How To Differentiate Between Good Fear & Bad Fear

“There is a time to take counsel of your fears, and there is a time to never listen to any fear.” ~ George 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 may 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 to improve our lives, but change is scary.

People in abusive relationships will stay in an unhealthy relationship and not leave their abusers. In spite of the potential for violence, these people cling to what is familiar and not 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 have 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!


Waiting for Matthew

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Hurricane Matthew: October 5, 2016


A hurricane doesn’t look too ominous from a satellite; just a wispy, white circular pattern floating silently on the blue waters. 

But, if you get up close and personal with a hurricane, it’s a whole different story. We know the kind of devastation these tropical storms can bring to anyone and anything unfortunate enough to be in its path.

And in Matthew’s path are millions of people, including my son, his wife, and my daughter. Of course, they’ve taken the necessary precautions. My son and daughter-in-law are residents of Cocoa Beach and were evacuated yesterday. Living on barrier islands prompted them to move everything from their first floor to the second floor. They’re waiting out the storm near Orlando with their three cats in a pet-friendly hotel, worried that they won’t have a home to return to. 

 

My daughter was invited to ride out the storm at a coworker’s house. At first she wanted to stay at her studio apartment and I initially agreed. However, as the reports on the impending storm grew increasingly more serious, I advised her to go to her friend’s house. Strength and safety in numbers; I didn’t want her to be alone. When I spoke with her earlier this evening, she was grateful not to be alone.

We make so many choices, large and small, inside of a single day. Our goal is to maintain control over the circumstances of our lives. Do we wear a seatbelt, take the vitamins, accept that job offer? Whether to be healthy and make “safe” decisions that will have a positive impact on our lives. Or, whether to engage in risky behavior that could have detrimental effects. 

At first glance it appears that we have a lot of control. And yet, there’s much that we can’t control or predict. 

Right now I want desperately to be with my family in Florida. I want to assure my frightened daughter that she is safe and will be okay. I want to allay my son’s fears about his home and help him feel hopeful that maybe the damage won’t be as bad as he’s expecting. I want to make this hurricane turn back out to sea, so it can’t hurt anymore people or cause more destruction.

While I have no control over any of this, I can control how I deal with it and how I help my loved ones deal with it. As long as they are safe, we’ll manage the rest together.