We began the new year discussing living with passion and being passionate about what we do and who we are. Sometimes though, we are stopped dead in our tracks from being fully immersed in passion because of fear or anxiety.
Fear and anxiety are quite the complex emotions. According to Psychology Today, “Fear is generally considered a reaction to something immediate that threatens security or safety…”. “The emotion of fear is felt as a sense of dread, alerting you to the possibility that your physical self might be harmed, which in turn motivates you to protect yourself.”
In contrast, anxiety is longer lasting distress triggered by an non-specific event or idea. Both of these emotions are responses triggered by threats. While similar, anxiety is a sense of foreboding; an alert of a threat in the future while fear is an immediate need to defend ourselves from an impending disaster.
”When an emotion is triggered it has an impact on our judgements and choices in situations (Lerner and Keltner, 2001). In a study of risk taking, participants who were fearful consistently made judgments and choices that were relatively pessimistic and amplified their perception of risk in a given situation, in contrast to happy or angry participants who were more likely to disregard risk in making relatively optimistic judgments and choices (Lerner and Keltner, 2001). Those who tend to have personality characteristics that are dominated by the emotion of fear, will avoid taking risks that are generally perceived by others as relatively benign (Sylvers, et al., 2001). Thus, awareness of your emotions and considering how they might influence your decision-making in a given situation is important in your approach to life, your work, and your goals.”
So after all of the technical speak, we know that fear is important and a vital resource in protecting ourselves from danger. Preying on fear is also big business. Media, merchandisers, politicians, religious leaders have created a climate fueled by fear. Higher ratings, selling products, accumulating votes, keeping us on the straight, moral path have become woven into our daily lives affecting us in profoundly disturbing ways.
”Fear is the new normal.” This was written recently in The Observer. The article suggests we should get used to cohabitating with fear? No, I say we stand up to those people and things causing us to live in such a state. Let’s challenge this way of being as it certainly isn’t living the best life.
Our choices are influenced by fear yet that is flawed thinking as it will never lead us to the healthy, authentic, passionate lives we crave.
In addition to my thoughts, the following paraphrases an article by Dr. Matt James, Ph.D—
Are we being fueled by fear:
- We see only the negative such as failure or pain
- We don’t stop to think something through; we don’t analyze options that will result in benefits, instead, we make a knee-jerk reaction
- People avoid anything new or unknown—instead of only using fear in response to survival threats, we now use it anytime we even take a baby step outside our self-imposed, often ridiculous comfort zones. Fear keeps us trapped
- Fear limits us rather than allowing us to expand —it tells us not to speak to strangers (or even acknowledge them), it prevents us from speaking our opinions and pushing our boundaries, it tells us to avoid something out of fear of failure or rejection. Fear tells us to stay in bed and hide under the covers instead of growing into our true, authentic, passionate selves.
- It messes with intuition—it blocks out that small, inner voice that tells us to trust our gut and instead fills the brain with out of control thoughts.
- At it’s worst, fear keeps us second-guessing and thereby avoiding making a decision (although no decision is really a decision—an ugly catch-22).
So, what can we do?
- Recognize the place of fear.
- Find a quiet space and learn to quiet your mind so that you can listen above the fear.
- Make lists of pros and cons; take a step back, get into a calmer state, then make the decision.
- Get professional help in order to release persistent fears. Often, fear stems from a current or previous situation such as any form abuse, of being controlled or suppressed, of being constantly criticized or other past triggering event
- Understand that we are empowered.
- Do not let others make us feel small; we have valuable opinions and gifts to offer. We are all worthy.
”It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.” ~Marcus Aurelius
So, my friends, I ask you what “fears” are stopping you from living authentically and passionately? While there are indeed real and true fears, so much is manufactured by our own brains. With focus, persistence, meditation, and a lot of laughter, we can overcome many of these things that are simply figments of our minds.
Not to diminish true PTSD and other significant life-altering events for which I recommend seeking professional help, we must stop reliving past events that only end up complicating our lives. We need to find the positive in those moments and use that lesson to boost our passionate selves. On separate notecards, we might consider writing the words Breathe, Pause, Laugh, Think, Perspective and post them where we may need them. We absolutely need to cut back on the negative images and information we consume daily—this alone will aid in removing the man-made fears society is trying to impose upon us.
More simply: Feel the Fear; Do It Anyway! Once a week at a minimum, take at least a baby step out of your comfort zone or push past your boundaries, grab hold of your positive energy and take a leap into passionate, authentic living.
Lamia, Mary C., Ph.D., “The Complexity of Fear”. Psychology Today. December 15, 2011.
James, Matthew, B., M.A., Ph.D., “6 Signs Fear is Holding You Back”. Psychology Today. May 17, 2015.