Often that which we fear never actually takes place. We spend a lifetime fearing or worrying about some eventuality that never arrives. And we frequently worry in wild disproportion to what might actually occur. The bottom line is that none of the fear—and the resulting anxiety, stress, distraction of it all—really does any good. It reduces our ability to be intuitive or even present in our lives, and it leads to serious deterioration of our health and, particularly, our immune system.
Fear is different from fright which is a here-and-now reaction to an immediate threat that requires instant action. Fright elicits the flight or fight response and is a natural survival mechanism. Fear, on the other hand, is a nebulous, undefined, projection of possible danger in the future that may or may not come to pass. It keeps us in the flight or fight response mode, yet there is nothing to fight. Over time, the brain and body no longer distinguish the real from the anticipated.
While irrational, for many of us worry and fear are major components of our days—and sleepless nights. To gauge your “fear quotient,” check the statements below that ring true to you:
- It is best to leave things alone. As long as I can tolerate the situation, I’ll just keep things as they are.
- I doubt if I will ever marry again. Relationships always seem to end in betrayal.
- I need to stay on top of all my projects. No one else will do it the way it needs to be done.
- Who can really know what’s right for themselves? I am safer following the rules of authority (parents, church, peer groups, etc) than forging my own path.
- Stability is built from “tried and true” and “staying on the straight and narrow.” Society would be too chaotic if we all didn’t live by our sense of duty and obligation.
These statements reflect categories of frequently exhibited signs of fear or worry. But a healthy, fearless perspective offers a different view of these categories:
Change: Change is natural and beneficial. It is required for growth and improvement. If everything remained static, there would be no possibility for a raise, a better job, that new relationship, weight loss, and the attainment of any other goals.
Trust: Everyone demonstrates their true values and virtues. It is up to each of us to recognize and act on that information. Having the courage and conviction to remain true to ourselves allows us to experience the greatest possible level of trust in ourselves and others.
Control: Control issues arise when we are not confident that we can handle events and experiences that may show up in our lives. Attempting to control nature, reality, or others is impossible, and is rooted in feelings of incompetence and low self-image. Conversely, allowing others to control us is a clear indicator that we lack the confidence in our own ability to live an independent and self-determined life.
Guilt: Guilt has one purpose. It alerts us to the possibility that we have done something counter to reality or to our personal philosophy. When true, a correction must be made as rapidly as possible. Then release the guilt. If the guilty feeling is unfounded, there is no purpose in maintaining guilt. Guilt is often used as a means for controlling others, so beware of the motivations of those who attempt to impose those feelings.
Duty or Obligation: When a person’s actions are based on duty, it implies that their value system would dictate a different course of action. Free choice is the only proper relationship to one’s life and values, resulting in health, happiness, and sustainability. Would you rather have your friend help you move because they felt they had to out of duty, or because they really enjoy spending time with you?
There is more energy in the suppression than in the expression.
When we live a fear-based life, more energy is directed toward suppressing our passions than would be used in simply expressing them. By this I mean that when we hold back from living life fully, from fulfilling our dreams, and being true to ourselves, we expend much more effort than when we manifest our gifts and desires.
We all do it in one way or another. We hold back disclosing a part of our beliefs because we expect others to criticize them. Or we resist pursuing our passion to become an artist because it may not bring the same paycheck as an office job.
Resistance to the expression of our true nature requires a tremendous amount of energy whether we hold back in life because we fear the opinions of others or because of our own fears of inadequacy, starting over, being exposed, or being vulnerable.
In what ways have you found yourself resisting the temptation to push the envelope, take a risk, try something new, fulfill a life dream, or make an overdue change? What do you suspect is the toll that is rendered by that limiting behavior? When will it be okay for you to relax and release your fears?