Fear has been deeply hard-wired into our brains since the most ancient of times. Our ancestors were in perpetual struggle to keep their families and themselves alive whether warriors, explorers or scholars. Survival is therefore a value all humans share today, no matter their environment or upbringing.
All the emotional and physiological reactions linked to fear happen on the subconscious level. Say you are walking in an empty and dark street. On the opposite sidewalk, what you consider to be an “odd-looking” man emerges and makes his way across the street towards you. His demeanor reflects aggressiveness with a touch of insanity. Before you even know it, your physiology immediately shifts; your heart rate increases, sweat is released in different areas of your body such as the palm of your hands and your breathing becomes faster and more shallow. These responses are due to a release of adrenaline triggered by your subconscious as it picks up on cues indicating that your life may be at risk.
Now, the only reason you are perceiving the individual crossing the street as a threat is because you were able to project yourself into the near future and imagine scenarios where your life would be in danger in result of his encounter. In fact, nothing has happened indicating the man is intending to cause you any harm, but your mind has qualified the situation as unsafe.
In any situation where fear is involved, one is in fact evaluating a gamble. Indeed, there is no way to be 100% sure the fear is justified until the unlucky event actually happens. If you restrain your focus to the present moment only, fear cannot exist. It is merely your imagination of what could happen that is allowing fear to be.
Being able to visualize probable future events before they happen is a beautiful gift humans have been granted. It is an essential part of decision making and is what allows us to anticipate, plan and grow. However, contemporary men and women are guilty of letting fear be a motive for their unhappiness and lack of achievement. You need to learn when to listen to justified fear and when to shut it down when its outcome is settling down (instead of up). Let me give a few examples here.
- A man in a bar will not go talk to a woman he founds ravishing for he is afraid she might reject him or she might have a boyfriend.
- Parents will not allow their children to go explore a foreign country alone for an extended period of time for the standards of living of that country are too far out from what the parents have been accommodated to.
- One will not share and stand for his/her opinion in a social environment for fear he/she might get judged and alienated from the group.
I could go on and on with this list. Bear in my mind this is not an accusation. We are all constantly looking for comfort in our fears. However, if we passively embrace this behavior, at the finish line, I can guarantee you we will look back at our lives with regret. Did we give it our best? Did we take the best route? Is it possible to do it again, differently this time? Let me ask you this: on your death bed, do you want to feel incomplete? Unsure you have enjoyed the journey? A sickening blend of regret and deception will be gnawing your last breaths and your unaccomplished dreams accompanying you to the graveyard.
Don’t be blinded by what could happen. The constructs of our minds can demolish our aspirations and desires one by one if we let them. Learn how to become conscious of your fears and weight their validity. Next time you are scared of something, ask yourself: “I am scared, but if I go ahead and do it, can I really regret it as much as not doing it?” The answer needs to come in a snap – don’t let thinking take place. If you hesitate even the slightest bit to come up with the answer, your fear is not valid, so take action!
The photo credits go to Capture Queen. Check out more of her art on Flickr.