The Fear Reaction
I’m beginning to notice that Fear is a common thread in my writing. This isn’t because I feel I’m somehow above it… rather, it’s because I contend with it everyday. Addressing it directly is how I fight it and reading my own writing has revealed to me just how often Fear and I come to blows.
I’ve only just now realized my perception of fear might be a bit strange. When I think of Fear, I see a dark figure – featureless, faceless. But still it manages to communicate its standoffishness. It reminds me of Peter Pan and his shadow: separate but the same, apart but undivided. But my dark shadow isn’t friendly… and certainly not as rambunctious. It stalks my every step and darkens all that it glides across.
I hadn’t realized how anthropomorphic my perception of fear had become until writing this.
So today, I want to explore Fear from a different perspective. I want to put aside this dualistic view I’ve constructed and try to remember that Fear is a part of me. It originates from me… it presents itself within me… it is within me that I experience it. Fear is just one of my faces.
Accepting this gives me an added power over it. Instead of constantly having to battle with it, I can turn my back on it. How?
You can either live reactively or proactively.
If you’re living reactively, you’re only ever responding. You receive a stimulus… you react. Another stimulus… another reaction. You aren’t really in control – it’s the stimulus that’s in control; it’s the one that determines what you do.
This is a part of our nature. The fight-or-flight response is deeply engrained and way past the bounds of conscious control. And our fear response – pupils dilated, heart and respiratory rates increased, blood redirected toward the muscles – that is best for these situation because it puts us on the defensive. It makes us ready to react. So living reactively is really embracing fear and telling it to take the reins.
But, you can also live proactively. You can be the stimulus to which you react. This puts you in the driver’s seat, this gives you some amount of control over your situation. From this side of living, it’s hard to be fearful… it’s hard for the fight-or-flight response to take over… that is not the reaction your body has to itself. When you live proactively, you put fear aside.
I’m not saying you can have complete control. But I think you can get a handle on your fear… just enough of a grip to not let it control you. You just need to be proactive.