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Fear is Good

We often don’t like to admit we are afraid of something.

I guess this is because some part of us wants to believe that we are, if not invincible, at least able to handle anything that life can throw at us. To put it starkly: this is just silly. There are many things that can maim and kill us and it is usually good to avoid these things!

Unfortunately not wanting to admit to others that we are afraid means that we don’t listen to our own fear. This means we ignore the message our fear is giving us. What is this message? Danger!

This doesn’t mean that our fear is always right.

Some things we have learned to be afraid of that are of no danger to us. I’m still scared of big dogs (especially alsatians) because I was scared by one walking home from infants school one day. As I’m not around dogs much I’ve never bothered to get rid of this learned fear.

However if we don’t listen to our fear we may ignore something, or someone, that is genuinely dangerous. Those who live or work in dangerous situations (soldiers, people in emergency response teams) don’t usually ignore their fear. They listen to it and find ways to deal with it.

This doesn’t mean letting fear run your life, it does mean listening to the information it has for us.

Finally a word about dealing with those unrealistic learned fears. It is usually not helpful to steel yourself to jump in the deep end. This leads to thoughtless conduct and thoughtless conduct can get you into real trouble and danger.

It is best to find pleasurable ways to deal with the fear. Make each step as delightful as possible. If I was to deal with my fear of dogs I would start off having fun with (very) small dogs, until I was comfortable with small dogs. Then I would work my up to bigger dogs. And then I would work my way through the bigger breeds until I got to alsatians. Each step would mean that I would feel happy.

In this way your learning will be a pleasure and you will be more likely to want to deal with your fear next time. (Scaring ourselves usually is unpleasant and means we are reluctant to try it next time).

So how are you at listening to your fear? Has fear played much of a role in your life?  I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.

I'm Evan Hadkins. To find out how to live a more satisfying life you can download my manifesto on living authentically. It is a book of exercises to guide you to finding, nourishing and living from the core of who you are.

If you would like me to write about some aspect of living an authentic life please don't hesitate to get in touch. There is a box in the sidebar where you can leave a question anonymously if you wish, or you can email me, use the contact page, or comment on this post.

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{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Barbara 2009/08/31, 12:35 am

    Hi Evan,

    Once again I find myself commenting not on articles you’ve written, but those you recommend.

    The first artcle by Cath does have some good recommendations, however I feel they would be disasterous for me to follow. Been there, done that feelings welled up, closely followed by the regrets in my actions. Those of us who struggle with addictions will ALWAYS choose excitement first and guess what? Most often nothing to do with what I might be passionate about, or if there is, reason has completely left the building as I follow that path. So ignoring my fear can be and has been among my worst ideas. Both fortunately and unfortunately, I read more caution than help in this article, which in the end was helpful, as I’d steer clear of these excercises.

    The article by Tom Volkar about fear is much more logical and grounded, the better way for even people like me to proceed.

  • Evan 2009/08/31, 6:53 am

    Thanks Barbara, I like Tom’s article too. I don’t think I’m entirely clear what you’re saying. If fear or excitement shuts down our reason I think this is a big problem (I want us to live with all of us – including our reason). If you would like to keep talking about this I’d be happy to.

  • Barbara 2009/08/31, 11:45 pm

    Oops, Evan! I posted the comment on the wrong post. Sorry

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