Monday, March 9, 2015

Fear is a choice


"Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may never ever exist. That is near insanity Kitai. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice."-After Earth

During one family vacation before I gave up zoos I attend an exhibit at Disney World in which you were able to swim with baby tiger sharks. You would wear goggles and swim from one side of "lagoon" to the other with your face in the water and you could see the baby tiger sharks swimming at the bottom. I am not a strong swimmer in general, but the lagoon was not the big and I figured with the life jacket I had on I could make it. I started swimming and halfway across I looked in the water, saw the strips on the back of the sharks and FREAKED out! I became so scared, my heart started racing and I had shortness of breath. The only thing that keep me from crying was pride because there were kids younger than me in the water who were not scared. I decided to try to catch my breath and hall ass across the lagoon. When I got out of the water I realized that I was being a little irrational and I had let my fear get the best of me. This was pre-Blackfish so I figured that Disney World would not have an exhibit with animals that would hurt people. Also no one else was scared and these sharks were all the way at the bottom of the "lagoon" (looking back I wonder it there was a glass at the bottom that separated the sharks from us). I had let my fear stop me from enjoying a new experience and if I gave into this fear I would probably continue to let fear do so. I tried it again and made it across!

Fear is a very tricky and unproductive emotion. If you look up the word fear most of the definitions have to deal with the idea of  the anticipation of something. If I fear being eaten by a baby tiger shark it means that at the present moment I am safe. Don't get me wrong not all fear is bad. Some fear is actually good. In Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear: and other survival signals that protect us from violence, Becker talks about fear in terms of of an instinct or "gut feeling" that alerts us to danger. He talks about the signals that women (men have these signals too but he focuses on violence against women in this book) often receive that they ignore, but that if paid attention to could have taken them out of a situation that would have resulted in violence. For example, those "red flags" that a boyfriend has violent tendencies tends to get brushed off because "he would NEVER hit me". But even Becker makes the point that if you have the fear signal it is because that dangerous situation has not happened yet and you have time to do something about it. 

What I have found out most about my fears is that (1) mostly likely what I fear does not happen ( I did not get eaten), (2) if it does happen it is not as bad as I thought it would be and I am able to handle the situation better than I thought and (3) fear prevents me from making positive rational choices. 

So when the author of the book The Cinderella Complex that I wrote about my last post "Getting over my Cinderella Complex" said that women need to "recognize the degree to which fear rules your life because real emancipation will come when you begin the process of working through the anxieties that prevent you from feeling competent and whole" I sat back and asked myself "What do I fear?","how has that fear prevented me from reaching the independence that I seek?" and "how have I allowed fear to lead me react to a situation instead of acting in a manner that is authentic to me?"

This exploration will be a continual process, but one thing that has already came up is that I have a fear of losing control and because of that fear I tend to hold onto to things too tightly. I have held onto people that should I have let go, I have held onto beliefs that no longer served me, and I have held onto situations that did nothing to move me toward the life that I want. 

You can not live in fear and live an authentic life. Authenticity depends on your ability to live outside what is safe and safety rests in the path of least resistance.

Remember fear is a choice so what you do choose to feel today?

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