Fear is an emotionally influenced response to danger or threat that motivates behaviors to mitigate the danger or threat. Humans and other animals exhibit fear in much the same way physiologically, so the fear response may be quite ancient.
We tend to think of fear as a “negative emotion” that clouds reasoning and drives “negative behaviors.” From an evolutionary point of view, fear may have derived from early surviving species passing on their “fear” genes to us today – giving us an “evolutionary advantage.”
Although behaviors vary widely when the fear response is triggered, let’s investigate three common elements of fear:
- Perception of danger or threat – triggers a response
- Seriousness of engagement – the risk to survival
- Presence – how imminent is the danger
The higher the perception of danger, seriousness, and presence, the higher the level of fear and the more motivated I am to act in some manner to mitigate the fear.
Mitigating one element of fear tends to calm the other elements. Thus, we develop such coping mechanisms as denial and avoidance.
What if I used them for – Transformation?
Generally, I tend to avoid fearful and painful situations and conditions. What if I were to consider fear and pain as messengers, rather than as “attackers” to be avoided, like disease? And use the motivation generated by my fear to fuel transformation?
When I feel pain, I tend to mitigate it with medications or self-hypnosis or some other means – instead of investigating the CAUSE of the pain and seeking more permanent solutions for the CAUSE. I tend to engage similar strategies to mitigate my fears – when I do that, what might I be missing? How and into what might I redirect all that energy I feel when afraid?
A man in an automobile that is fully fueled, ignition pressed, and in gear. Unfortunately, he is in the back seat unable to steer. Imagine the horror that he must feel, knowing the car is moving ever faster and he can’t do anything about it. Of course, he might look around him and realize he can open a door and jump out – letting the articulated vehicle go off on its own without him. That might save his life at least. This is what I do when I REACT to my fear.
OTOH, what if he were to realize that he can simply crawl over the seat, position himself in the driver seat and take command of the wheel. This is what I might do when I LEARN from and ACCEPT the wisdom presented to me by my fear.