“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Fear Is Not Real

Marilyn Folk BScN medical reviewer
Written by: Jim Folk.
Medically reviewed by: Marilyn Folk, BScN.
Last updated: April 3, 2019

An analogy from the movie, "After Earth."

I was watching the movie “After Earth” starring Will Smith, when I came across a short segment that resonated with our view of anxiety and fear.

Watch a version of that segment about Fear Is Not Real.

As the segment states, fear is not real…meaning that it’s not physically tangible or made of anything material. Fear is a thought process that triggers the fight or flight response. So, fear itself is imagined only (but does cause real physiological, psychological, and emotional consequences due to the triggered stress response and how stress responses affect the body and mind).

Anxiety occurs for a similar reason: anxiety only occurs when we believe we might be in danger and that the danger could harm us. Like fear, anxiety is only created when we THINK (imagine) we could be in harm’s way.

Consequently, fear and anxiety are caused by how we THINK. In this sense, fear and anxiety are not real but only imagined.

This means we can overcome fear and anxiety by learning to think differently, as did the character Will Smith played in the movie.

By changing our behaviors - how we think and act - we can overcome issues with anxiety for good. This is why anyone can overcome issues with anxiety by doing the right work. When we make healthy behavioral change, we eliminate issues with anxiety.

This is also the reason medication will never solve anxiety disorder. Sure, medication can dampen down symptoms and nervous system reactivity for some people. But medication doesn’t make behavioral change. Making healthy behavioral change requires willful action…which we CAN do...and anyone can do.

I (Jim Folk) overcame my long battle with anxiety disorder because I changed behavior. As the character in the movie stated, I learned to change the stories I was telling myself.

For example, our life experience is based on what we say to ourselves about the people, experiences, and things we encounter as we live. It’s the stories we tell ourselves about our life experience that become our reality. If we are going to tell ourselves frightening stories about all of the dangerous ‘what ifs’ in life, our life experience will be one of danger, fear, and anxiety.

Anxious personalities often tell themselves dangerous stories about life because somewhere in their past they learned that overall life is dangerous and worth worrying about. It’s these worrisome stories that create anxiety. The more threatening our stories are, and the more often we tell ourselves dangerous stories, the more anxious we are.

To overcome problematic anxiety, we need to tell ourselves less threatening stories about the people, experiences, and things we encounter.

Moreover, as the character in the movie noted, fear and anxiety are all about worrying about a future danger that COULD happen and is never about what is actually happening.

Again, to overcome problematic anxiety, we need to focus more on the present and tell ourselves less threatening stories.

I overcame my struggle with problematic anxiety because I made the appropriate behavioral changes. And again, anyone can do this with the right information, help, support, and effort.

Yes, making behavioral change is easier said than done. There are many reasons why we tell ourselves worrisome stories. But once these reasons are identified and successfully addressed, anyone can change their life experience by making healthy behavioral change.

If you are struggling with anxiety issues, I encourage you to get the right information and help so that you, too, can overcome your anxiety issues for good.

When you address the root of the problem, the problem AND its symptoms disappear. That is the way to lasting success over anxiety disorder.

Again, anyone can do this with the right information, help, support, and effort.

The movie “After Earth” is an interesting tale about overcoming fear on a future earth.

The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.

Additional Resources:

Return to our anxiety tips page.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including information about fear is not real.