What is fear?
At some point in our lives we all experience it. Our heart beats faster; we find it hard to breathe; the muscles in our body tense; our brain seems to shut everything else out and the focus shifts to the terror that has changed us emotionally and physically. We are experiencing fear.
So why does fear exist and do we have power over it? Fear according to researchers evolved in all animal species as a defense mechanism. It is a way for the brain to change the body chemistry so that future dangerous situations will create a stimulus, serving as an early warning system. This gives us an ability to determine a course of action that will increase our chance of survival. The chemical response in some cases is so strong it can cause physical and emotional paralysis and impede us from helping ourselves! When that paralysis is not experienced, the body then faces the fight or flight response in defense.
Some fear is healthy, being afraid of bodily harm from a potential attacker for example. Some fear is destructive and damaging, like feeling we cannot be honest with our partners for fear of judgment or ridicule. When we feel fear we need to remember that it’s a call to action. Unlike other animals we are able to choose how we respond to those feelings of dread.
In 3rd grade I was bullied and picked on by bigger kids, and my instinct was to fight. Eventually I was expelled from school and my father began spanking me with a belt as punishment. This punishment taught me to fear his spanking more than the bullies’ beatings. For the rest of my youth I backed down from every altercation. I did nothing to defend myself from the beatings of my peers; allowing them to label me a coward and hopefully leave me alone. I grew up in a very tough area so I got beat a lot. Today I am 44 years old and I have no memory of the physical pain I endured from those beatings, but the pain of not defending myself, of feeling like a coward–that pain lived inside me for so long that I can still feel the shame today if I allow it. When I was 18 I no longer had to fear my father’s punishments for defending myself and I began to stand up for myself again. This did not stop me from getting bullied on occasion, but interestingly enough I don’t remember an ounce of the physical pain; all my mind can recall is the humiliation of a loss, that helpless feeling of not being able to defend myself, that fear that someone else had gotten the better of me.
As I got older I began to read self-help books and to study why I and others thought and acted the way we did. In one of the books I was reading I came across one of the most profound thoughts ever, an acronym that defined what fear really was. The acronym was False Evidence Appearing Real. When I read that it instantly spoke to me. Whether an aggressively intimidating person, an inescapable, unpleasant situation, or a dreaded decision needing to be made, the feeling in all these situations was the same: fear. I finally realized that no matter what the evidence was I was selecting the meaning of it and assuming the worst case scenario. It reminded me of when I was little and I lied to stop my dad from spanking me. The reality was that I lied out of fear; but my punishment never turned out to be as bad as I had assumed it would.
This realization gave me one of the most effective tools for change and success in my life, I understood that only I could determine what had power over me, only I could assume what the consequences where going to be, only I could determine if fear would empower me to act in my defense or paralyze and control me.
Fear is real and it can be a healthy emotion, but do yourself a favor and remember that it’s only a call to action. Your choice is Fight or flight, and sometimes flight is necessary, but too often flight is chosen as the easy way out. As a former coward I can attest that it is easier to run away than it is to stand and fight for yourself. I can say with authority that just because you successfully ran away from your fear, you have not escaped it. Often times the long term damage you will cause by not standing up for yourself, your ideals, the truth, will be very difficult to heal from, because you will know that the fear conquered you.
Today you can make the decision that fear won’t stop you from telling the truth; it won’t stop you expressing your love for someone; and it can’t prevent you from standing up for yourself. Today if you’re feeling fear answer that call to action, and let fear know you’re back in charge of your life.
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Take a listen this was powerful as Josh and Lee discuss truth and how it is with fear!