Most people stereotype me as “fearless.”
They’ll say things like:
Oh, I really admire that you can just pack up and go anywhere at a moment’s notice!
Are you really taking salsa lessons? What a hard dance to learn!
I watched you stand up to that obnoxious man to get your point across. You did the right thing. I wish I could be like you!
Fear is a Special Barrier
We all face fears of some sort, and for many of us, Fear is a daily companion. Certainly for me as a writer.
I capitalize the word Fear because it is as real to me as my neighbors and friends. It stands in my path every day that I live and breathe.
It is a tall, dark, and scornful apparition. It is strong and virile. It laughs at me and puts me down. It pushes me and leaves bruises on my psyche.
I battle back because I have chosen to do so. Some days I win, and some days I lose. I am not fearless, but I have chosen the path of the warrior because I decided to be a survivor.
Steven Pressfield covers this topic and others in his book, The War Of Art. I read and re-read it whenever I feel myself losing focus, growing weak, letting my guard down. Which is more often than I like.
Fear Requires a Warrior Mentality
There is only one pathway out of this realm, and that is Death.
Higher Powers planned it that way, and we have no choice in this matter. How we live out our journey through Life is a choice that we have a say in, but not total control over.
But how we face our choices is in our control.
True: there are many outrageous events and misfortunes that befall each of us as we travel our path. Some have it better than others.
The warrior, like anyone else, must face these misfortunes. These and the Unknown are the source of our fears, the barriers to our moving forward in our lives.
The warrior is often no stronger nor wiser than others. The warrior is often of humble means and dwells in obscurity. The warrior is a survivor because he or she has a plan and skills by which to execute it.
The warrior overcomes his or her fear and journeys onward using these skills.
Fear of something – anything – can cripple action and hobble your life. To battle and conquer fear, you must make it a real object. You must face it. Then, you imagine yourself on the other side of your fear. And then you push on through it.
It’s as hard as that. And, believe me – this can be hard! Below are some weapons to use in your battles with fear.
Curiosity never killed any cat that I knew. I use my curiosity often when I am on the fence about what to do or where to go. Some examples from my personal curiosities:
- I wonder what it would be like to dance with that pretty girl over there?
- How fast can my Boxster go?
- Is hang-gliding really as much fun as it looks?
Once I recognize that my indecision is another form of fear, I use my curiosity as psychic fuel to push me through my fear barrier. And, by golly, it often works!
A strongly held belief can propel you through the barrier of inaction and surprise even yourself with what you can accomplish. Here are some scenarios I’ve been a part of:
- An inappropriately developed property threatens your neighborhood ambience. Your belief that this is wrong drives you to circulate a petition, present it to your city council, and call the local television station to give voice to your cause. You win the battle and the building work is halted.
- You stand up to the doctors at the side of your comatose loved one and insist on the level of care she has requested in writing. You wave a copy of her living will and power of attorney in their faces; they acquiesce to her written wishes and back off.
Desperate circumstances require a cool head, and from this a proper response will often result. There is no way to practice for this:
- You are talking to your neighbor and she suddenly points to your house. You wheel around to see that the roof is on fire! You run to your hose and start wetting the roof down, mentally going through what you can save of your home’s contents. You shout to your neighbor to call the fire department.
- You are hiking and fall into a ravine. After you regain consciousness, you check your body and find that you have broken your arm. It is getting dark. You unpack your survival kit and make preparations to wait out the oncoming night…
Fear is a very real and palpable force that inhabits a space in all of our lives. It is a real being for me, but I have worked out a way to battle it and occasionally win.
I face my fear.
I consider its resistance to me, and how I will get through or around it. I look at all angles and choose a strategy.
I never think about my action while I am doing it. Afterward is when I reflect on the success or failure of my action.
So: what is your fear? And how do you get past it? What special weapons did you use in your battle?