What Fear Is and Isn’t

You can’t be rid of fear — but you can control it, rather than be controlled by it.

Fear is part of human nature.

At its core, fear is a message. It’s an instinct designed to protect you from harm. Fear is an early-warning system meant to help you avoid situations that could lead to irreparable harm or death.

In this form, fear is a good thing. When humankind was primitive — and still prey to predators — fear told people to run, escape, act to avoid being killed.

As humankind evolved, fear evolved. When the threats to life and limb shifted from the tangible to the intangible, so too did the fears people would feel.

A large part of this is built on the human need for connection. Introverts or extroverts, people need connections. Introverts need few, where extroverts need many. Ambiverts — those of us both introverted and extroverted — need more connections than introverts but less than extroverts. Happy medium.

As humans moved up the evolutionary ladder and became the predators more often than the prey — the number of tangibles we had to fear lessened. Fear, overall, didn’t, however. But it changed and became focused on intangibles instead.

By and large, the thing I think people fear the most is suffering. It’s not so much about what will come of a situation and more about how badly it will hurt.

Emotional and spiritual pain tend to be greater than physical pain because they’re much more nebulous. When you break a bone, the source of pain is obvious. When your heart is broken or your faith is lost, it’s far more abstract.

For all the ways it interferes with our existence, fear remains a necessity.

Balance, paradox, and the yin and yang of everything

While most of the Universe exists between the extremes — they are necessary to know because of how it all balances out.

We live largely between black and white, good and bad, yes and no, up and down, and so forth. Because humans tend to experience life as a linear progression, we base most of our observations within parameters between birth and death and like extremes.

Thus, to know pleasure you need to know pain. To know good you need to know bad, for happy you need to know sad, and for reason you need to know fear.

If fear is yin, reason is yang. Not courage, bravery, or confidence, but reason.

Fear is distress, apprehension, and a thought or idea wrapped in emotion. Intangible fear tends to lack logic or explanation.

Reason is your power to look at a situation and apply logic to it. You can form a conclusion based on fact and reality as you perceive it (remember that perception of reality is unique to you and everyone else).

Since intangible fear lacks logic and understanding, reason brings this in to inform you of what the thought and emotion are all about.

Sometimes, once you apply reason, you learn your fear is valid, justified, and necessary. When you see that your fear is not beyond reason it helps you make choices and decisions to better your life.

On the other hand, when you apply reason and learn that your fear is irrational, illogical, and not at all based on reality, you gain the same power to choose and decide what to do with it.

Like all the other paradoxes of the Universe, fear and reason are necessary opposites.

But applying reason to fear remains — for many — a massive challenge.

What do you fear and why?

As I wrote earlier, much of the intangible fear we humans experience is not about a thing but more about suffering from the thing.

Let’s say you have been called into a meeting with your boss. Along this line, let’s say you know the boss has been laying people off. So, anticipating the meeting, you become fearful.

To be perfectly fair, losing your job could suck. You’ll need to get a new one — and in this current world situation that’s not necessarily easy. What will become of losing your job is concerning and the spark of your fear.

But how often does it turn into fear of the suffering that might ensue? You get your stomach all tangled up in knots about the meeting, how awful being told you’re being let go is going to feel, and if you might break down in front of the boss as such.

Further down the spiral, you begin seeing the worst-case scenarios. Loss of your job leads to loss of your relationships, home, material and immaterial things, and other misery. A boatload of suffering is coming your way and it’s going to suck lots and lots.

The semi-tangible, somewhat concerning fear that you’re going to lose your job has now devolved into a full-blown panic over how much suffering will come of this. The fear of all that suffering, unchecked, might lead to a panic attack, anxiety, depression, and even worse.

I’ve been there. I know this feeling.

Then, the meeting happens — and hey, you’re not fired — you’re being promoted. Or being told that you’re not being laid-off. OR — you are being fired, and it is what it is. All that suffering you anticipated of the moment doesn’t come from the moment.

That is why suffering tends to be our biggest fear.

Applying reason lessens fear

To quote Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist,

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself.”

In the above example, the suffering that occurs in the moment of speaking with the boss may be non-existent or far less than anticipated and feared. The suffering you feared is not even close to how you suffer when it comes to pass.

This is why, in any given situation, when you encounter fear — reason is the key to understanding it. Reason lets you see the reality of the fear — and whether it’s big or small — and most importantly, endangering your life and wellbeing.

Unfortunately, we live in a fear-based society. Much of the fear is weaponized on the part of certain people in positions of power to assert control. Politicians, religious leaders, and business leaders wield fear without any heed for collateral damage.

For example, there is a false narrative that “the other” will take your livelihood away. The suffering that will come when “the other” takes your job, your faith, your sexuality, your freedom, or what-have-you will be the worst. “The other” is out to get you and MAKE you suffer.

I use “the other” because it changes depending on who is stirring the pot and for what reason. “The other” can be liberals, women, homosexuals, transgendered, black people, and on and on. But the suffering implied that will be caused by the other? It generally doesn’t exist at all.

Said leader exploiting your fear for their own gain, however, will lose their power. They’re the only ones likely to have any real suffering at all.

Applying reason to a given situation dominated by fear of any kind lessens the fear. This is why logic and reason get derided by fear-mongers as they do.

Fear is necessary. Unreasonable fear is not

You can’t be rid of fear — but you can control it, rather than be controlled by it.

Reason informs you if the fear is reasonable or unreasonable. What this means varies from person to person. But reason and logic tell you if fear is protecting you — or stifling you.

Fear is how the ego keeps you alive and in the status quo. While it can and will be stirred by outside influences — fear is an internal matter.

Humans love comfort. As such, we establish comfort zones. But we also crave change and growth. Sometimes in small, infinitesimal ways — and sometimes in gargantuan, obvious ways.

When you go with a big change, your ego recognizes you stepping out of the comfort zone. To keep you in it, fear awakens.

Reasonable fear is a warning of danger. Applying reason to it determines if you heed the warning or not. Unreasonable fear has no logic at all, and reason shows you this.

Then, you get to decide and choose what to do.

Fear is an early-warning system to protect your life and wellbeing. But since fear tends to the intangible, you need to apply reason and logic to determine if it should be followed — or reasoned with and dismissed.

Which is how empowerment works. To control your growth and paths in life, you need to overcome your fears.

If something gets handed to you, you might not apply sufficient value to it. But when you put in the time and effort and energy, and you accomplish something — the feeling is indescribable. And from there, you feel like you can achieve anything.

That’s why, ultimately, fear is necessary. Because overcoming it spurs creation and empowerment. The choice for how you react to fear empowers or disempowers you.

That decision is yours to make. Choose reasonably.

Thank you for reading. I am MJ Blehart. I write about mindfulness, conscious reality creation, positivity, and similar life lessons.
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I am a practitioner of mindfulness, positivity, philosophy, & conscious reality creation. I love to inspire, open minds, & entertain. http://www.mjblehart.com

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