Over the past several years I have written about fear numerous times. I have mentioned fear 36 times in articles found in the FontanieMagazine and some of those articles are all about fear. It is mentioned in three different eBooks so far, and in my book “Eternal Unfolding – a journey that turned into a different kind of love story” found on Amazon, fear is mentioned 26 times. Although I have touched on the subject often I still get asked about how we should deal with fear.
Today I want to explore fear from a three different perspectives, 1) fear as our friend, 2) fear as our foe, and 3) fear as a tender embrace - something we don’t normally consider when fear is discussed.
But first what is fear?
If you search for fear in the dictionary you will find that fear can be both a noun and a verb. When we use fear as a noun we refer to it as feeling an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain or harm, for example “I ran in fear as the lion approached.” When we use it as a verb we use it as being afraid of something or someone as potentially dangerous, painful or harmful as in “I really don’t like him but I don’t fear him anymore.”
Fear is one of those universal emotions experienced by everyone. It raises its head when we feel threatened either physically, emotionally or mentally. It can be real, like when we see something that actually terrifies us, or it can be imagined, like when we conjure something up in our mind and we let whatever that is frighten us. It is often considered a ‘negative emotion,’ but it serves a very important role in keeping us safe when there is potential danger just lurking around the corner. We get the shivers and say “whoa, just a minute,” and we stop to deal with that potential danger.
There are three distinguishing factors when we have a fearful experience. The first relates to the intensity of the experience or how severe the harm is that is threatening us; the second is the timing of the experience in terms of its immediacy; and the third is our coping capacity or what we do to reduce or eliminate the threat.
When we are able to cope with the threat the fear is more often than not removed or lessened. But if we are helpless in removing the threat the level of its intensity rises. Trepidation is often viewed as the least intense level of fear whereas terror is considered the most intense. And in between we travel through an increasing intensity of emotions like climbing a ladder from being generally nervous, to feelings of anxiety, and then climbing upwards to dread, desperation, panic and horror. Finally we reach the top rung, terror.
All of us can be fearful of something but there are certain things that trigger fear for most of us. Such things as:
Now let’s talk about the three faces of fear.
Fear As Our Friend
If you have read this far you probably have come to realize that fear can be our friend. It becomes our friend when we are faced with harm and we protect ourselves from it. Fear causes us to run if that is the best course of action or freeze if that is the best course of action. If we can outrun a lion that would be the best course of action, and if we meet a bear we can lie down and fend death that might be the best course of action. In any event fear can be our friend because it could save our lives from pending danger when we use our instinctual actions of freeze, flight or fight.
Fear As Our Foe:
Fear can also be our foe. It can cause high levels of anxiety resulting in stress in mind and body. When we let fear overwhelm us and freeze us to not act it can be debilitating. Sometimes fear can cause us to physically react to a situation by needlessly running away or not moving at all. At times fear causes our brain to freeze in time resulting in physical immobility or mentally shutting down. When we let fear act in this way it isn’t our friend. What we are doing is letting fear govern us in a way that we feel trapped and blocked from the things we want to do.
Fear as a Tender Embrace
From a compassionate perspective it takes a well developed ego to respect and patiently reassure someone who is afraid of something we are not afraid of. We do not have to feel someone’s fear to accept it and help them cope. Here we are reminded of mothers and fathers who tenderly embrace their child when they are frightened, or an adult embracing another adult when one or both are terrified.
From a biblical perspective we may have read “do not be afraid’ prompting us to view fear as being enveloped within the tenderness of a Divine Spirit. I’m not saying that fear isn’t real, because it is real. Even the story about Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane pointed out that he was fearful of what was to come. Fear for him was real, but somehow he had a confidence to go forward. It didn’t hold him back from what was to come. Yes he was fearful but he accepted it, faced it, and walked forward. He relied on a Power greater than himself.
The tenderness of fear from a spiritual dimension is not about denying that fear exists, it is about facing the fear and knowing that we are embraced in that fear by a Power or Spiritual Force bigger than us. It is almost a contradiction – we face real fear and danger but there is an embrace of tenderness and calmness in our fearfulness.
Fear causes us to sweat buckets, shake in our boots, and experience the shutters of flowing bodily fluids, yet with all of what is going on within us, we have a sense that everything will be OK because, metaphorically speaking, we are lifted in the palm of the Divine Spirit’s hand. In that enveloped hand there is a tenderness both pushing and supporting us to accept what is to come and walk forward with confidence all the while still feeling the weight of fear within us. To paraphrase Isiah, ‘Do not be afraid for I hold you in the palm of my hand.’
So folks when we struggle with our fears think about the spiritual dimension of ‘be not afraid.’
As always, stay safe, keep well and continue becoming the best version of yourself.
Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Source: Jordan Whitt, Unsplash