Fear as an ally

Credit for this one should go to Mark from Heart of Business and his defense of fear on Twitter. Mark is a Sufi business coach. Is that not cool?

In our culture, we have a complicated series of stories about fear.

In one set of stories, we learn that we should avoid fear. In this story, we want someone else to make things safe for us. At its core, this story is about feeling so vulnerable that we cannot afford fear, and so if we feel it, we understand it to mean stop.

In another story, designed to counter the stagnating effects of the first, we hear that we should ignore fear. We are told to do things that scare us, to face our fears, not to be held back by them. For some people, this seems to really work. For the rest of us, it can be paralyzing, because it doesn’t help us know what to do when just ignoring it doesn’t work.

In both of these stories, fear is an adversary: something to be avoided or overcome. Here’s a third story, though: fear doesn’t have to be a roadblock or something that you need to blow through. Instead, it can be a signpost, a source of information, an ally.

Here are a few ideas I have about what fear might be saying if it’s not saying stop or ignore me:

  • slow down
  • pay more attention to this part
  • could this other thing that happened in the past help here?
  • I need something

What else?

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3 comments to Fear as an ally

  • I have long thought that pain means “Something is wrong. Look to see what it is and change it.” I believe fear is, frequently, the emotional equivalent.

  • There truly obviously a lot to know about this. I think you created some incredibly good points in Features also. Keep working, quite job!

  • Amanda

    I rode in a cross country clinic a few months ago, and the lunchtime unmounted session was about fear. Eventing is a rather dangerous sport, as these things go, and understandably a lot of people suffer from some rather paralyzing anxiety problems related to going cross country. Some of them have had bad falls; some of them have seen bad falls; some of them just have great imaginations. Everyone has their own particular trigger.

    The therapist/upper level rider who did the talk at lunch talked about fear in your third way, that it is a sign of something. The human body has evolved for how many millions of years and it is not stupid. When you get a fight-or-flight response, or even just non-physical danger fear, it is telling you something. And you should listen. Maybe you should even heed it: this is not my day, that jump is too big, my horse is not responding as he ought. Maybe you should invite it out into the open and counter it with rationality. Maybe you should put it in a box in the corner, acknowledge it, carry it with you as the warning it is, but continue on anyway. Your response depends on how well you know yourself, and in this situation, how well you know your horse.

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