fear and reason
“In civilized life it has at last become possible for large numbers of people to pass from the cradle to the grave without ever having had a pang of genuine fear.
Many of us need an attack of mental disease to teach us the meaning of the word.” William James.
We have all heard the seemingly discriminating remarks that fear is normal and abnormal, and that normal fear is to be regarded as a friend, while abnormal fear should be destroyed as an enemy.
The fact is that no so called normal fear can be named which has not been clearly absent in some people who have had every cause therefor.
If you will run over human history in your mind, or look about yea in the present life, you will find here and there persons who,
in situations or before objects which ought, as any fearful soul will insist, to inspire the feeling of at least normal self-protecting fear, are nevertheless wholly without the feeling.
They possess every feeling and thought demanded except fear. The idea of self-preservation is as strongly present as with the most abjectly timid or terrified, but fear they do not know. This fearless awareness of fear suggesting conditions may be due to several causes.
It may result from constitutional make-up, or from long continued training or habituation, or from religious ecstasy, or from a perfectly calm sense of spiritual selfhood which is unhurtable,
or from the action of very exalted reason. Whatever the explanation, the fact remains: the very causes which excite fear in most of us, merely appeal, with such people, if at all.
to the instinct of self-preservation and to reason, the thought-element of the soul which makes for personal peace and wholeness.
Banish all fear.
It is on such considerations that I have come to hold that all real fear-feeling should and may be banished from our life, and that what we call “normal fear” should be substituted in our language by “instinct” or by “reason,” the element of fear being dropped altogether.
“Everyone can testify that the psychical state called fear consists of mental representations of certain painful results” (James). The mental representations may be very faint as such, but the idea of hurt to self is surely present.
If, then, it can be profoundly believed that the real self cannot be hurt; if the reason can be brought to consider vividly and believingly all quieting considerations; if the self can be held consciously in the assurance that the White Life surrounds the true self, and is surely within that self,
and will suffer “no evil to come nigh,” while all the instincts of self preservation may be perfectly active, fear itself must be removed “as far as the east is from the west.”
These are the ways, then, in which any occasion for fear may be divided:
As a warning and as a maker of panic. But let us say that the warning should be understood as given to reason, that fear need not appear at all, and that the panic is perfectly useless pain. With these discriminations in mind, we may now go on to a preliminary study of fear.
preliminary study of fear.
Fear is (a) an impulse, (b) a habit, (c) a disease.
Fear, as it exists in man, is a make-believe of sanity, a creature of the imagination, a state of insanity.
Furthermore, fear is, now of the nerves, now of the mind, now of the moral consciousness.
The division depends upon the point of view. What is commonly called normal fear should give place to reason, using the word to cover instinct as well as thought. From the correct point of view all fear is an evil so long as entertained.
Whatever its manifestations, wherever its apparent location, fear is a psychic state, of course, reacting upon the individual in several ways: as, in the nerves, in mental moods, in a single impulse, in a chronic habit, in a totally unbalanced condition.
The reaction has always a good intention, meaning, in each case, “Take care! Danger!” You will see that this is so if you will look for a moment at three comprehensive kinds of fear fear of self, fear for self, fear for others. Fear of self is indirectly fear for self danger.
Fear for others signifies foresensed or forepictured distress to self because of anticipated misfortune to others. I often wonder whether, when we fear for others, it is distress to self or hurt to them that is most emphatically in our thought.
Fear, then, is usually regarded as the soul’s danger signal. But the true signal is instinctive and thoughtful reason.
Even instinct and reason, acting as warning, may perform their duty abnormally, or assume abnormal proportions.
And then we have the feeling of fear. The normal warning is induced by actual danger apprehended by mind in a state of balance and self-control.
Normal mind is always capable of such warning. There are but two ways in which so-called normal fear, acting in the guise of reason, may be annihilated: by the substitution of reason for fear, and by the assurance of the white life.
Let it be understood, now, that by normal fear is here meant normal reason real fear being denied place and function altogether.
Then we may say that such action of reason is a benefactor to man. It is, with pain and weariness, the philanthropy of the nature of things within us.
One person said: “Tired? No such word in my house!” Now this cannot be a sound and healthy attitude. Weariness, at a certain stage of effort, is a signal to stop work.
When one becomes so absorbed in labor as to lose consciousness of the feeling of weariness, he has issued a “hurry call” on death.
I do not deny that the soul may cultivate a sublime sense of buoyancy and power; rather do I urge you to seek that beautiful condition; but I hold that when a belief or a hallucination refuses to permit you to hear the warning of nerves and muscles, Nature will work disaster inevitably.
Let us stand for the larger liberty which is joyously free to take advantage of everything Nature may offer for true well-being.
There is a partial liberty which tries to realize itself by denying various realities as real; there is a higher liberty which really realizes itself by conceding such realities as real and by using or disusing them as occasion may require in the interest of the self at its best.
I hold this to be true wisdom: to take advantage of everything which evidently promises good to the self, without regard to this or that theory, and freely to use all things, material or immaterial, reasonable or spiritual.
I embrace your science or your method; but I beg to ignore your bondage to philosophy or to consistency. So I say that to normal health the weary-sense is a rational command to replenish exhausted nerves and muscles.
It is not liberty, it is not healthful, to declare, “There is no pain!” Pain does exist, whatever you affirm, and your affirmation that it does not is proof that it does exist,
for why (and how) declare the non-existence of that which actually is non-existent? But if you say, “As a matter of fact I have pain, but I am earnestly striving to ignore it, and to cultivate thought-health so that the cause of pain may be removed,” that is sane and beautiful.
This is the commendable attitude of the Bible character who cried: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” To undertake swamping pain with a cloud of psychological fog that is to turn anarchist against the good government of Nature.
By pain Nature informs the individual that he is somewhere out of order. This warning is normal. The feeling becomes abnormal in the mind when imagination twangs the nerves with reiterated irritation, and Will, confused by the discord and the psychic chaos, cowers and shivers with fear.
I do not say there is no such thing as fear. Fear does exist. But it exists in your life by your permission only, not because it is needful as a warning against “evil.”
Fear is induced by unduly magnifying actual danger, or by conjuring up fictitious dangers through excessive and misdirected psychical reactions.
This also may be taken as a signal of danger, but it is a falsely-intentioned witness, for it is not needed, is hostile to the individual because it threatens self-control and it absorbs life’s forces in useless and destructive work when they ought to be engaged in creating values.
How Do You Overcome Fears?
What is Fear?
Fear is one type of emotion that impacts one’s life significantly. Animals and humans alike have this emotional response based on any events in the environment that poses danger, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Indeed, fear takes on different forms and it will be discussed later.
However, the effect that fear has on a person is important because it can potentially alter one’s life and how he or she deals with the environment.
How do you know when one is undergoing fear? Despite of its cause, there are common physical indicators of fear. They are as follows:
• increase in heart rate and blood pressure
• tightened muscles
• inability to focus your senses
• dilated pupils
Different Forms of Fear
Fear comes in various forms. And yet, its effects are similarly devastating to the person involved. There are various triggers for these fears but all have the potential to impact one’s ability to think clearly and respond to situations logically.
Below is a list of the different forms of fears:
• Places: crowds, enclosed places, below ground, or heights
• Animals: rats, snakes, mice, spiders, etc
• People: strangers, homosexuals, feeling over-responsible for others, talking to groups of people, etc
• Events: war, crime, public speaking, etc
• Family member/loved ones: death of family member, getting ill
• Disaster: hurricane, lightening, injury or pain, blood, death, earthquake, etc
• Other people’s reactions or responses: rejection, disapproval, being humiliated, being ignored, pretension, insecurity
• Feelings about one’s self: taking the leadership role, speaking to a large crowd, stage fright, embarassing yourself
There are more different categories of fear that is experienced by people, hence people response differently. Some are able to use that fear they experience in order to sharpen their responses to a given situation.
Others, however, do not have control over the level of fear they are experiencing, which often leads to panicking.
Negative Impacts of Fear
Fear is not always negative, provided that you learn how to deal with the feeling of fear. And yet it can be potentially dangerous when the feeling of fear has gotten really extreme.
Therefore, it is important that you are able to understand where fear is coming from and deal with it logically. If not, it can lead to you making irrational responses on the situation at hand, such as the following:
• Inability to make clear and logical decisions.
• Prevents your ability to trust in your surroundings and other people, which is crucial in your own growth and development.
• Brings about fear of change due to the uncertainty of events, even though the situation requires it.
• Results to resistance of help from others.
• It confines you and unable you to explore opportunities that come your way.
• You become unmotivated to pursue your dreams.
• Tendency to exhibit self-destructive behavior.
Confronting Your Fears
Before you even think about overcoming your fears, confronting them is a necessary first step. You start off by recognizing your fear.
If you have several types of fears, then you can rank them according to intensity. That way, you will be able to recognize which fear needs attended to the most as it can also produce the most negative impact to you.
The best way to get yourself to confront your fears is realizing what you can get once you have let go of these fears. The lack of such fears in your life will motivate you to take steps to rid yourself of it.
Whether it’s regaining control over your life or improving your own self image, losing that fear will help boost your confidence about yourself and the world so you can become a better individual.
The most effective means to overcoming your fears is to change your perspective and behavior towards it. Since it is not easy to do, you need to keep yourself motivated in order to live life free of fears.
The first step is identification of fear, which is closely tied with the step of confronting your fear. Then, honestly assess the extent of your fear.
This is the only way that you can logically come up with methods that can reduce or eliminate the fear you are experiencing.
When you encounter a stimuli that could potentially trigger the feeling of fear, think of ways to release tension and keep yourself in a relaxed state. This is important since once you have acknowledged fear, it can quickly consume and overtake you.
If possible, tap the help of others (whether your friends or family) to provide assistance in conquering your fears. Lastly, this is a long-term procedure and you cannot expect to get rid of your fears overnight.
Run Towards Fear
Fear, or negative anxiety, is the modern day bubonic plague, infecting millions upon millions of people. It spreads with viral effect, and leaves behind consequences of mediocrity and regret.
This “plague” is partly due to societal influences (particularly in a post-9/11 era) and partly due to individual issues (the tendency to avoid confrontation of that which we fear).
However, whatever the cause, a vaccine is available, and it takes the form of moving towards that which we are most afraid of Immediately.
Fear as an acronym stands for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This false evidence can take many forms, but the key is that it appears real. We perceive something to be scarier than it really is. One good example can be found in sports, when we fear losing (or failing).
Think about it: Is there really anything to be scared of? If you do in fact lose, what then will happen? Sure, it might be painful, but hasn’t everyone lost at one point or another in competition? Of course! So why fear losing if it happens to everyone?
Not only is fear of losing or failure a waste of time-it also puts you in a reactive, more passive mode of competing. Reactive, passive competitors are more likely to perform poorly in a competitive environment. So don’t waste your time fearing losing. Instead, spend your time:
1. Identifying your biggest fears (in sport, in competition, in life). These are the fears that hold you back the most. Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of injury, fear of risk taking.
What are the consequences of harboring some of these fears?
Fear of failure: you will never fully give all of yourself to competition if you are afraid of losing
Fear of success: you’re less likely to win, obviously, if you have mixed emotions about being able to deal with success (and the responsibilities that come with it)
Fear of injury: you’re more likely to be injured, as you will be more tentative
Fear of risk-taking: you’ll never risk, and therefore, never gain.
2. Setting about a plan to attack these “falsehoods”. Without a plan, there is no prescription for removal of these fears.
Dr. Smith’s prescriptions:
For fear of failure: Go out and fail on a daily basis. Get used to it, because humans do fail, and you are human. Might as well learn to live with it.
For fear of success: Get straight in your mind that success is a great alternative to mediocrity. Really.
For fear of injury: Get back on the bull (so to speak) as soon as possible after being injured (but cleared to compete). The longer you wait, the greater your fear will be.
For fear of risk-taking: take risks, but on a large and frequent scale, and in every area of your life. Ask people out on dates. Ask for favors. Tell someone who is bugging you how you really feel. Ask a sport psychologist for assistance. (Just kidding, but not really!)
3. Moving towards instead of away from these fears. You will discover that the closer you move towards that which you fear, the less scary those fears are.
Sort of like the first time you stood up to the school bully and realized that he or she was not so tough when confronted. You were perceiving based on “false evidence”.
Moving towards fear in your daily life means doing that which you hate/detest/fear/loathe/don’t want to do, and doing that thing first, before all else. For me, that means going jogging at 7 am on those dark, winter mornings. For you it might mean something else.
However, the key to beating back our irrational and disabling fears is to run, not walk, towards them at every chance.
By doing so, you will prove to yourself how silly those fears are in the first place, as they provide no inherent value in your life. They merely hold you back from reaching your true potential.
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