Fear based childhood and the adult nervous system

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HSpears's picture
Fear based childhood and the adult nervous system

I have Persistent Pain issues, so what this means is that my nervous system is negatively primed to experience things in a hypersensitive way. It is like my fear-o-meter is on high alert all the time. I have been on a journey for the past 2 years learning to reset this meter. I have done a lot of work in the physical body, but my emotional self is a whole other story.

I grew up in a Dutch Christian Reformed church, this is based in Calvinism (good works get you closer to God) I would say it was a typical Christian upbringing. Church twice on sundays, private christian school. Regular input that atheists and non believers are going to burn in hell. I would say it was definitely a fear based raising, but not in the way that I was afraid for my safety. I was "Safe" physically, but afraid all the time. I was afraid of not being good enough, for my parents or for God. My self esteem was non existent.

I slowly left the church and faith. It took me many many years to retrain my thinking, and Im still working on it.

So what advice do you all have for me in not being afraid. I have deep sense of fear about what could come next and if I am capable of dealing with it. I don't trust my body (lots of illness, persistent pain), this makes me afraid of being able to support myself. I have a lot of fears about money and security. Since losing the whole "just trust in god and it will work out" ethos, how do I replace this thought train?

I also realize that I have mild anxiety issues, but this is part of that picture. Part of having anxiety is recognizing triggers and dealing with them.

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LogicFTW's picture


I am no expert on the psychology of the mind, (is anyone really?) And can only speak for myself.

Good news is I am an atheist and have thought a fair amount on what "no god/religion" really means. A few things I have learned for myself that helps me reduce my anxiety if I have it.

1. Take big deep breaths. Realize how nice it is to take a breath of air, of how everything is still basically working in concert in our enormously complex bodies that allows us to be alive. Sure something may be hurting or off, but you can still breath, you can still move your arm when you want to. Basically take stock that what you have right now is still working. You are alive, you have all your limbs and fingers, you can stand up if you want to, you can sit down, you can leave a room or enter it. Not everyone has those abilities.

2. Related to 1., be in the present, if you are getting anxious realize you are probably worried about the future or dwelling on the past. If you put yourself in the "now" the present you can stop thinking about the past you cannot change or worrying about a future you are not in yet. Then realize you have often quite a lot of influence on the future. Worried one day you won't have enough money for rent? Do something about it now! Instead of wasting energy worrying about something that may happen in the future, do something now to minimize that outcome in the future!

3. Worried about other peoples approval? Especially your parents? You are not alone just about everyone has that. Realize that while you are sitting their worried about what other people think of you, they are most likely doing the exact same thing themselves, perhaps in a slightly different way, but trust that your own worries and fears are likely everyone else's worries and fears as well. Everyone has gotten pretty good at hiding their fears and masking them, so other people may seem fine to you with casual observation, but know they very likely face similar turmoils as you do, don't worry about everyone else's approval, worry about your own approval of yourself, the one you actually have real control over, and if you have confidence in yourself, it is likely most other reasonable people will mostly approve of you by default and they still likely want your approval if they can reasonably get it.



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Rohan M.'s picture
@LogicFTW "Take a deep breath

@LogicFTW "Take a deep breath" Took the words right out of my mouth.

Diotrephes's picture


"So what advice do you all have for me in not being afraid. I have deep sense of fear about what could come next and if I am capable of dealing with it."

You've made it this far even if you didn't have a clue as to what you were doing. Chances are you will continue to make it as least as well as you have been doing. Just keep on keeping on and try not to repeat any of the mistakes you are aware of. A lot of your outlook depends on whether you are a man or a woman and how old you are and of course where you live.

Rickdiculous's picture
You might want to check me

You might want to check me out:


Here's something from the show that is just absolute GOLD [edited]:
"Nothing you think matters, matters. This isn't special. When you know nothing matters, the universe is yours. And I've never met a universe that was into it. The universe is basically an animal, it grazes on the ordinary. It creates infinite idiots, just to eat them. You know smart people get a chance to climb on top and take reality for a ride but it'll never stop trying to throw you. And eventually it will, there's no other way off."

Cognostic's picture
ABC's of Rational Thought -

ABC's of Rational Thought - https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/albert-ellis-abc-model-rebt-cbt/

"(lots of illness, persistent pain), this makes me afraid" NO!

If there was an actual causal link between "illness, persistant pain, and fear, then anyone who had illness and persistent pain would be afraid. According to your logic, I should be quaking in my boots right now. I just got over the flu. I spent three days in bed and my lower back is killing me. I took some Tylenol and it is not helping. I am in pain and my classes are going to start in a couple of hours. I hope I feel better. FEAR - never entered my mind. Life goes on pretty much the way it always goes on. If I don't tell the kids I am in pain, I doubt any will notice. I am sitting at my desk, enjoying a cup of coffee between winces and thinking about how great my vacation will be in just two more weeks. There is no connection between illness, pain and fear.

So.... why are you really afraid? Fear is a choice you have made. It is how you have learned to cope with the world around you. You use it because there was a time when it worked. Now; however, you want more from life. More from your existence and the fear you have is just getting in the way. Now, what was once a useful coping mechanism, is a adherence. Illness and pain do not magically create fear. You are lying to yourself. (I am not saying you do not feel fear. I am asserting that the fear is completely unnecessary. It is just one way you have learned to cope with things around you.)

Fear keeps you safe. It keeps you from being a failure at new things. It can prevent people from making fun of you, Fear is a wonderful shield against the world around you. At the same time, staying safe in your shell of protection has a cost.

When you think about it. Isn't this what you have learned from religion. We are safe together. We are the good christians. The outside world is influenced by evil. Together we are strong.. Fear the outside world of the sinners and stay together under the protection of the lord. How is what you are doing now, different than what you have been taught to do your whole life? (Just a thought.)

NEXT: Since losing the whole "just trust in god and it will work out" ethos, how do I replace this thought train?

There is some reality to this. When you give up God, you give up the support system you once had. Friends abandon you. People that you once thought would be your friends forever, now want nothing to do with you. You are evil. You have been swayed by Satan. The loss of a support system is very real.

This is the reason most atheist will tell you to think very carefully about coming out as an atheist. Especially if you are relying on religious parents to get through school or have married into a religious family. Coming out is serious and has very real consequences. As a new atheist, you will not have established lifelong friendships outside of the Church or religion. Those friendships are there. They are waiting for you, But they are more difficult to find than simply showing up at a building on Sunday morning and professing love of a magical flying sky magician. Instant acceptance, popularity, and friendship do not happen in the real world.

Try and find some atheist groups in your area. Post where you are and ask for assistance. Others can help you find groups.

Finally, on a closing note, awfulizing the future is delusional. You have no idea at all what will happen in the future. There will be failures and successes. That's life. You will get through all of them one way or another. If you are wise, you learn from your mistakes and move on. Fear of something that has not happened is a very silly way to go through life. Yesterday has past. Tomorrow is unknown. But today is a gift, that is why it is called the present.

Now I will go back to sipping on my coffee. I think I will take another Tylenol, and I have to prep a few lessons for my next class. Who knew we would be chatting this morning. Already my day is off to a good start!

arakish's picture
@ HSpears

@ HSpears

From one who suffers chronic severe nerve and joint pain, have you tried Gabapentin, Naprosene, and/or Cymbalta? I know Cymbalta is normally an anti-depressant, but it also help with nerve pain. My main problem is the joint pain now. Even with the high dosage of Naprosene (Aleve), I still suffer joint pain. I have already been told I may need both knees replaced, right hip, and possibly left hip.

As for psychological pain, the best avenue is to seek professional help. Specifically therapy. Even I have a therapy session once a month (more often if I need it).

I can completely sympathize with the fear religion puts, or attempts to, put into people especially children. That is the pogrom of religion. Get children while they are between the ages of 4 to 14, when they are especially at their most vulnerable and most susceptible to cultural, traditional, and abhorrent dogmatic conditioning. Religion knows this; thus, the reason they come at children with a smiley-face and ingratiating manner, yet utilize mental rape, emotional molestation, and psychological terrorism to instill that fear into children hoping to brainwash them. In my most honest opinion, this is child abuse in any moral landscape. Basically, beginning at childhood, you are trained to react to ideas, and to reject them no matter what they are told, presented, and/or taught. Children are militantly trained to preserve the FAITH of religion regardless. They are taught to never question their beliefs which is the worst form of dishonesty. They are trained that their faith is NEVER wrong. They are conditioned to never question why they need to defend their belief at all. And the masters do this with apologetics, beguiling dialectical semantics, perverted and distorted data, emotional whiny-ass pleas, and sometimes divinely-inspired violence.

Gee. Did I get off-topic with another rant? Well before it goes on endlessly, let me end here.


Cognostic's picture
HSPEARSL "how do I replace

HSPEARSL "how do I replace this thought train?"

YOU DON'T You don't replace anything. It is a part of who you are as a person. You accept it and move on. The question is not how to get rid of anything. You are like a smoker who keeps thinking, "I have to quit thinking about cigarettes." Every time you have the thought. you are reinforcing the thought because you are once again thinking about cigarettes. If I tell you not to think about Pink Elephants, what is the first thought that comes into your mind?

You are looking backwards and trying to move forward. This is only going to end in failure. (TURN AROUND)

Imagine you are climbing up a ladder. You have just arrived on the rung you are on. This rung is the one that says "illness and pain make me afraid." How long do you want to stand on that rung and look at your feet?

My suggestion is that you turn around, face forward, decide where that next rung is, and reach out for it. Your focus should be on what you are going to do next. You can not rid yourself of your foundation or you will fall off the ladder. You can recognize your current foundation. You can see that it is not comfortable. You can decide you want something better. You can find one thing, one small way to make it better, and then reach out for that. When you get your hand on it and feel comfortable, and not before, you pull yourself up to a new rung on the ladder.

"You know, there was a time in my life when I let pain and illness create fear in me..... but now.............. (And when you are there you write a new story.)

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