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- Jonathan Lockwood Huie (jlh @sail7.com)

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Monday, July 30, 2012

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More about Fear

In response to my post There are Only Fear and Love a reader commented... "FEAR is also a TOOL, which is used to warn one of approaching DANGER."

My reply:

Great point. One key to dealing with fear is being able to distinguish between the 10% of the time when danger is imminent, and the 90% of the time when irrational fear becomes an impediment to success and happiness.

Even more important is generating an appropriate and useful response to any kind of fear - both the truly danger-based fears and the exaggerated fears. Whenever fear causes one to become frozen in inaction, success, happiness, and sometimes health and even life are at risk.

Suppose that someone has a recurring pain, but is afraid to go to the doctor for fear that the doctor might find cancer. Certainly, danger is potentially present, but inaction is not a helpful response to that danger. This kind of fear might be characterized as a deer-in-the-headlights kind of fear for its similarity to the behavior of a deer standing motionless in the middle of a highway at night staring into the headlights of an oncoming car and too confused to move.

Another kind of response to fear that is not helpful is the I'll-try-anything kind of response. An example of this would be attempting to cure a serious illness with "remedies" or devices that have no medically proven effectiveness and are often dangerous.

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The Five Basic Fears [from my book (with Mary Anne Radmacher) Simply An Inspired Life]

Although we have many different fears, we have only five gut-level instinctive Fears:

1. Fear of the Unknown (which includes Fear of Death)
2. Fear of Physical Pain
3. Fear for our Survival - Fear of the Lack of Physiological Necessities (especially food and air, but also warmth, sleep, water and a few others)
4. Fear for our Personal Safety - Fear of Attack and Accident
5. Fear of Abandonment - Fear of the Loss of Human Companionship

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Each fear we ever experience is actually an instance of one (or more) of the 5 basic fears. However most fears are pale imitations. For example, fear of losing one's job is an instance of basic fear #3 - fear for one's survival. Lack of a job might result in the lack of food and shelter for oneself and one's family, right? Certainly that is a person's instinctive emotional reaction. However, in a modern country, equating job loss to starvation is quite an exaggeration, and it is far better to greet the loss of a job with equanimity and thoughtful action than to react in blind panic.

Consider the fear of speaking in public - which is one of the most common fears. The potential public speaker is afraid of embarrassment - which is in turn an instance of fear #5 - the fear that the members of the audience will "abandon" the speaker if he or she performs poorly. For a first-time public speaker, there is also an element of fear #1 - fear of the unknown.

What is the worst fear most people have? Fear of death - and fear of death is perhaps the most useless fear in that death is a certainty. There is a complex interaction between fear #4, the sometimes highly useful fear of short-term risks to one's life - like falling rocks, or an approaching wild beast, or an angry opponent - and the debilitating long-term fear that one will eventually die (fear #1). And a further complexity is that even fears for personal safety are generally exaggerated, or even paranoid. Fear of shark attack, and fear of home intruders are certainly fears for personal safety, but never swimming in the ocean or patrolling one's neighborhood with a gun and shooting an unarmed teenager of the wrong color are overreactions.

Understand that fear and danger are not well correlated - and the correlation has become much worse as human society has developed rapidly. Sharks, spiders, and public speaking are fearful, but represent very tiny degrees of danger. Milk shakes and cigarettes don't generally cause fear, but statistics show them to be dangerous to health.

How to deal with fear?

1. Breathe and focus.

2. Consciously analyze the real level of danger.

3. Consciously plan the most appropriate course of action.

1 comment:

Angel Pushpa said...

Darr ke aage jeet hai. Har cheej mann se hoti hai.

Mann ke haare haar hai, Mann ke jeete jeet.....!!!!!

Isliye mann se koi bhi darr nikalkar jeewan ke har sangharsh se saamna karein.

आदेश

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