Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Meaning of Fear

Fear, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid”.

In small amounts, fear keeps us alive. Keeps us from being eaten by the tiger outside our ancestral caves, keeps us close to the fires that serve as protection from the wild animals. In large amounts, fear paralyzes.

In our everyday world, most people don’t have the problem of dangerous animals running up and down the grocery store isles. The most physical danger we face is from other people. Or as one writer put it, “The Most Dangerous Game”. Richard Connell wrote the story and from what I recall it involved one man hunting another man for sport. Most dangerous game indeed. A prey who can think and strategize and possibly defeat the predator.

In our day and age, we still face the most dangerous of predators--human beings. Whether the game takes place in Iaq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa, South America--anywhere on the planet. Any city, town, village, hamlet, shoot.. even two people living two miles from each other in the middle of nowhere can be a danger to each other.

I believe, under the “right” circumstances, anyone can become a killer. If you are threatened by a thug, or someone who supposedly cares for you, with a knife or a gun suddenly everything is on the table.

I would not stand by and let someone kill me or attack me. As far as I am concerned, anyone who threatens me either verbally or physically is someone who needs to be dealt with. Verbal threats can escalate to physical threats. But being a reasonable human being, I have to decide if the person threatening me is a true threat to my health and/or life.

Like a lot of people, and probably women in particular, I have the “deer caught in the headlights” syndrome. Something threatens me, and I freeze. Unable to move, unable to react. Literally rooted to the ground. And I wonder if this has anything to do with lack of training. I mean, if you’ve never been attacked, how will you know what you will do?

I’ve heard that if you take self-defense courses and practice the moves, that in a real emergency you will automatically be able to defend yourself. Without any or little paralysis.

So, fear can motivate you to do good things for yourself, like taking a self-defense course, or losing weight and getting in shape, or not taking that shortcut through a dark alley at midnight. But fear can immobilize you and leave you vulnerable to emotional/verbal/physical attacks.

Examine your fears, ask if any of your fears can help you to do something positive. Are your fears justifiable or do you tend to exaggerate negative feelings? Through what lens do you view the world? If your lens is skewed, then get help to see things more realistically. For realistic fears, think about what you would do if threatened--think of all avenues open to you to deal with different threats. Go take that self-defense course. Do something to alleviate your fears. You need to have options. In any situation. Give yourself OPTIONS.

I think Winston Churchill said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” And it’s true--arm yourself with knowledge and tactics to effectively manage your fears. I don’t think it’s possible to totally eliminate your fears but you can use them to your advantage.

No comments: