face everything and rise
We often think of fear as something personal, shameful, some intimate dark place within ourselves that is best avoided. In reality, we all have fears (and we try our best to avoid showing them to anyone). Some of our fears are so deep-rooted that have been used to sway people into thinking a certain way. If we look at history for example, the fear of the other has been, and still is, radically important for political campaigns the world over. Be it religion, country of origin or any other feature, we as humans have been extremely skilful in creating divisions through fear.
Further, there is a difference between fear and phobia. Take me for comparison. I am mildly scared of snakes. I get a weird feeling every time I may encounter one, but that hasn’t stopped me from being around them or even touching them at some point in my life (to my surprise, I love the feeling of their scales under my fingers). On the contrary, an ophidiophobe would go the extra mile to avoid any situation in which the slithering animal would be present. Essentially, phobias are a very extreme case of fear, and as such should be treated differently from ‘regular’ fears.
But just what is fear then? We see that it permeates our life almost ominously, and yet grasping it is quite ineffable. In a way, fear is a kind of very intense and doom-filled storytelling. It is a mental narration with a specific outcome we use to interpret reality, one that affects our behaviour and emotional state alike. Interestingly, like thoughts, there isn’t a mental circuit for fear, but there is one for our defence mechanisms in general. This reveals the true nature of our subject matter. Fear is a defence, but like many defences our evolution has helped us build throughout time, it only partially helps us today. Of course, being able to prepare for an unfortunate event can be helpful, but there is no way we can prepare for all the imaginable misfortunes. Which is why we have to learn to manage and to be proactive about our fears.
The first step is acknowledgement. In order to overcome our anxieties, we must face them, we must stand up to them and name them, make them real just for a moment. If we fail to do so, we are just succumbing to them. I know this may take a bit of time and work, but it is possible and it’s only you who can do it, no one else will do it for you. You can never overcome fear by hoping, but only by taking real actions. Once you have learned and expressed what you are scared of, take responsibility over it. Don’t blame anyone else for your fear, instead, empower yourself through it.
I will leave you with one thought experiment, given by Susanne Jeffers, which turns fears upside down. Deducing that all fears come from feeling unable to handle a given situation, or even better the consequences of that situation, we are invited to think: ‘what do I have to fear if I can handle anything?’. This links us to the point made above, because if we empower ourselves with learning, with change and most importantly with trust, we can overcome our anxieties as well as helping others to achieve the same results.