In the last article, I mentioned that fear is experienced at the edges of our comfort zone. And that we react to fear in 3 ways, namely:
- we can be captive to it
- fight against it
- make friends with it
Sometimes we can interpret fear as a signal that there is danger. However fear doesn’t always mean danger. Sometimes fear can mean that we are about to leave our comfort zone and for example, we’re going to give a speech in front of a room full of people. Fear can also mean that we’re testing our abilities or capacity. If fear only meant danger then we would be in a constant state of hyper vigilance and our bodies would suffer terribly.
Fear is our response to uncertainty.
Gavin de Becker is a well known security specialist. He has studied fear and violence for many years and teaches individuals and companies that fear is a survival signal. It is meant to alert us to a shift in the environment, or in possible danger or a possible opportunity.
Fear is the doorway to intuition or gut feelings. In his book “The Gift of Fear” de Becker writes about some of the people he has interviewed who have suffered violent attacks. In every case, they experienced a knowing of what to do and when in order to survive. This knowing did not come from the conscious mind, it came from their intuition. De Becker writes that our intuition “is a cognitive process, faster than we recognize and far different from the familiar step-by-step thinking we rely on so willingly.” He adds, “Intuition is knowing without knowing why.”
I would go out on a bit of limb and say that we can’t really access our intuition unless we can feel that heightened state of awareness in our bodies that fear helps us access. I’m not saying that fear is the only way to feel our intuition, but it is one important avenue.
And if we are being held captive by fear or fighting against it, then the door to our intuition stays closed. Commonly practiced solutions such as positive thinking are not effective because they are cerebral in nature (they don’t involve the body).
And this brings us back to making friends with fear (see the previous article).
De Becker leaves us with 2 rules about fear. He says that “if you accept them, they can improve your use of fear, reduce its frequency and literally transform your experience of life.”
Rule #1 – The very fact that you fear something is solid evidence that it is not happening.
Fear helps us consider what might happen, not what is happening in the present moment.
Rule #2 – What you fear is rarely what you think you fear – it is what you LINK to fear.
We tend to link things like “the fear of public speaking” with the fear of death. Another example is when we experience a loss of our identity, it can feel like a death. Whatever we identify with strongly, such as a job, or another person, or a role, if we are at risk of losing that, it can bring up a fear as strong the fear of death.
In the next article I would like to explore how we can learn to harness fear to improve our personal lives, our relationships and our community.