Xenophobia – The Fear of Foreigners

Excessive Fear of Foreigners, a Common Phobia

Are you always unduly wary of the idea of foreigners from other countries coming to your place? Do you feel a deep-seated dislike towards migrants and the idea of migration in general? You find yourself having a bias for laws and policies that could be uncomfortable for foreign visitors and immigrants including legal ones?

Or maybe you justify your hostility towards people from other cultures by stereotyping them as terrorists or troublemakers who are disrupting your corner of the world. Is it so bad that you cannot help yourself? You panic at the sight of a foreigner or stranger and even experience anxiety and other psychological symptoms, causing your negative perception and attitude toward them.

This condition is called xenophobia and, in this case, the likely consequences affect not only the sufferer but the subject of the fear as well, ranging from unfriendliness to inflicting danger.

Unlike many other phobias where you can simply decide to deal or not to deal with the issue, being xenophobic is a much wider issue that has both social and political repercussions.

What this simply means is that you must overcome your fear of foreigners not just because it is unhealthy for you, but because it is unhealthy for the object of your antagonism as well, and by extension, unhealthy for your country as a whole.

As with every phobic condition, the first step towards healing is by understanding the nature and origin of this irrational and sometimes, hysterical reaction.

What is Xenophobia?

Xenophobia is the irrational and abnormal fear of strangers, foreigners, migrants, and anyone who is not an original member of a community or country. It is an illogical reaction to an exaggerated and usually made-up threat or danger. Most sufferers of xenophobia do not have a basis or explanation for their nervous hostility towards visitors, but that does not stop them from treating foreigners terribly, from cold shoulders to outright hate, and even physical violence or attacks.

Xenophobic sufferers must understand that their disdain is unwarranted and whatever offense they feel that foreigners, as a collective has done to warrant it is only a figment of their imagination. People should only be disliked for committing actual crimes and not simply for moving into a new country or belonging to a different race or culture.

A majority of xenophobics struggle to see it this way though. They find their hostility rational and even logical, when it is illogical and mostly just an emotional reaction to a perceived threat.

Xenophobia Facts

Unscrupulous politicians like to use xenophobia to their advantage. They fan the flames of your already heated emotions. They feed you with exaggerated stories of how foreigners are likely mostly terrorists, bad or greedy people who have come to steal your resources, jobs, and amenities, and leave you with nothing.

What they do not say is that most times, foreigners are the backbones of a country’s economy. They help increase resources, not steal from them. This is not to say that there are no foreigners who steal or do horrible things, but that is because they are horrible people and not because they are foreigners.

Symptoms of Xenophobia

However malicious, unnecessary, and illogical it might be, xenophobia is still a phobia and its sufferers are vulnerable to all the attendant symptoms and agonies of a phobic patient.

Physical Xenophobia symptoms include:

● Heart palpitations
● Hyperventilation
● Stress
● Dry mouth
● Difficulty breathing
● Restlessness
● Migraines and headaches
● Over-sensitivity

Psychological symptoms include:

● Post-traumatic stress disorder
● Depression
● Hallucination
● Apprehension
● Defensiveness
● Insomnia
● Temperamental tendencies
● Hostility
● Hysteria or paranoia

It is easy to think that xenophobes are mere haters with a wanton dislike for strangers. The truth is that a majority of them cannot help themselves, some even willingly admit that their fear is highly illogical and they do need help. The symptoms can affect one’s life and no one really wants to suffer from all of these if they can indeed help it. The good news is that they can.

Common Xenophobia Causes?

Your fear of strangers, foreigners, immigrants, and refugees could be a result of a negative experience with them in the past. Instead of addressing it as a standalone, you go on to generalize and pigeonhole all foreign people into a harmful category.

Over time, this shapes your view, values, and personal politics and you start to feel justified and normalize this behavior. This is especially easy to fall into.

Considering that a lot of other people are xenophobic, some political leaders included, and it is easy to conclude that your feelings towards foreigners are right because other people also share the same view.

Self Help Solutions to Xenophobia

Confront Your Phobia

You must first admit to yourself that your fears are unfounded and capable of causing harm to innocent people who just simply want a chance at a new life in your land. You must be ready to take responsibility for your hate and resolve to be a better person who treats people better, including non-indigenes.
Familiarize Yourself with Foreign Cultures

For you to be truly welcoming of strangers, you must learn to see them through human lenses. Read up about other worlds, values, and traditions outside of your own. Understand that the world is a much bigger, more diverse place, and strangers are a huge part of it. Learning about other people’s cultures also helps you understand them better and not view every strange thing they do as a threat or with disdain.

Show Support

Train yourself to accept foreigners by showing your support for them in your political, social, and communal events. Do not alienate them and you can even help donate to their particular causes or events. This is a psychological way of tricking your mind into thinking “See, I attend their events and mingle with them, they are not a threat to me”.

Do Yoga and Meditation

As with all phobias, xenophobia is a stress-inducing disorder and would require combative measures like yoga and meditation to keep anxiety in check.

Professional Help for Xenophobia

The following are some methods used in treating phobias with the help of a psychotherapist;

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This helps reprogram the mind to get rid of all those harmful thoughts about foreigners and replace them with more realistic views. Through CBT, you learn to replace these hostile thoughts with good ones to recondition your mind, as well as stop your symptoms.

Psychodynamic Therapy

You learn that your past negative experience is what has led to all of these stereotyping and your subsequent visceral reaction to foreigners. You are given the tools needed to separate the issues and understand that being a visitor or foreigner does not make a person bad or dangerous.

Other Tips and Ideas

Take a trip to a new country and stay for a while. There, it is you who will be considered a foreigner and you will be miserable or feel offended if someone made assumptions about you based on that alone. See? Anyone can be a foreigner; it is not a determinant of anything and certainly not a justification to be treated with hostility.

You made it through to the end of this article so obviously, you are not a psychopath or a horrible person, you are a flawed phobic sufferer who acknowledges that you need help and you do not want to hurt innocent people with your imagined assumptions of them. This is a good sign, and by following these tips and accepting the reality of your fear, you are well on your way to becoming xenophobia free.

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