How do we know when we have healthy fear versus unhealthy fear about the latest pandemic? Healthy fear stimulates our awareness and drives us to appropriate action. Unhealthy fear is not as effective because we are over stimulated. We are hypervigilant, stressed, and our body is tense, all of which makes us less capable of seeing reality clearly, and less able to respond appropriately. With unhealthy fear, we are responding from a place that was traumatized in the past. Let me explain. When something happens to us that is unpleasant, we resist feeling the emotions associated with this event. This resistance stops the body from processing the trauma so that it gets stuck in our bodies. What we resist persists. Later, when something comes along that resembles this past event, we react as though we are back in the old situation. We are triggered and reacting from anxieties or fears created by the past situation as opposed the present.

Here’s an example: Sue’s mother died from cancer when she was six. She was traumatized by this event. She knew that her mother was sick, but no one ever told Sue how sick she was or that she died—her mother just went away one day and never came back. As an adult Sue has anxiety about illness. When she feels any negative symptom, her mind immediately assumes the worst possible scenario--that she has cancer and is going to die. When her children get a runny nose, she panics and has anxiety until the child no longer has any symptoms. When the Ebola scare was announced, she took her children out of school and would not go to work even though there were no cases of the virus in her children’s school or at her workplace. This is unhealthy fear. Sue’s old trauma is impacting her sense of security and also her judgment. Sue is creating undo anxiety for herself and her children. Her actions could actually endanger her because she could lose her job for not going to work (she is a single parent).

Another example: Tommy is eight. One of his friends’ mother died and since then he is afraid his mother is going to die. He thinks about this all the time, he is anxious when she is out of his sight, and if she is late picking him up, he goes into a fairly extreme state of anxiety.

Fear is a natural response to danger. It alerts you to something in your environment that could hurt you. A healthy response to fear is to analyze the situation, determine what actions are necessary and do something to deal with the danger. For example, you know that there is some flu or virus going around, so you teach your children to wash their hands regularly and you do the same. You listen to the local news to determine if the virus has spread your area (though you only do this once or twice a day, not constantly), you avoid traveling to places where there is an outbreak, and you look into getting vaccinations.

An unhealthy fear starts the same way as a healthy fear—with your heart pounding, and a sensation of alertness, but the after effects are different. A message of danger may trigger a strong emotional response (such as anger). You may feel anxious and worried as though you are always looking over your shoulder—often this is a fairly constant state of mind. You perseverate about the issue and review frequently what you are doing and what you can do differently, having difficulty getting the issue out of your mind. You may be jumpy and on edge, and feel a sense of doom. You may be preoccupied with the issue, but also may feel paralyzed about what to do.

So what do I do if I have unhealthy fear? There are a number of things you can do from meditation to therapy, to anti-anxiety medications, but my favorite technique is to remove the past trauma from your system so that you can respond to fear effectively. Energy psychology (EFT, TFT, TAT, CLEAR, WHEE, EMDR) actually clears the issue and the resulting unhealthy response. Energy Psychology allows the body to reprocess the trauma that is causing the unhealthy reaction to fear so that we may be more present to the current reality. The body has and incredible ability to heal if we allow it. Sue and Tommy both were healed of their unhealthy fear with energy psychology. Energy psychology is useful in relieving depression, anxiety and phobias, and it helps free individuals from blocks that impact their ability to move forward in life.

What energy psychology is and how it works
The particular method that I use is called CLEAR®, which integrates a number of energy psychology methods. It uses bilateral stimulation, acupressure point therapy, somatic experiencing, clearing of blocking beliefs and muscle testing (or Kinesiology). I will explain each of these below except for muscle testing as that is not used in the exercise below which is a simplified version of CLEAR.

Bilateral stimulation involves tapping alternately on right and left sides of the body while thinking of the issue being worked on. The theory here is that the trauma is “frozen in time” and is energetically stuck on one side of the body or the other and alternatively tapping on the body while thinking of the issue frees it up.

There are fourteen acupressure points on the body that correspond to various emotions (see the table below). Light pressure is then applied to each point successively while putting one’s attention on the topic that is being addressed. (Some energy psychology methods tap on the points. I find light pressure is sufficient).

Somatic Experiencing, developed by Peter Levine, is used with both the acupressure point technique and bilateral stimulation. Levine surmised that because humans think, we avoid the processing necessary to heal trauma. We don’t want to experience the feelings and sensations that usually accompany difficult situations because they are unpleasant and they don’t feel good. We think, “I don’t want to feel that; I don’t like that feeling. It is unpleasant and I won’t be happy if I feel that. I want to get away from that feeling.” Our resistance to feeling is what gets trauma stuck because what we resist thinking about cannot be cleared and remains locked into our memories. Using somatic experiencing, we are present in the body and allow feelings and sensations to surface to our awareness so that the trauma can be reprocessed and thus be freed.

Blocking Beliefs are created when we experience trauma. We make decisions about ourselves and life when bad things happen to us as children. For example, if I experienced a parent who died when I was young (as Sue did), I may develop beliefs that the world is not safe; that I could lose someone I love at any time; that the people I love will be taken from me; that illness is deadly and dangerous, and illness is devastating (no wonder Sue worries about being sick). These beliefs, like the traumas, also get stuck in the system. Untreated, they will impact much of what occurs in life. For how can I have a healthy fear of illness if I think illness makes me unsafe? CLEAR frees these beliefs so one can deal more effectively with “pandemics.”

If you want to clear some of your own unhealthy fear about Ebola (or any other issue), you can follow the simplified process below. Yes, the process might feel and look a bit strange, but try it, it really works!

The Steps for using CLEAR®

1. Write down blocking beliefs you think may be impacting the issue. For example, the beliefs might be, “I am not safe in this world. I might get sick and lose my job. If I am around people, I won’t be safe/I’ll get sick. Others will get sick and leave me.” Clear those beliefs by rubbing the sore spots (see the table below) while saying, “Even though (say blocking beliefs here), I love and accept myself, and I am present in my body.”

2. Think about the situation (i.e., your fear of getting sick, or thoughts about others getting sick, or simply the fear you can’t get out of your head). Bring up any feelings you have and check-in regarding how your body feels (e.g., are you tense anywhere, do you have butterflies, feel nauseated, have pain anywhere?). Just allow the sensations in your body (this is somatic experiencing). Cross your arms over one another and while continuing to think about the feelings or situation alternately tap on your biceps with your hands—right, left, right left, continuing until you feel done. If crossing one arm over the other doesn’t feel comfortable or is too constricting, rest your left hand on your left leg and your right hand on your right leg and alternately tap on your thighs, tap right, tap left, tap right, tap left, until you feel done.

3. Go to the inner eye point (see “acupressure points” table below) and put your attention again on the issue. See what comes up, and put your attention on whatever thoughts, feelings or physical sensations arise. Stay with the thought, feeling, or sensation until you feel a shift. When you feel done with this point, go on to the next point.

4. Repeat step 3 for the under eye, outer eye, nose, chin, collar bone, rib, and underarm points.

5. If you still feel emotional or blocked about the issue after going through the points in step 4, do step 3 on each of the following: the thumb, index finger, middle finger, little finger, side of hand and gamut point as described in the table below.

6. As a final step, go back to the inner eye point, and do the “healed version” of the issue. Put your attention on what it feels like to be relaxed and calm while thinking of the original problem. It may help to envision interacting with others, and feeling calm while in the presence of something that in the past might have caused stress.

NOTE: While you are doing the points, if thoughts occur that sound like blocking beliefs, clear those after each point using the sore points and the statement in step one.

ACUPRESSURE POINTS: to see table go to:

Supplemental reading: The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker

Author's Bio: 

Julie Roberts, PhD, developed CLEAR. She teaches CLEAR and leadership courses. She sees private clients, and has written a book describing CLEAR (Change Works with CLEAR, Clearing Limits Energetically with Acupressure Release, 2nd Edition). Julie is certified by the Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology. Women for Women International uses CLEAR with participants to help them deal with the trauma of war.
To contact Dr. Roberts or purchase her book: