How many times have you been afraid to do something? How many times have you ran a situation through your mind, incessantly theorizing possible outcomes? How many times has the fear of rejection, challenge and failure stood in the way of your success? What if I told you fear wasn’t really fear? What if I told you everything you thought you knew about fear was wrong? What if I said fear was one of the best things that could happen in your life?
Most people wouldn’t believe me, but nevertheless, many people deal with fear regularly. Yet, fear does not need be feared. In fact, fear is probably the most misunderstood emotion of the human experience.
For me, fear manifests in times of self-doubt and low confidence. These times usually come up in unfamiliar situations. The same process always unfolds: challenge, doubt, fear of failure. This chain of events eventually leads to an outcome. Either I prevail or I don’t. After the fear subsides I am left with satisfaction or guilt. This is my fear process.
What I have learned from my process is that I am not afraid of the thing I fear, but of my reaction to it, the guilt of failure. I am not afraid of rejection, I am afraid of how I will choose to react to it (I use the word ‘choose’, because there is always a choice). This concept is so important in understanding fear. It has shown me that the fear I am afraid is part of me. It is just as much a part of me as any other feeling I have.
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment —Marcus Aurelius
Fear is almost always thought of as exterior. The concept of fear as external creates a situation that is literally out of your hands. Therefore, it is not the internal fear of dying that repels you from the bear, but the bear itself. When the bear assumes the object of fear, it strips away your power to control fear. This creates a relationship of helplessness, a state of victimhood. In order to control fear, one must realize that it originates from the self.
Why would someone want to control fear? The obvious answer is to stop it. No one wants to live in fear. The less obvious answer is to learn from it. Fear exists not because it is a random feeling, but because it is trying to tell you something. Fear is the extremely loud person yelling out, “LOOK! An elephant in the middle of the room!” Often times when no one wants to understand the truth, fear is the only thing upholding it.
For me, fear is constantly telling me to stop worrying about what others think. I can choose to live a life where I try to please everyone, but it will be a life of constant fear and disappointment. Instead, my feelings of fear have shown me that acting in accordance to my true self yields much more enjoyable results.
Fear is a tool that aids in the evolution of the self. When it is understood that fear is internal, we can follow the logic that the solution lies within. This answer is the lesson fear is trying to teach us. In this way, fear is the greatest teacher we have. Its powerfully aversive and consistent. Used to aid in our evolution, fear guides us away from darkness and into light. It is our guru and acts out of love.
I was reading this book the other night and the protagonist was dealing with her own issues of fear. By the end of the book she had resolved her issues through a simple realization: fear is not fear, fear is love disguised. Love comes in many forms, but is most often misunderstood in its position as fear. Once revealed, one can see it’s only sheep in wolves’ clothes and there is nothing left to be afraid of.