What Fear is For

by Dan on October 2, 2009

If you look at the self-help industry, there is a pretty consistent message on the subject of fear.

There’s the acronym, “Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.”  All your fears are illusions, they tell us.  This doesn’t sit right with us because we know that sometimes really bad things do happen.  You can be scared of getting laid off because your company just lost a big client and then actually get fired.

Maybe fears are challenges for us to face?  That doesn’t really sit well with our better judgment either.  You may be scared of a dark alleyway at 3 AM in a bad part of town, but that does not mean it’s a good idea to take the brave walk through the prime jump spot for criminals.

How useful is fear?

Honestly, it’s almost completely useless, but it does have a positive impact once in a while.

When you feel fear, and get the ‘fight or flight’ adrenaline rush, all your human functions are immobilized except two.  Can you guess which they are?

Yes, you got it, FIGHT or FLIGHT.  Wasn’t so hard, was it?

This means that unless you’re physically punching and kicking, or physically running away from a predator or attacker, your fear is completely useless.

For all you metaphorical people out there, this means that “fighting” the bank to save your foreclosed house does not count.  Neither does “running” from your boss to avoid your mid-term review.  Both of those situations require being centered and cunning, not afraid.  Cunning and fear are at opposite ends.  You can’t strategize while being afraid.

Unfortunately, our evolutionary biology hasn’t caught up with the last fifty thousand years of evolution, so we don’t have instinctual helpful reactions to credit problems and employment threats.  When these situations come up for us to face it’s up to use our heads and keep the inner animal out of the room.

Next time you feel fear, ask yourself, “Do I need to physically fight or physically run right now?”  If not, you know your fear is not helping you at all.

What state of mind will actually help you?  Calmness, centeredness, and courage.  If you have something important to get done, you don’t need fear to motivate you.  If fear is the only thing to get you to take action, it means you have major blocks to your success in this area of your life.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Mike October 9, 2009 at 10:02 am

Agreed.

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