What do we do if we are afraid of people? When we’re bullied, it means people repeatedly mistreat us, and we can become scared of them because they hurt us and we know they might try to do it again. We may become afraid to go to school or to work because we don’t want to face them.
How can we stop people from scaring us?
The answer is by using our brains. We need to understand what fear is and how it works in order to conquer fear and intimidation.
Fear is a primitive emotion that is programmed in all animals. When we are threatened or attacked, we need to protect ourselves from being killed, so we feel fear. It lets us know that we’re in danger so we’ll either try to escape, or find a way to defeat the attacker before the attacker defeats us. In nature it pays to be afraid because other creatures can destroy us without getting arrested.
But now we live in civilization. We live under the protection of laws. Everyone knows this. We aren’t allowed to injure or kill each other, no matter how angry we become. So, we don’t need to be as afraid of people as we were when we lived in nature. Instead of helping us survive, today our fear can sometimes work against us and make us look timid.
Let me explain. Even though we don’t live in nature and live in civilized society, our brains still respond with fear when people threaten us. If we become afraid, we allow that person to have power over us. We put them up here [hold one hand high up] and we put ourselves down here [hold the other hand down low]. Being up here feels good, so our enemies are likely to continue doing what keeps us afraid of them. People don’t have to beat us up to defeat us. All they need to do is scare us.
Ask yourself: Do we fear friends or enemies? Enemies, of course. We don’t need to fear friends because they aren’t trying to hurt us. So, if I am afraid of you, I am treating you like you’re my enemy. You will sense it, and treat me like an enemy as well.
Since I don’t want you to be my enemy, and I don’t want to give you power over me or my thoughts, I will not be afraid of you.
Once I stop being afraid of you, the things you used to do to scare me will not give you that power over me anymore, so you are less likely to do them again.
So, if I follow the Golden Rule and consistently treat you like a friend, I won’t have to be so afraid of you because you won’t want to hurt me.
We are most likely to be afraid when we don’t know how to handle our problems.
You should also keep in mind that if your someone does intentionally injure you, you should call the police. At that point, the police have power over your attacker.
Sometimes we’re not afraid of people physically; we’re afraid of their emotional response toward us. We may be afraid that if we tell them we don’t like how they’re treating us, they’ll get mad at us. So, we keep our thoughts bottled up inside and those people keep mistreating us. If I’m truly your friend, I have to tell you what you’re doing wrong to me. But I will tell you nicely, without anger, so that my observation will be easier for you to accept. So please, don’t be afraid to tell people what they’re doing wrong.
Sometimes we should be afraid of people. But how do we know when we should be afraid of someone? The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. If the people threatening you have injured you before, it’s reasonable to think they might injure you again. If they’re violent gang members who go around beating people up for the heck of it, of course they might beat you up, too. But if the people threatening you haven’t injured anyone, you may not need to be afraid of them. They’re very likely trying to scare you.
However, there is another type of person you should be aware of: someone who always keeps to themselves, may not have friends, and seems to be miserable or angry. Someone like this could potentially be dangerous to themselves or others. Chances are they won’t be, but you never know. In any case, they may be suffering inside and could use help. Don’t ostracize them, let them know that you see them. If you aren’t comfortable approaching them, point them out to a teacher, boss or someone else you trust. This trusted person should approach them to see if there is something bothering them and to ask if they could use some help. Showing people that we are concerned about them can be the first step to helping them find a more positive outlook on life and preventing them from doing something they might regret.