Is Fear Really The Enemy?

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
– Mark Twain

This post was written about two months ago, my finger was on the trigger, but I didn’t post it. The main reason is that I thought it would be misunderstood by the majority of people. But there is also an odd chance that there is someone like me out there who really should listen to their fear MORE, not less, and every single article they read is telling them to blast right past their fear, that everything is going to be all right. You know what? Popular culture is often wrong.

It took me a while because I’m dense sometimes… It took me a very long time, in fact, to realize that I should listen to myself, not to other people. Listen to my instincts, not to other people’s truth.

People say to just go ahead and do what you’re afraid of doing. Fear is bad. Do what you’re afraid of. Conquer your fear by barging right through it.

But fear is there for a reason and saying that it should be disregarded is like saying you should disregard the pain that tells you your hand has just reached into the fire. Yes, sometimes pain needs to be ignored, like when doctor takes your blood. But more often than not it is useful, and the same is true for fear. It’s a warning.

For the past few months I gave myself permission to listen to my fear. This was harder than you’d think, since I have practiced ignoring it for so long. I had to remind myself several times that it’s OK to listen to what fear had to say. And when I listened closely it usually had a valid point. There was a step I was missing. There was something else I could do. I was rushing things. I wasn’t ready. Or my dog wasn’t ready.

Sometimes what fear had to say was inconvenient. It meant I would have to change my habits, take the longer path to the goal, bend some rules, find new solutions, build new relationships, test my commitment and the limits of my health. But it was good information.

Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know that fear needs to be heeded sometimes. Maybe it’s because I was raised to disregard my feelings or because I took the common advice “do what you’re afraid of” and applied it too literally. I don’t know. It was a stupid thing to do.

Fear is like pain. It’s only safe to ignore it once you know what it’s trying to tell you. It doesn’t have to keep you from taking action, only from taking action blindly.

So act less like this quote:

Always do what you are afraid to do.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

And more like this one:

What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.
– Jiddu Krishnamurti

Or maybe I’m the only one stupid enough to ignore fear even when it carries a useful message. If so, please disregard this post.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Is Fear Really The Enemy?

  1. Silke Capo

    You’re not the only person 🙂 I was raised like you: don’t show fears. I never thought about denying my fear almost all of my life. You are so right. We shouldn’t ignore our fears but think about it: why do I have fear? Where does it come from? Is it useful right now, what does it tell me about me/my situation. What can I learn from it? I am still at the beginning of this journey and your post reminded me of not just denying it, but thinking about it. Thanks!

    • Whew, I’m glad to hear that! It’s hard to listen to what the fear is saying when everyone thinks you should just ignore fear. Exactly like you put it – what can I learn, what am I missing? And if it’s valid, and you fix it, the fear will subside. No need to blindly go ahead.

  2. joycejaskula

    The Mark Twain gives lots of food for thought. The majority. Remember when the majority said NEVER do a blind cross in agility? NEVER let your dog run the contact (my friend CJ has been doing that for 15 years), NEVER let your dog cross behind you. Lots of NEVERS. Always good to examine the reasons….Afraid of losing the connection with your dog? Afraid they will jump off the contact? Afraid they will constantly switch sides behind your back? Ah….I love this subject! I think there are no absolutes. I have a friend who has vertigo and runs very fast shelties. She cannot do a front cross without falling over, so her dogs circle behind her back on command. It’s a beautiful thing to see. I suppose it’s the rebellious side of me, but I think we should do what works for us as a team.

    Now my fear….doing another venue of agility. We have so many choice here in the United States. I do what many consider the easiest…and therefor less respected, or at least that’s my perception. At 62 my goals are modest ones. But…I would like to try another venue but fear has kept me from really jumping in. I see the top level competitors and courses and it is intimidating. I live on a little island out in the ocean, have very few lessons, practice in my yard then get on the ferry, go to mainland America and try my best. However, I’ve done this other venue 3 times and everyone is very nice, supportive, fun. In fact, many of them are the very same people that I see in my “easier” venue. I’ve even earned 2 titles in that venue and need to keep my focus in the moment and not in the future. It is what it is and either I’ll be prepared or not. Trying to not let fear hold me back.

    Love this subject.

    • Yes, there were so many forbidden moves in USA agility, things that were perfectly OK on this side of the pond. It must be interesting to see all those tabus questioned. So cool that your friend found a good substitution for a FC by having a dog circle behind her back!
      I think if you understand what that particular fear is all about and you decide it’s unreasonable it’s often fine to just go through anyway (or, alternatively, find something that will change the circumstances upon which fear is based, like joining an online course geared toward that kind of courses). I am all about doing *something* about that fear, I just don’t want to default to “go straight through” when there are better options.
      I hear you about some venues not carrying the same weight as others. I’m not even in the US and I picked it up somewhere! I think it’s very admirable that you’re looking first at what your dogs need at *this point* in their career.

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