We are emotional beings. We feel something before we think about it, and then we act, often informed by those feelings. Essential and useful parts of who we are as humans and our ability to interact with others and our environments.
Emotions like anger, grief, love, joy and awe arise from particular perceptions and experiences. These emotions cause a movement outward into interpersonal spaces, through the thoughts and actions they motivate. They fuel an interaction that is often productive. These emotions expand us, out of ourselves into likely connection with others and the environment. Expansion makes us feel good and can lead to useful interactions. This is more obvious for some of these, but even anger can help for useful interaction. You say something to me that “makes me angry”. My anger is required to fuel and drive my assertiveness and personal agency. It allows me to say no, to set boundaries, to bring closure to a useless conversation or a situation I am in that no longer makes sense.
However, fear is different from those examples above. Like anger it is a product of the ancient biological “fight or flight” mechanism. But whereas anger flushes us with energy and moves our blood to the surface to embolden our next steps, fear drains us of energy, draws us inward, isolates us, and can freeze us from appropriate action and interaction. Unlike those other expanding emotions, fear contracts us. It makes us feel small, cut off from life, isolated. Fear literally sucks our energy, so this is why I titled this, “Fear Sucks”.
All fear is related somehow to fear of loss. It could be loss of status, privilege, power, and ultimately a loss of your sense of self or your identity as you understood it.
We often talk about how people fear change. They don’t fear change, but rather they fear an anticipation of a loss of part of who they thought they were. This fear causes the contraction, or a holding on of the status quo.
I had a teacher who once told me, “Always move toward fear. Confront those things that you are most afraid of. You will likely discover that they are not that threatening to your integrity as a person”.
Don’t allow your anxieties and fears to paralyze you. Fear can be good if it drives you to eliminate the fear through useful action but if I drives you to contraction, isolation and inaction it is highly toxic and counterproductive. We are happier and more useful if we feel like we are expanding through emotions like curiosity, joy, connection, kindness and awe.
When stuck in a fear or worry state, try to shift into curiosity, map out your fear, and see if what you are facing is a real or imagined threat. Move the contractive state of fear to an expansive one of action as soon as you can.