Fear This

Go on, what are you afraid of? I mean that, go on. Is fear preventing you from “going on”, going on with new experiences, going on with new adventures, going on with new relationships, going on with life? Is fear crippling you from learning, growing, accomplishing and experiencing life to it’s fullest?

Fear of failure is probably the biggest, personal fear most of us face. And the stupidest. We must fail occasionally, in order to learn. How many times did you fail while learning to ride a bike? Every time you fell off your bike was a failure. And yet you stuck with it, learned the nuances of balancing and keeping up your momentum and you succeeded. That success required those failures as a mechanism of learning. The worst failure, though, would be never learning to ride a bike for fear of falling off.

In failing to face your fear of failure, you are, in fact, failing.

Where does fear stem from? As I see it, there are two sources for fear, both equally devastating. Self-preservation. And ignorance. If we look at common fears we all tend to possess, perhaps we can begin to identify it’s grasp on our lives and take steps to remedy fear’s grip on us.

An example. When we are in a relationship, one of our biggest fears is being unable to preserve the relationship. We fear the end of the relationship. We fear change in the relationship. Fear of “being dumped” can, in fact, destroy a relationship. Dwelling on the possibility, the fear, of being left affects your attitude and your actions. This, of course, can impact the health and longevity of the relationship. So much so, that you are much more likely to be dumped as a result of acting out over your fear of being dumped. Think of the insecurities that build when you dwell on the possibility of being dumped. Those insecurities change your attitude, your perception of what is happening with the relationship. Often you act out on false suspicions, develop unrealistic expectations, and set yourself up for disappointment when those unrealistic expectations aren’t met. Be grateful for and fully enjoy every day you are together as though it were a gift. It is. This fosters an environment of gratitude and appreciation which is conducive to a lasting relationship. Learn to identify and then banish fear from your relationships.

I encounter a lot of people who marvel at my bravery for traveling, usually alone, to cities around the nation, for work. They usually cite something they’ve heard on the news that justifies their trepidation. Crime, bedbugs, the flu, the aftermath of a hurricane, gangs, the homeless, food poisoning, identity theft. Keep in mind that media news sensationalizes everything as a means to their survival. The media news is a business, and they rely on you to watch regularly. They secure your loyalty by feeding your fears. It really isn’t that bad out there. The media intentionally breeds fear, be cognizant of that. Consider this; network news is vying for your attention, for your business. The networks are in competition with one another. It is all about selling advertising during their time slot, revenue validates them, ensures their survival. You are the consumer, you can choose to buy their news, or not. By making you fearful, you are more likely to return to their high dollar advertising time slot to view all the sensational things that are happening everywhere. I’m not suggesting avoiding the news, to be ignorant and uninformed. I do recommend alternative sources for the news, if not solely, then in conjunction with what you see on TV, as corroborative evidence. Remember what sells on TV; violence, scandal, betrayal, conspiracy, uncertainty. These are the themes, the topics, that are considered in “newsworthiness” because they will generate a great deal of emotion in the consumer (viewer), which increases the likelihood of building an audience of routine consumers (viewers). We look to the media as our savior, keeping us from evil, warning us of danger, protecting us from harm – real, imagined or sensationalized. The result, a fearful audience, captive in their homes, staring in disbelief at “the news”.

While we’re on the topic of television, let’s discuss programming. How many crime drama shows are there on the air now? How many different flavors of CSI are there? CSI; coming to a town near you! Every geographic region has their own CSI series, it seems. There a number of crime “reality” shows, now, too, crime that seems more real than regular programming. Folks, it’s all entertainment. Crime happens, but certainly not to the extent or frequency that the entertainment industry leads you to believe. We watch television crime shows so much, again, based on advertising dollars, we have created a demand for more and more crime shows. What impact must this have on the average viewer; hours and hours each week, watching the dramatic portrayal of heinous crimes. Even if only flipping through channels, we will only see crime shows, news, or, thankfully, sports, and occasionally, American Idol.

Based on our media conditioning, we have become fearful of people, of society, because there seems to be so many bad people out there. Statistically speaking, there are very few really bad people, per capita. A lot of violent crime, again, statistically, happens in the home and is perpetrated by someone you know and trust. Are you fearful of your family? Your friends? Of course not! So you have even less reason to be afraid of people out in society because, statistically, they are less likely to harm you. But I don’t want to breed fear, again, I just want to try to illuminate how silly it is to modify your behavior, to limit your life experiences, based on what you watch on television.

If anything makes me apoplectic , it’s the “they” factor. They will shoot you, they will rob you, they will crash into your car on purpose, they will rape you, they will poison you by not washing their hands. They will give you the flu. Who are they? They are few and far between. Again, statistically, there are very few bad people, per capita. What does that mean? No one is likely to pounce on you when you walk down a sidewalk. And for those “bad people” out there, they are relying on the ignorance and stupidity of their victims. Just conquer them with knowledge and common sense. The real “they” you should pay attention to are the people who are warning you about “them”. They are feeding off of your fears to sell advertising time. They will scare you into becoming a phobic, shivering, mess, huddled safely inside your house, watching them live scripted, fake lives on TV. I especially like the innocuous “they said”. I like my sources cited and referenced, thank you, so I can do my own independent research and decide whether I want to take their advice. Or not. What authority or expertise do they have to advise you to change, alter, or modify your behavior, to potentially limit the experiences in life that could bring you growth or reward or satisfaction? Have you even considered that question? Better to experience what life has to offer and assume a little risk than to sit on your hands, rocking back and forth, while watching an intentionally scary, false world on television.

Many great people can be quoted on fear:

We have nothing to fear but fear itself – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Do one thing every day that scares you – Eleanor Roosevelt

You gain strength, courage and confidence by each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life – Ralph Waldo Emerson

You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind – Dale Carnegie

Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood – Marie Curie

Do not fear death so much but rather the inadequate life – Bertlot Brecht

Peace is that state in which fear of any kind is unknown – Joh Buchan

Where fear is, happiness is not – Seneca

If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been – Robert H. Schuller

They can conquer who believe they can. He has not learned the first lesson in life who does not every day surmount a fear – Ralph Waldo Emerson

He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat – Napoleon I

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. – Plato

Fear defeats more people than any other one thing in the world – Ralph Waldo Emerson

We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality. – Lucius Annaeus Sennca

Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy. – Dale Carnegie

What we fear comes to pass more speedily than what we hope – Publilius Syrus

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is – German Proverb

How do you suppose these great people became great? By facing their fears head on and overcoming them.

What great person, responsible for influencing millions, for making history, ever sat at home, watching a false world, wide-eyed in terror? Step out of your comfort zone, pick a fear, step out of the house and march right through that fear. Be persistent for more significant fears.

If you subscribe to “The Secret”, or are knowledgable about quantum physics, you know that fear represents considerable energy. The law of attraction is a law of energy. Energy attracts a result, energy attracts a like energy. Fear energy, if you think about it, then, will attract that which you fear. Now, be scared of that! You truly do have nothing to fear, but fear itself. Quantum physics supports that.

Fearless does not mean foolish. Being afraid to step in front of speeding semi is a good thing. There is a definite difference between fearless and senseless. Use common sense, tackle common fears. Fear is a natural instinct designed to preserve us from harm. Fear is designed to make us pause before proceeding so that we may take into consideration our actions so as to avoid harm. Consider your actions, then proceed with common sense. Wait until the speeding semi passes, you can then safely cross the street.

Irrational fear is the fear we want to conquer. It is irrational to think that if you walk down a city street you will certainly be mugged. Yes, you do stand a chance of being mugged. You also stand a chance of being a victim of a home invasion robbery while sitting watching CSI on TV. Wherever we are, whatever we’re doing, we are at risk for something extraordinary, something freakishly unlikely, happening.

Life can be lived so cautiously as to really not qualify as living. Inhaling and exhaling, eating and deficating, sleeping and waking, performing mundane daily tasks in exchange for a miserly pay and occupying spare time watching other people, fake people, actors, again, being paid based on the advertising revenue their show generates, live out their exciting, dangerous, fearful, completely scripted lives on television, is not living. And for the record, reality TV isn’t real, in reality.

You are only limited by your fear. There are handicapable people who exceed the limitations of their handicap because they choose not to be limited. Any person’s greatest handicap is their own limitations, usually based on fear. Fear of failure, fear of effort, fear of change. Get. Over. It.

If you practice a religion, have you given thought to whether your fear may actually prevent you from eternal life? That’s a scary thought!

We are meant to contribute to society in some meaningful way, whether you practice a religion, or not. We just are. What is your contribution? You may have to step outside of your safe, little routine to find a way to contribute. Name one person you think contributes to society in some meaningful way; a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist. There isn’t a teacher, a preacher, a youth leader, a soldier, an advocate, a scientist on the face of the planet that didn’t have to conquer some fear, usually many, often on a daily basis. What are you doing? What fear is limiting you from contributing? Get. Over. It.

The bible says, I don’t know where, but somewhere, regarding the way to heaven; the path is wide, the gate is narrow. Now pretend for a moment you had to choose who could enter through the narrow gate. Would you choose the good and holy person who spent their life cautiously living, existing? Or would you choose the person who went out and boldly and fearlessly made a difference, who contributed in some tangible, measurable, meaningful way? Would you admit the person who made a wholesome home, raised their children well, performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and prayed at every meal? Or, given the limited seating, would you choose the person who raised their own kids and volunteered to lead a youth group? Who performed their daily tasks to satisfaction and took on additional tasks within the community to further good? Would you admit the person who prayed before every meal, or the soul who lived an extraordinary life, by example, who touched the lives of many and spread good will across the lands? I think I’d want to be the doer of extraordinary things, just to safely squeeze through that blessed gate.

The question should never be “what have you done?”, the question should be “what else can you do?” There is always more. More to contribute, more to learn, more to do, all requiring facing and overcoming some self-imposed limitation, overcoming some fear, whether trivial or numbing.

Fear is also the catalyst for great evil, for great harm. Genocide often has fear as it’s basis. The endangerment or extinction of many species resulted out of fear. Fear, out of ignorance, intolerance or self-righteousness, and unrestrained, is something to truly fear! And conquer.

Take a moment and write down some fears you have. Fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of large dogs, fear of large crowds, fear of driving in large cities. Think of as many things as you can and write them down. They may not come to you all at once, but when you encounter something, in real life or on TV, and you think “that would scare me”, add it to your list. Now, pick something off the list and think of a way to overcome it. Fear of public speaking? Start small, maybe join a book club or a Bible study, where, at some point, you’ll have to say something, out loud, to a small group of people. Then take it up a notch. Volunteer to read scripture at church during the service. Read aloud to children at a school. Take an acting class at the community college, or a public speaking class, speech and debate class. Join an organization like Toastmasters. Many highly compensated motivational speakers had fears of speaking publicly at some point in time. Many, believe it or not, overcame debilitating conditions like chronic stuttering. The only limitation was their self-imposed limitation, “I can’t do that, I’m afraid of speaking in front of large groups of people.” Once you cleanse yourself of those limitations, you have tremendous power to conquer fear and overcome perceived limitations.

Start to pay attention to your vocabulary. How often do you say something that translates to “I’m afraid” or “I’m scared”. Make note of what prompted that reaction and find a way to address it, meet it, conquer it.

“I admire those high heeled shoes, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to walk in them. I’m afraid I’ll trip and fall and make a fool of myself.” The alternative; never buy shoes you admire and likely trip and fall wearing completely flat-soled shoes. At least if you trip and fall wearing some fabulous high heels, people will understand how it happened!

I’m afraid of snakes. But not really. Rather, I say, “I don’t like snakes”. I have had many experiences involving snakes, yet, touch wood, I have never been harmed.

I think my earliest memory of being afraid of snakes came from my early childhood. As a child I had asthma. I don’t any more, and I have my opinions on those kinds of limitations, too. But, nonetheless, before I was old enough to take care of myself, I was treated for asthma. One of the treatments was a bronchiodialator or a steroid, or a combination, I think, but it had hallucinogenic qualities, at least for me. I remember sitting on my pillow, screaming in terror, and every wrinkle in my bedding appeared like a twisting, slithering snake. The pleats in my curtains were writhing snakes, dangling from their tails. Everywhere I looked, the common appointments in my bedroom had become animated snakes. My poor mother.

I once had a rattlesnake come trick or treating on Halloween. I had been living in the country where I knew there were snakes, yet, saw none. We had no trick or treaters on Halloween out in the country, so when I moved back into town, into a nice apartment complex, we were excited at the prospect of having trick or treaters. We had candy on hand and had even decorated. My (adult) daughter and her boyfriend were visiting and were manning the door while I moved some items from my car into the garage. I remember hearing the doorbell ring and the ritual “trick or treat” followed by the commotion of children obtaining candy and moving on to the next door. The ruckus didn’t diminish as I’d expected, I could still hear voices and exclamations. My daughter’s boyfriend (now husband) is an Eagle Scout, a wrestler, now in the Navy, by no means a wimp. But as the commotion continued and I began to hear my name interjected, I thought, perhaps, I should venture into the house to see what was up. My daughter and her boyfriend were across the room from the front door, pointing in that direction “there’s a rattlesnake in the house.” I peered toward the front door, and, indeed, there was a small snake there. Luckily for us, not the snake, it’s tail was caught in the closed door and it could not advance further into the house. Now, this particular Halloween fell on a Sunday night, meaning no agencies would be available to come to our rescue. I wondered what to do and did what anyone would do; I grabbed my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. Then I Googled it to confirm that it was indeed a rattlesnake. Finally, I called the County Animal Services agency and listened patiently to the recorded message. They did advise, that if it were an emergency involving an “animal” that one could call the sheriffs dispatch. First, is a snake technically an animal? Second, if the snake cannot advance further into my domicile, is it really an emergency? I chanced that it was, on both counts. I called the sheriffs dispatch. I prefaced my story with “I don’t know if this is an emergency, but …” They sounded far more panicked than I , and said they’d patch me right through to the fire department. The fire department answered, and again, prefaced with “I don’t know if this is really an emergency, but …”, to which I was met with an urgent reply “We’ll send someone right over.” Not a minute later, the biggest hook and ladder engine pulled up in front of my garage door and I had what looked like about thirty firefighters in my entry hall. So, I got out my phone, took a picture and posted it to facebook with a snarky comment about trick or treaters these days. The somewhat anticlimactic ending? They plucked the snake off the floor with a claw contraption like you’d use to pick up trash without having to bend down. They plunked the little snake into a PVC tube, capped at one end, fit a cap on the other end and left, presumably to free the snake in a more appropriate location. I was a little concerned that other snakes may have entered my house, unbeknownst, any time the door had been opened, so we all exercised some caution within the house, and when entering and exiting through the front door for quite some time thereafter. I no longer live there. Not on account of fear, the rent went up.

Not long after that, I was driving up the onramp to the highway near my home. There are a lot of open fields and new construction in the area, so I’m sure there are lots of field mice and other critters snakes like to feed on. And there are many hawks and other birds of prey that, in turn, like to feed on snakes. One such bird was flapping slowly towards the highway as I approached about the same spot. In it’s talons was a live snake, squirming violently, trying to free itself. I watched, and in the slowest motion imaginable, as the bird and I continued in a trajectory that would likely end up with the bird over my car within a few seconds, I saw the snake drop from the bird’s claws and spiral slowly towards the ground. The thoughts that raced through my consciousness; what if the snake lands on my car, what if the snake lands on my windshield, what if the snake lands on my roof, what if my sunroof was open? The snake landed on the shoulder of the road right next to my car. Ugh! I don’t drive with my sunroof wide open anymore. Ever. That’s not fear, that’s practicality.

When I tell folks about the snake in the house, depending on my whereabouts, a common response I get is, “why didn’t you shoot it?” I’ve shot a snake before, and it didn’t go well. But, more importantly, what would’ve happened to the tile floor had I shot the snake in the entry hall? I wouldn’t have gotten my deposit back, I’m fairly certain. So, I did shoot a snake in the wild, and even that I now regret. We were camping in a very remote forested area. We had been hiking down into the canyon our campsite overlooked, and upon our return, we spotted a snake in the dining tent. The snake spotted us and began a very surreal, and I would think physically impossible climb up one of the tent poles towards the ceiling of the screened tent. Horrified, I did something, intentionally, that startled the snake and made it drop back to the ground where it belonged, inside the tent where it did not. The screened tent had no floor, just a narrow flap along the perimeter. The snake, probably a good three feet long, stretched itself out, hiding completely beneath this very narrow flap, which, in my mind, qualified this snake as more of a serpent than a snake. We flushed it out of hiding with some long handled implement we happened to have nearby. I took the shotgun, I figured I’d have better luck with it than a nine millimeter pistol, and fired. Some part of the shot hit the snake, and in incredible slow motion, the snake spun through the air amidst the dirt and debris the shot kicked up. Twirling, whirling, spinning, up, up, up, then hanging for a moment, then down, down, down and “FWAP”, right on top of our brand new tent. Serpent blood and guts everywhere. And in the weeks and months after that, we were overrun with mice and rodents of all shapes and sizes. That snake had a job, and I appreciate that now.

So, snakes. I’m not afraid, just mindful. I don’t let it control my life; I camp, I hike, I backpack, I rock climb. I enter and exit my house from the front door. I enjoy myself, and I take the proper precautions to avoid an encounter with snakes. I don’t live in the jungle, so I know that snakes are not out there actively hunting me. They, in fact, are more afraid of me than I am of them. Their attacks are in self defense, for self-preservation, instinctual and never unprovoked. Snakes, are, in fact good. They control the rodent population, which keeps many diseases from spreading out of control. They are part of the balance of nature, part of the design, part of the plan. I respect that. I respect them. Caution is appropriate where snakes may be, fear is not. Caution results in seeking to avoid. Fear results in one of two things; refraining from pleasurable activities on the chance of an encounter or, the senseless and needless eradication of the threat.

So, go on. What are you afraid of? You have nothing to fear, but fear itself, and you, and only you, have the power to overcome that, as well.

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