms.
Afraid. Scared. Frightened. Upset. Unsettled. Terror. Panic.
And so on.
Fear might be the first emotion experienced outside of the womb. To be born is to encounter a disruption of state. For a baby to move from a warm, fluid environment into the sudden shock of breathing air and seeing light, it’s easy to imagine how this transition would provoke a feeling of danger.
And danger is the reason any fear exists.
I would describe myself as a fearful person. Ever since I can remember, I was afraid of the dark, afraid of tornados, afraid of my house burning down. I was afraid of adults, especially teachers. I was afraid of bullies and coaches, who sometimes were the same person.
And now as an adult, it has been helpful, whenever I encounter fear, to go back and remember how I was taught to deal with it as a little boy. I still hear clearly:
“There’s nothing to be afraid of. Go back to bed.”
This is what I was told when I was scared at night. But this is language and message for one with adult reasoning, not a child.
Children don’t know there is nothing to be afraid of. If Santa Claus is real in their minds, so is the monster that hides in the closet. Simply telling a child to not be afraid is like expecting a baby not to cry if it is hungry.
Children need to be taught, not told, what to do with fear.
As one constantly dogged by fear, I’ve had to return through guided work to young places in my memory and remember what that fear felt like. I’ve discovered it feels alot like it does as a grown man today.
The fearful-adult-in-me grew from the fearful-child-in-me.
And I can’t redo my childhood, but I can be aware of how it has shaped and influenced my fearful emotions today. To heal and become a courageous adult is to remember that I am still living as a fearful child.