I am tired of the campaign against fear, this notion that to be evolved I must operate without fear. I’ve tried and I’ve failed time and time again.
You cannot open a magazine, read any of the latest self-help books or peruse your Facebook timeline without seeing some sort of headline pertaining to living without fear.
“10 Ways to Live Without Fear!”
“Time to Kick Fear to the Curb!”
“No More Fear!”
And these are just those I saw today, alone!
Here is a headline of my own:
“Living Without Fear is Bullshit!!”
Let’s rehash a bit of biology…
Fear is a biological response which originates in reptilian brain-the primal brain. That smaller but no less massively impactful part of our brain that governs the most basic evolutionary functions is where fear resides. Its home base, if you will, is the brain which is automatic, in many ways.
It’s reactionary versus responsive.
Fear has been instrumental in our evolution; guiding us away from threatening situations before we could even walk completely upright. We will never rid ourselves of this biological response-ever. But here is the kicker-while fear is a sneaky little emotion it’s also simple-much, much too simple. In fact it’s our analysis of fear that tends to over complicate this painfully simple reaction.
You see fear has no means of differentiating a fatal threat from an emotional one.
The fear you feel when you nearly step off the curb and run headlong into a Mack truck and the fear you feel when you think you left your cell phone at home? Same emotion.
The fear you feel when you break up from someone you love and are single for the first time in years and the fear you feel when you walk into a dark room and hear shuffling in the corner? Same emotion.
The fear you feel when you change jobs for the first time in eight years and the fear that courses through your body when someone nearly side swipes you? Same. Emotion.
The difference is plain for us to see; one represents an emotional threat and the other a potentially more fatal threat. Yet our response to fear is the same. We close down, we run, we back away, we hide.
Fear cannot tell the difference between threats and as such it unleashes the same fury within ourselves whenever we operate outside of our norm. The predictable, the known is the playground of fear. When we behave in very predictable ways and follow a rigid routine we are operating in the parameters of fear. Because fear knows what to expect in those scenarios. Fear knows that it’s predominately safe in those limits.
I hid from many things out of fear. I hid what I did for a living because when you grow up in Northern Michigan playing with crystals and trusting your intuition is cause for the locals to keep their kids from you. I hid my freak flag because I have a husband in corporate America and live in the burbs. I wanted kids to come play with mine and so I donned the suburban housewife motif, replete with something sweet and yummy baking in the oven.
But that wasn’t me—I was not a housewife. I was a crystal meditating, intuition trusting, magic infused Goddess who preferred vibrant red hair or white platinum hair and crazy colored yoga pants to diamonds and other “normal” trappings.
I hid from my own success because the notion of being independent, responsible and capable of creating and being accountable for my prosperity was something which terrified me. I was the gypsy who could barely stay in the same apartment for more than a year before feeling the itch to get up and get moving. Who was I to think that I could be responsible for a thriving business, the abundance that stems from it and most importantly the clients who depended on me?!
When we veer outside those lines fear peaks its head up above its newspaper and says “hold the up, what’s this?!”
We mistake this all too incomplex response as a sign that we are in danger—that we should not proceed. And this is where the problem with fear truly takes root.
It’s not about living without fear. It’s been ingrained in our primal brains since we evolved from monkeys and it’s here to stay.
But it is about understanding that we do not need to live our lives from our primal, reptilian brains. We are actually capable of complex and beatific critical thinking! This is not about living without fear its learning to live with fear and to understand the response that keeps us from falling off the edge of a cliff is the same that keeps us from trying new things or venturing outside of our comfort zone.
Changing jobs is not likely to stop our hearts in its beat and put us six feet under but the fear we feel sometimes makes us think so.
Trusting someone again after having our hearts broken isn’t likely to kill us either but the fear that takes hold certainly will make us question it.
And how often do we allow this impulse to stop us? How many chances have we thrown away or only given a half ass attempt at because we were afraid? How many times have we not done something because it’s something we had never done before and our fear impulse kicked in?
We will never stop fear from rearing its head but we do need to stop operating from a fear based mindset. We need to begin to use the other facet of our unique mental faculties and think about the fear that resides within us. We need to be the adult that quietly puts our childlike fear back to bed and calmly explains that there is nothing to fear. Everything truly is ok even if it’s unknown.
We need to stop being controlled by fear!
So the next time that fear creeps in and winds its tendrils around your heart, your gut and makes you feel like running ask yourself what this fear is telling you. Is this a true threat? A mortal threat that will potentially hurt or kill you? Or is this fear raising its warning flag because you are in unknown territory and its freaking out?
It’s time that we stopped beating ourselves up for not being able to turn off this inherent response. Its time to end the hate against fear and begin to understand—rationally and without all the woo-woo self help jargon tossed around like hot cakes these days—what fear is about and how it helps as well as holds us back.
Send some love to your fear and throw out the notion that you will ever live without it. If you are not truly in danger than quietly but firmly put fear back to bed. Thank your fear for alerting you and being your ever faithful companion; keeping you alive and kicking but let it know that you’ve got this.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Laura Brown
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: SugarBear at Wikimedia Commons