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 can be useful it is, more often than not, a big fat burden. This is especially true when we allow fear to muscle its way around our nervous system. Give it a place to bed down and it will get comfortable and overstay its welcome. Fear the sort of emotion that likes to split and divide. Let it put down roots and it will spread like a virus.
I’ve thought a lot about big-and-small ‘f’ fear over the last year because of work and life stuff—matters involving relationships, politics, the current state of the environment, personal choices and such. My final assessment is fear is generally useless; most are unfounded and cause unhealthy levels of stress, which leads to chronic anxiety. This goes for both the fears we learn and those we 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 their 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. Thing is, 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—my body in a partial brace position. I’m pushing through my fears 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, and this example involves a pose I’ve loathed since the first time I came across it. It’s no exaggeration to say I think I hated it before I even tried. 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’d avoid at all costs, not caring if an instructor offered help. It didn’t matter if I was actually making progress. Dreading the pose long before I arrived, my fear of setu-b 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 willingness to get real quiet and find your centre. You have to listen to your body’s cues and believe you’ll be okay regardless of how weird it may feel. Also important is dropping all the garbage about 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 yet hit the mark 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 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 before promptly forgetting about the achievement and moving on. What? I had a closing sequence to complete before getting on with my day. That reaction is a testament to the way we conflate our drama and how unfounded so many of our fears can be. We can’t move when we’re too busy dragging 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.