40 Questions We’re Afraid to Ask – #18
Remember when you first started crawling and fearlessly began explore the world around you? Or when you took your first confident steps and wandered across the room to check out that strange object on the other side?
But we’ve all watched kids do exactly that . . . at least until Mom or Dad realize what’s happening and yell out, “Hey . . . no! Come back here!”
There is much debate on the subject in scientific and intellectual circles, but I personally believe that we come into this world with absolutely no sense of fear. Yes, we human beings have a very limited set of instincts designed to help us survive (we are, in fact, one of the most — if not THE most naturally vulnerable creatures on the face of the planet), but survival instincts and fear are two very different things.
- What keeps a child from running out into the middle of the street without looking?
- What keeps a child from walking up to an uncaged crocodile or picking up a snake?
- What keeps a child from putting his or her hand on a hot stove or sticking their hand into a fire?
- What keeps a child from eating everything it sees?
The only answer is that we are taught (or learn through experience) not to do these things because there is real potential danger. But . . .
- does that mean we never again cross a street?
- does that mean that it is impossible to approach a crocodile if we have the right tools and are well-trained to do so, or that every snake is dangerous and/or life-threatening?
- Does that mean that no human has ever been able to develop the skills and/or mental discipline to be able to stick their hand into a flame or walk on searing hot coals without getting burned?
- Does that mean that there is nothing edible out there in the world or that I can’t try tasting something new and different?
There is a huge difference between fear and practical respect.
- I may not know how to swim, but does that mean I need to have a fear of water?
- I may know that it can be dangerous to stand too close to the edge of a cliff, but is that evidence of a need to develop a fear of heights?
- I may understand that there is always a chance that the plane I’m on could crash, but does that mean I need to be afraid of flying?
- I may forget my lines in a school play, but does that mean I need to be afraid of ever being on stage again or speaking in public?
- I may understand that not every person is trustworthy and that there are some real lunatics out there, but does that mean I never approach a stranger for any reason?
- I may realize that not everything I do will work out that I will make mistakes along the way, but does that mean I avoid ever trying anything new or step out on a new adventure?
- I may have a family to support, but does that mean that I never find ways to eventually leave that 9-5 job and, instead, live my true passion?
It’s been said that FEAR is simply an acronym
for False Evidence Appearing Real
Often, and very likely in most cases, our fears develop from painful experiences we have had in the past or from things we have been taught that we assumed were true. If reinforced enough, either by others or through our own mental/emotional reliving of the experience and retelling the story, we begin to make those fears part of our own identity, part of my own fictitious story.
To once again quote Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now, as I often have in the past (probably because I repeatedly work through it myself) . . .
The first thing to remember is this: As long as you make an identity for yourself out of the pain, you cannot become free of it. As long as part of your sense of self is invested in emotional pain, you will unconsciously resist or sabotage every attempt that you make to heal the pain. Why? Quite simply because you want to keep yourself intact, and the pain has become an essential part of you. This is an unconscious process, and the only way to overcome it is to make it conscious.
To suddenly see that you are or have been attached to your pain can be quite a shocking realization. The moment you realize this, you have broken the attachment.
I truly believe that our fears are manifestations of past pain
or avoidance of potential future imagined pain
— the “what-ifs”.
Since neither the past nor the future really exist, then what actual power does that fear really have over my day-to-day life if I simply become aware of it, take the bull by the horns, and take control?
Are you like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz looking for someone to hand you a dose of courage? If so, you’ll be waiting a long, long time. One has to ask oneself what is greater – the pain of remaining where I am in life or the rewards of refusing to identify with those fears any longer that are holding me back, leave those things or those relationships behind that are no longer serving me, take some chances, make a fool of myself, have fun with life, find my passion, and move forward.
While writing this article, I was really struggling with the direction I would take with this question of fear. It never ceases to amaze me how stuff can just appear in our lives if we allow ourselves to be open. This video showed up in my e-mail inbox and provided a perfect example. The main character is the most appropriate example I can imagine of someone who has overcome fear — specifically the fear of rejection — and he is changing the world, literally one step at a time.
Now . . . ask yourself one more time, “What do I fear that is holding me back?