Dancing with fear

We are all afraid of something, which leads to the pointed question, what would we do if we weren't afraid?

  • write a novel
  • quit a job
  • get married
  • get divorced
  • or, like Thoreau, go off into the woods for two years and simplify, simplify, simplify

“Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I must face my fear. I must permit it to pass over me and through me,” wrote author Frank Hebert

Fear shapes who we are. We’re afraid to meet the world naked, so we create cocoons. We build personalities to protect ourselves and become imprisoned in a character we built too quickly.

We feel comfortable with the status quo — positive or negative — that we have adapted to, like a tailor-made strait jacket. We fear change in a universe where the only constant is change.

Sub-atomic particles pop into existence out of vacuum and annihilate each other. We are those particles – here for the blink of a cosmic eye. We are frozen energy.

One American astronaut stood on the moon looking at this pale, blue dot shining in the black ocean of infinity and realized that the only problems existed on Earth. We have to realize, as the astronaut did, that we create those problems. His was such a life-changing realization he never forgot.

We, on the other hand need to be reminded constantly that we create our own reality. When the alarm goes off at six, we hit the floor running and there isn’t much time for thinking and reflection. We’re too busy and by the time we clean up the kitchen at night and make lunches for the next day, we’re too tired to do anything except read the paper and veg in front of the TV.

It’s tiring just to think about it, but we have to find the mental and physical strength to get off that hamster wheel. Before we know it, a lifetime will have passed. Our life.

One way is to love our fate — or as Crosby, Stills and Nash sang, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re wish. If you can’t have the life you love….

Your fate carries the lessons you need with it. If we could get past the fear we would realize we are in partnership with life. Mythologist Joseph Campbell said we should see everything as an opportunity and a challenge instead of reacting with fear and the stress. 

We hang onto our life situations instead of allowing life to be; we fear losing as much as change. Our image is tied to our jobs, our sports, our families and we resist anything we haven’t scripted.

If we were smarter, we would appreciate our losses because they, not our victories, teach us the important lessons.

We know that, but, we resist those valuable lessons that make us stronger and help us grow. We all want to go to heaven but nobody wants to die. 

“Then, when looking back at your life, you will see that the moments which seemed to be great failures followed by wreckage were the incidents that shaped the life you have now, ” Campbell wrote.

"Nothing happens to you that is not positive even though it looks and feels like a negative. The dark night of the soul comes just before the revelation."

The same philosophy applies to the job as it does to the landscape of your life. Campbell was a scholar and university professor and a long way from the corridors of business, but IBM founder Tom Watson’s sentiments echoed Campbell’s: “To double your success rate, double your failure rate.”

Author and business consultant Will Schutz argued that there is only one fear, our inability to cope. Everything else, he suggests, is a manifestation of that one fear.

“As long as I see you as the cause of my fear, I spend my time trying to change, criticize, avoid or destroy you – all actions that are unproductive. Once I see that the fear is in me, I can work to improve my ability to cope or to become aware of other choices,”  Schutz claimed.

Even when we finally dredge up the courage to deal with our fear, there is no guarantee the next incident will be any less daunting. But it’s pretty much a guarantee we won’t accomplish what we want by ignoring the fear. Some actors throw up before every performance – but they go on stage.

Attending Toastmasters is a great idea, but that doesn’t mean we won’t have butterflies when we step up to the podium. We can, however, teach the butterflies to fly in formation.

When the Victoria Cross was being instituted in 1857, Queen Victoria said all soldier are brave, but this medal would be for valour.

Most of us are not Smokey Smith or Billy Bishop, but we must exhibit the same kind of valour in our day-to-day encounters that they exhibited in the face of extreme danger.

We do not diminish their acts by trying to emulate their deeds on a much less bloody, but no less important, battlefield. It is, after all, our lives we are striving to save.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Ross Freake, a former managing editor of The Daily Courier, has worked at 11 newspapers from St. John's to Kamloops. He is the author of three books and the editor and ghost writer of many others.

He can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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