our journey with Fear starts with a simple question. Which feels more true:
1. If you feel Fear, that means you have an unnaturally weak character and need to address that problem.
2. If you feel Fear, that means you are experiencing a natural, universal certainty that comes with being alive, for all sentient beings, from start to finish.
Intellectually, of course, you know the second is true. You get that Fear is something you’re born with, like arms, legs, breath, a heartbeat. It’s the natural order of things to feel that discomfort and it will be with you every step of your life.
Why, then, does this language sound so familiar: “Fear must be overcome. Conquered! Push past it. Let go of it. Don’t let Fear drag you down! Don’t let Fear get the better of you.”
Imagine saying: “Don’t let breathing drag you down! Don’t let breathing get the better of you!”
That would be absurd. Yet that’s what is being said about the natural part of you called Fear, every day. Most people argue that Fear is a hindrance that must be fought. A more progressive minority say it’s natural and you should allow yourself to feel it—yet in the end, they still conclude that you must also fight it, which is a total contradiction that makes me cringe every time I see it. Everyone, it seems, is engaged in a worldwide slander campaign against Fear.
Have you ever heard this clever acronym for Fear: “False Evidence Appearing Real”? According to this, Fear is a liar that must be challenged and questioned.
And so experts have appeared everywhere to help you do just that.
Most of these experts teach you how to deal with your “Fear problem” by using your Intellect—or, as I call it, Thinking Mind—to outsmart, reason, or rationalize it away. So if you’re afraid of flying, you may gather statistics on airplane crashes and confirm, “I have a better chance of dying by walking across the street.”
When considering a flying trapeze class, you might argue, “There’s nothing to be afraid of! See, there’s a harness and safety lines.”
If you’re afraid of giving a speech, you may focus on the many times you’ve given speeches before and how much the audience is going to love you, like they always do.
Then there are the breathing exercises, the instructions to “think happy thoughts” or “meditate your way out of Fear and into peace.” It all seems to work, too. You will succeed in momentarily calming Fear down while you pursue the longer-term goal of getting rid of it entirely so you can eventually be free of this “troubling” emotion.
The intention to focus on the positive is a noble one, of course, but look again at the approach you’re taking: Do you understand that by attempting this, you’re trying to outsmart the universe and the natural order of things?
Are you smarter than the universe and the natural order of things?
Just guessing, but . . . probably not.
Indulge me for a moment here. What if instead you were to go all the way with owning the second answer—that Fear is indeed natural? It’s not something to outsmart or overcome or reason away. It simply is meant to be felt—much like love, sadness, or joy. And that’s it.
Can you sense in your body what that might feel like? To truly feel that Fear is natural and normal when it shows up. Can you feel the relief?
What if everyone did this? What kind of world would we live in if Fear were honored that way—not just in your life, but in everyone’s lives?
Let’s give it a try, shall we? Let’s stop with the breathing out of Fear, the letting go, the rationalizations, and do something fundamentally different—something that actually works. Let’s learn the easiest path for limiting the problems associated with Fear—call it Stress, Anxiety, Nerves, but you do understand that this is Fear, yes? We need to start calling it by its real name if we want to be free. Let’s learn to embrace this primary emotion as a positive, delicious part of what makes life worth living. This is the Art of Fear.
In The Art Of Fear 1.0bugs fixed