fearˈfir | noun
- A distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.ˈfir | verb (with or without an object)
- To regard/have fear; be afraid (of/for).
Bad things happen to good people: unemployment, illness, poverty, divorce, and crime. The unknown and unexpected is the natural state of affairs because humans are unpredictable, and we live in a construct that has a life of its own.
Which means it’s impossible to be in control all of the time.
Wild animals get hungry. Mother Nature throws a fit. Cruel and/or unstable people commit murder, larceny, corruption, or exploitation; they pull the wool over our eyes. These things are why we, as a species, have developed mechanisms to cope—on guard for things that might harm our existence. A healthy dose of fear (which, for the sake of semantics is, in fact, intuition) is one such emotive response.
A personalized, internal alarm, fear lets us know when things are going sideways or we are headed for trouble. But while it is useful on occasion, more often than not, it is a big fat burden. This is especially true when we allow it to muscle its way around our nervous system. Give fear a place to bed down and get comfortable, and it will overstay its welcome. It’s the sort of emotion that likes to split and divide. Put down roots and spread like a virus.
I’ve thought a lot about big-and-small ‘f’ fear over the last year because of work stuff and life stuff—matters that revolve around relationships, the current state of affairs, personal choices and such. My final assessment is fear is generally useless; most are unfounded and cause some unhealthy level of anxiety. This goes for the fears we learn and those that are taught.
Fear is the asshole who shows up on your doorstep, uninvited, to crash the party.”
For the most part, I’ve gotten pretty good at teasing out intuition from fear, although the latter still likes to stick his grubby hand in the pot and stir things up. There are occasions when I default and kneel before the altar of angst and despair. Old habits die hard. Although it doesn’t have to be this way.
Tired of the chokehold fear has had on parts of my life, I’ve made a concerted effort to surge forward, head down and eyes up—the body in a partial brace position. I’m pushing through fear in boxing. I attempt to sidestep it professionally.
Oh, and people don’t get a pass. I’m exorcising the fear surrounding all manner of relationships as well.
A perfect case study in overriding a longstanding (and irrational) fear involves yoga, an activity I do almost every day. My example involves a pose I’ve loathed since the first time I learned it. In fact, I think I hated it before I even tried it. That’s how much of a hold fear had over me.
Towards the end of the ashtanga yoga primary series, setu bandhasana is the pose I used to avoid at all costs. For a long time, I didn’t care if an instructor offered help. It didn’t matter if I was actually making headway. I’d dread the pose long before I reached it, which ruined countless yoga sessions in the process.
I hated this pose because it calls for extreme vulnerability and self-trust. It also demands awareness and centeredness. You have to listen to your body’s cues and believe you’ll be okay (regardless of how weird it feels). You also have to drop all the garbage about progress or what you think the “perfect” variation of this pose looks like. Why?
Because, when it comes to perfection in yoga, there’s no such thing.
Before rolling up into this outer-foot-pelvic-floor-and-crown-of-head supported backbend you have let go of everything that came before it. Setting aside failures AND successes is one key to unlocking this pose. Today is different from yesterday. Just because I haven’t hit the mark yet doesn’t mean I won’t. Fear should never be a reason to avoid trying. It’s not a crutch for bypassing the work and seeing how far I can get.
Yes, I might be afraid. I could be down and in a funk. But fear and dejection are nothing more than temporary guests in my house. When they’ve overstayed their welcome I can throw them the hell out. That’s what I considered when I engaged my pelvic floor, pressed my feet into the ground, and pushed my sternum to the sky, easing into setu bandhasana in a way I NEVER had before.
The irony of this breakthrough was, in the aftermath, I savored the moment briefly before promptly forgetting about it. What? I had a closing sequence to complete before getting on with my day. That reaction is a testament to the way we may conflate drama, and how unfounded so many of our fears can be. We rarely progress when we’re too busy dragging all our baggage behind us.
Fear doesn’t have to be the foundation of anyone’s existence. Approach every day as an opportunity to fear less and do things differently.