Journey To Wellbeing: Fear And It’s Functions.
Taking Back Your Autonomy.
Stop! Cower! Retreat. How often do you hear these terms? How loudly does your inner monologue echo this particular mantra? If, say… not at all? How often are you compelled by similar sentiments cleverly masked as ‘common sense’? Cowardice veiled as caution?
If, by some miracle, you can honestly claim ‘not at all’ then this particular piece of prose isn’t for you. In fact you’re likely a Demigod of some sort, skating through life comfortably layered in either bold bravado, or blissful ignorance.
But, on the off chance you are a mere mortal like the rest of us, I’d like to discuss with you, the concept of fear: how it cripples us; how I’ve come to understand it; and, how I’ve learned to tackle it too.
Now, what is fear? How would most people describe it? An alert to danger? A figment of our all-too-fiery imaginations? A permanent fixture in our ‘anxiety ridden’ lives? Who knows! What we happen to know best, is it’s effect. Although, to truly come to terms & contend with it, we must be mindful of it’s triggers.
From theft, to murder; ‘heinous crime’ to ‘heinous crime’, fear, is the cause of most common, human led, catastrophes, and the source of society’s sickness. Short of disease? Of natural disaster? What else causes as much pain? Greed, hatred, judgement… these are all fear externalised. Anxiety has near-enough crippled me at least five times this year – taloned claws snaking across my throat; and what, pray tell, is anxiety, if not fear?
Like a demon draped in shadow, fear can linger in dark corners, called upon when our resolves buckle: brittle bones beneath a powdering stone. Left to its own devices? It’ll likely hi-jack your heart for it’s own malicious, or monotonous motives.
Of course, It’d be easy to claim fear has no place in our lives. However fear is a necessary evil. Not necessarily evil either, but useful: an evolutionary marvel designed to protect, not poison us. That tingle running down your spine at times? That sweaty-palmed sensation? The dry mouth? That’s your body letting you know it’s time to duck, hide or hack away at whatever means you harm. Should said danger prove fictitious? Fear is of no further use.
Over the course of millennia fear has saved our skin many’a time. So it’s probably best we bear & not banish It, as It’s always better to understand the things that frighten us. After all, our fears are not as unique as we assume. Like bullies – common & not particularly clever – fear bludgeons us ‘till we either cry or confront it, stood above us chanting the same sad mantra: STOP. COWER. RETREAT. STOP. COWER. RETREAT. And though the volume varies, the song itself, as Elizabeth Gilbert so eloquently put, remains the same. So this isn’t about ostracising fear to the furthest fringe of our thoughts. This is about mastering it; and by extension? Ourselves.
Time to take control.
Who’s Steering? You? Or Your Demons?
“How though?” You might ask. “How’re we to overcome this demon?”
Well, by being mindful. Mindfulness is an amazing skill taught in meditative practices around the world – even in modern psychology – as a means of mastering our emotions in a meaningful way. Learning to observe your thoughts, naming – and consequently taming – each emotion as it passes, is the best method to conquering negativity. And by ‘conquering’ I only mean, accepting, assessing and letting go: not letting them boss you around.
Find you’re reluctant to tackle your latest creative venture? There! There it is again, masked as ‘procrastination’, suggesting you do dishes or check your email first. Considering growing your hair out, even though it’s a terrible idea you’ll regret in the coming weeks? Name and shame that anxiety you’re harbouring about heading to the barbers or leaving the house.
Our anxieties can get real ugly sometimes, keeping us from doing the most important things. And we’ve no other weapon to combat it with than open and honest confrontation, because only once we’ve isolated the cause can we act in spite of it. As our awareness grows, so too should our discipline and selective detachment. Mindfulness enables a greater personal governance, bestowing the gift of true autonomy. Fear can be cordoned off, confined to a secluded part of our hearts when mindfulness is properly employed; We’re all better off learning to notice it’s signs, becoming alert to it’s ‘creepy-crawling’ as it tries to assume control.
Essentially emotional intelligence is the goal, because when you can accurately asses not just how you, but those around you, feel, You can better navigate the fuckery of everyday life. Most of us can do this already. But to what degree? Are you always aware when fear takes the reigns?
Two books and a third resource I’ve found remarkably useful – at least in part – on assessing the nature of fear and it’s effects are: ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, ‘How To Stop Worrying And Start Living’ by Dale Carniege, & ‘Maps Of Meaning: The Architecture Of Belief’ By Jordan B Peterson. I hope they do as much – if not more – for you as they’ve done for me.
In closing, take steps toward mastering your fear today. Personify it. Give it life. Give it form. Try art; delight in sweet release! Mitigate your fear till it merely offers cautious suggestions as opposed to ear-shredding shrieks. And even then, silence it further. Give it only voice enough to offer reasonable insight, never full governance of your body or thoughts. Work with it, not against; strike a firm balance. Because balance, is the key to contentment, never excess. Abundance comes from taking stock of our grace. So smile, sing, dance. But most of all? Be brave.