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How to Exit Fear
Choosing courage over stagnation
“Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible.”
The Purpose of Fear
Fear does the perceiver no good past its ability to alert you to danger. Fear is the evolutionary instinct that dumps the body with adrenaline when it needs it and helps us transition into fight or flight mode. Fear is a trigger. A trigger should elicit a state change, not remain a constant state. It’s not productive to hold the trigger down on a gun after it fires.
Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
Remaining in a fear state is unsustainable. It is an undesirable position that should prompt you in one of two directions.
If you're entering the downward spiral, then the second stage akin to being fearful is anxiety.
Anxiety: a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
To be anxious is to be unbalanced. If you are one removed from balance when you are anxious, and continue down this path of worry towards a future state, when it eventually arrives you will be unprepared to meet its challenge and our net balance will be further disrupted. Anxiety is a distraction from the now. We can only prepare for an uncertain future state by preparing for it, in the now.
So what's the alternative to anxiety in order to spiral upward?
Caution: care taken to avoid danger or mistake.
The action you take under caution as opposed to that taken under the influence of fear or anxiety is different. One leads you forward and one leads you nowhere. Choosing caution is like saying, 'Hey, there's danger out there. But now I know about it, and so I can take steps to better situate myself for what initially brought me fear.' Choosing to be anxious until what we are afraid of comes and goes steals away our opportunity to endure a challenge better prepared, or maybe to work around it entirely.
Looping back to Courage
There will always be new things to be afraid of, and so the decisions we make in the present build habits for how we will respond when we re-enter the trigger state of fear. Anxiety hopes for an outcome, and until one or another comes to pass, does nothing for the individual, and so you return to a new loop in a state no better than before. The result of anxiety is stagnation, whereas taking any action at all under caution is courageous. Even if it's wrong action, we learn, we adapt, and we re-enter the loop better than before.
Definitions are anecdotal, but take one more for the road anyways. What I’m really getting at is how to choose the best path forward from fear, and that's where courage really becomes important.
Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one.
Assuming a position of courage requires taking on a certain amount of responsibility and risk. The only way to move forward requires taking risk. You can't take a single step without risking a fall.
This is what triggers my fear: that a paradigm is evolving where we stop being celebrated for doing things that frighten us. I am anxious that we are accepting this new norm with the justification that it's safer to stay still rather than have the courage to overcome our fears and move forward.
Next week, I’m going to talk about the individual affliction that led to the postmodern era.