Fear is something that all people experience. It is an emotion that has little understanding by the average individual and minimal acceptance, even by those in the mental health professional arena. Boys in many cultures are taught not to show fear. That it is unseemly to show a weakness such as fear. That it is an emotion that is to be met with over the top in male stereotyped behavior[i]. Girls are taught to not show fear in public, but to let the men handle the “scary things”. Women are to be brave for the sake of the household but no other time. Fear is naturally occurring, it is authentic, it is genuine So why all the shame with Fear?
Merriam-Webster defines fear as: “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger; an instance of this emotion, a state marked by this emotion” [ii] We fight this instinctive emotion for what purpose? Fear tells us so much about the world around us. The world that we are constantly bombarded with in ways that our evolutionary development was not meant to endure.[iii] Humans are not evolutionary developed in a way to combat the optical stimulation of today’s society. In my opinion, we must rely on instinct more and more. We must take heed of fear; using it to generate momentum into the understanding of the world around us.
To be brave is to move forward despite fear. What stops us from accepting that we are afraid? What stops us from acknowledging that it is an innate ability of our genetic encoding to have an internal voice say, “Hey! Get the heck out of here! It is not safe! This is a bad decision…..” Instead of listening to that small voice that grows and then if ignored disappears, we should accept that our instinct is telling us that the path we are walking, is not the one for me.
Instead, the fear comes over us and we show the tainted emotion of anger. Anger, as we all know, is a secondary emotion. Anger is what we show the outside world, we even fool ourselves into believing that it is an authentic emotion. It is a reaction to an underlying negative, misunderstood feeling. What actually causes the reaction that we interpret anger, is a stronger emotion. An honest emotion. An emotion that is a reaction to a stimulant that we have come to fear as we age, growing in wisdom, and carrying bags of experience around that has taught us to fear. Truly the real reason that we show fear is because of the masked emotions of jealousy, guilt, shame, but ultimately, when looking deeper it is fear. Fear of failure, rejection, loss, judgment, disappointment, and others. What I mean by this is that anger is based on fear. Fear in its raw form is shown in anger because we are so reluctant to actually face the fear we are afraid to accept or understand.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932, his first inaugural speech, said, “let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance….” Later President Roosevelt goes on to say, “mankind’s goods have failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated.”[iv] I hate to sound or be viewed as unpatriotic but Mr. President, you were wrong.
Fear is healthy, and to be an aware individual (internally and externally) we should have fear. We gain fear after experiencing trauma or pain: emotional, physical, mental. We gain fear from experiences that teach us; we are mortal, vulnerable, and that we can feel pain, empathy, and sympathy. Experiences give lessons to being vulnerable to the outside influences that surround us on a daily basis. Fear is the repercussion of that pain, those emotional and physical trials showing those lessons to us in a way that is natural. It is natural to fear that which has hurt us. That which we do not know. That which we believe to be stronger, better.
Society tells us not to be afraid. So, we display our fear in other ways. The most common is Anger. Bigotry. Deceit. Bullying. Infidelity. Violence. War. I am here to tell you that I am afraid. I am afraid that I will fail. That I will sound ignorant. That I won’t really educate, inspire, influence, one individual to be better despite their fear. I am afraid to disappoint my family, my clients, myself. I am afraid…But I am here. I welcome this fear. I welcome the challenge. I am afraid, but not for long.
[i] Piña-Watson, B.,Lorenzo-Blanco, E.I.,Dornhecker, M., Martinez, A.J.,Nagoshi, J.L. “Moving away from a cultural deficit to a holistic perspective: Traditional gender role values, academic attitudes, and educational goals for Mexican descent adolescents.” Journal of Counseling Psychology, Vol 63(3), Apr 2016, 307-318
[ii] “Fear.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, 2018. Web. 16 March, 2018.
[iii] Richerson, P.J., & Boyd, R. “Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution.” Journal of Bioeconomics, 2008, Volume 10, Number 2, Page 193.
[iv] Theodore Roosevelt: “Inaugural Address,” March 4, 1905. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T.