There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear. ~ George S. Patton
I’ve always believed that fear is like a double-edged sword. A little bit is a good thing; we stay away from the edge of the cliff and that keeps us safe. Conversely, too much is a bad thing; it can cripple us, preventing new experiences and growth. The trick is knowing the difference and understanding when fear is appropriate and when it’s debilitating.
Thanks to the almond shaped amygdala, nestled deep in the temporal lobe of the brain, our body generates fear quickly in reaction to external stimuli. The “fight or flight” response kicks in and directs us to either stay and fight the thing that scares us, or run away from it. This physiological reaction is due to a tangible threat: a snake, a bear, an intruder wielding a gun, etc.
At the other end of the spectrum is fear that results from imagined threats. Yes, if we quit our mundane job to pursue our passion we might not make as much money. If we move to another city we might not be happy. If we ask for a raise we might not get it. So, because something bad might happen, we never venture outside our comfort zone.
Some risks in life are worth taking if we want to grow. Author Susan Jeffers discusses this in her best selling book “Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.” Changes are often needed in order to improve our lives, but change is scary. People in abusive relationships will remain in an unhealthy relationship rather than leave their abusers. In spite of the potential for violence, these people cling to what is familiar rather than face the fear of the unknown.
I credit fear with making sure I use a seatbelt, drive defensively, brush my teeth, pay my bills, etc. Fear kept me out of the deep water until I learned to swim. Fear guides me away from those things that I know can be dangerous and threaten my survival. However, I’ve also allowed fear to paralyze me when changes were needed to improve my life.
“Throwing caution to the wind” is something I’ve learned to do over the past ten years, when the circumstances called for it. I’ve made many major changes in my life and there’s been great improvements because of it. Each of those changes caused a certain amount of fear. Understanding which type of fear and whether it’s reasonable for a given situation helps in determining what the next step should be, if any.
Fear is the father of courage and the mother of safety. ~ Henry H. Tweedy
Keeping that double-edged sword close at hand is advisable; knowing how and when to use it is imperative. If you don’t believe me, just ask General Patton!