In my honest opinion, fear gets a bad rap. We have it for a reason, but we are too petrified to look past the surface at what lies below. There is much we can learn about ourselves from it if we take the time to look.
Fear is an emotional response to something that might cause us harm. It is a way of protecting ourselves and triggers the fight or flight response in our physical being. That being said, fear is there to keep you safe.
When we grow up, we start out with a set collection of fears that have been instilled in us by our parents and other authority figures. We learn not to talk to strangers or to cross the road without looking both ways. Some of these early fears are also the result of experience, such as the fear of things that are hot after putting your hand on a car’s exhaust (which hurts, btw).
Add in a healthy dose of television and our fears increase. Now we have an irrational fear of sharks (thanks Jaws) and are worried that vampires are going to attack us when we go walking in the woods.
With the invention of the Wide World Web, the globe is shrinking and news travels faster. Instead of just being afraid of what is our own back yard, we have to worry about all the other evils in the world that are out to get us.
This is enough to leave us completely paralyzed in fear and make sure we never step outside of the house! Stop and remember – fear is a tool to keep you safe from things that would cause harm to you. You have to control the fear instead of letting it control you.
So what things can you learn from looking at your fears?
Examining your fears can help you break some of your bad habits or patterns of behavior. For instance, if you are afraid of being along, you may be clingy or invade other peoples’ space. Acknowledging this fear and owning it will help you see this pattern in your behavior. This is the first step to making a change.
Looking at your fears also helps you to decide which ones are genuine and the others that are superfluous. I fell down the stairs as a child so I have an aversion to walking up stairs, standing on chairs, and other “heights.” It wasn’t until I sat down and thought about it that I finally realized where it came from. On the other hand, my fear of spiders was the result of a coach showing us the movie “Arachnophobia” in high school health class. This makes for an interesting experience when you have a spider for an animal messenger, which has happened twice I might add.
Another use of your fears is to fuel your creativity. In author Holly Lisle’s How To Think Sideways: Career Survival School For Writers we learned to use our fears as part of our works of fiction to give it added emotion and intensity. If you are scared of aliens, have your hero face off against them or your heroine come to terms with being one. The possibilities are endless.
Here is a little exercise that Holly taught us to come up with a list of our fears called clustering. Put the word "fear," "Things I fear...," or something similar in the middle of the page and begin to build a network of concepts and ideas from the center point.
This is a cluster that I created last week in about ten minutes. After I scanned and looked at it again, I saw some stuff was missing so make sure to give yourself enough time. I recommend working for about ten minutes, taking a break, and then working for another ten or until you feel like you are done.
So spend some time shining a light into the dark recesses of your psyche and examine your fears. Like with everything else on this path, get rid of the things that are not serving you or causing unwarranted drama. Get to know yourself better and stop allowing fear to rule you because you are in control.