Conquering an imaginary monster called fear
What scares us is often outside the ambit of rationalisation and persists through an overwhelming slurry of unpleasant images
Fear is among the most commonly experienced emotions and is often held on to, strongly. An attachment to fear is sometimes defended through the instinct to self-preserve, to not undergo unpleasant experiences and to keep things secure, just the way they are. However, this fostering of fear occurs at the expense of our abilities to innovate, to imagine, to take risks and achieve the vast potentials we hold. While all fear might not be unproductive, as an emotion that stagnates you into inaction, it is fundamentally harmful to growth and offers only a flimsy and temporary image of security.
There is a fundamental need to distinguish vigilance from fear. While vigilance would mean rationally and actively assessing our comfort and risk vis-á-vis a situation, fear is often an endeavour-killer. A research conducted by EMC found out that irrational fear prevented as many as 68 percent of employees had not done something because they thought it would be harder than it actually was; this included using new workplace technology such as the cloud.
One of the most certain stepping stones to defeating fear is knowledge. What scares us is often outside the ambit of rationalization and persists through an overwhelming slurry of unpleasant images. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what terrifies us. For instance, if you are scared of bringing something difficult up with a friend because you dread a worsening of the relationship, it is worth pondering why it is important to communicate and how it can be done respectfully and responsibly. Once the problem is rationalized, given a name and the pros and cons assessed, fear diminishes and an approach to possible action takes its place. Getting inspired into action through rational consideration is what catapults us beyond fear.
On a related note, the other antidote to fear can be its very origin - imagination. As a noted publication reports, a 2012 UK survey found that nearly 40 percent of respondents were afraid to wander around their houses with the lights off, and 10 percent of the survey participants admitted they were so fearful of the dark, they wouldn't even leave the safety of their beds to use the bathroom at night. The article however established the people as more imaginative, as the people were invested in what possibilities could hide in the darkness. It is precisely here that we can think of ways to defeat fear, by taking control of a wild imagination that conjures dreadful spectacles, to creatively imagine optimistic situations instead. If something potentially risky is causing us to imagine losses, it is possible to reorient our imagination to imagine benefits.
Imagination is incredibly significant when it comes to fashioning a self-affirming, fearless way of life. To consider another aspect, fear takes an enormous emotional toll. Accordingly, what we need to have is emotional courage to sail through the reign of fear. Life might be uncertain and realities might be fragile and perishable, but this must be taken in our strides to prevent getting trapped in fear. It is necessary to stay in touch with our emotions but letting them overwhelm us into staying paralyzed in the tyranny of fear is more harmful than acting stridently when faced with it. Failure, humiliation, disappointments and loss are inevitable at some point or the other in life but letting the possibility of an emotional debacle alter who we are is an unsustainable and unworthy way of life.
Very importantly, the neurological and physiological dimensions of fear are not to be discounted. When fear comes knocking at our door, it is a good idea to monitor our physical responses. Taking in breaths and letting our bodies calm down are all rudimentary but important steps to not let fear take control of us. Similarly, if fear persists and ruins our mental well-being, it is a decent idea to seek suitable help.
On the whole, fear must be countered and must be disallowed from intertwining with the fabric of our lives. As an emotion that destroys agency and action and causes tremendous distress, it must be kept at bay and sundered from our everyday. To quote Louisa May Alcott, "I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." Learning to sail our ships and letting them sail despite uncertainties is what makes all the difference and fear is to be conquered for a life worth living.
( The author is Founder, Upsurge Global, and Senior Advisor, Telangana State Innovation Council)