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Directing Fear

Listen along to this article with additional commentary by author John Rauðúlfr

Few things test the mettle of a person like fear. Fear is one of the most primal things all of us feel. It’s an emotion which can govern our lives far more than we may like to think about. It is a stumbling block of sorts; something which blocks a path we may find ourselves at. 

Fear exists in many forms, from the most simple to the most primal. We may feel a light form of this in activities we all have to perform. 

I’ve found myself many times sitting in a job interview with that familiar feeling in my chest. Tapping my foot lightly in anticipation for what will be asked of me.

Most of us have felt something like this working up the courage to talk to a woman that has our interest, getting over that mental barrier to initiate a conversation.

It also exists in our most primal of situations. The very definition of primal fear. Random and unpredictable moments throughout life. Moments where we feel ourselves or are loved ones are in immediate danger. 

Freak accidents, which happen in an instant, but where time slows to a crawl. I recall the time circa 2015 on icy highways in mid February. Driving from the city back to my parents’ house for University break. One split second of lost control later and I found myself off the road, airborne, hurtling towards the ditch. 

That whole ordeal took probably 5-10 seconds. But that tiny sliver of time felt like an eternity. I was scared. In that moment, every possible scenario flew through my head, my grip on the steering wheel could’ve bent metal. 

Therein to me lies the power that fear can present. In those moments of unbridled, primitive terror, we enter an almost heightened state of consciousness. Our mind, our senses are shot into overdrive, our bodies filled with adrenaline. When the human self is in danger, we become more than human. 

Of course this is the fight or flight response. This is our immediate, instinctual response to a perceived threat. One in our immediate presence, or a sudden jolt of the fates which throws us into it. 

We use this fear in that moment to react in such a way to insure we simply survive. To avoid injury or damage. To keep our loved ones or others safe. 

What about more abstract or lingering fears? Ones which may not be an immediate threat but instead wear on the mind. They linger in the back of one’s head as we overanalyze them. Fear of an upcoming event perhaps, something you know you must confront. 

It could be a lingering fear of making a move in your life, in a literal or metaphorical sense. You may be frightened to take the next step. 

This feeling however, I can see as useful. I’m just as guilty as everyone else of giving into fear on occasions. Sometimes major moves are frightening. Our conscience tells us that maybe it’s too foolhardy. There’s always a chance we could fail after all, even if in our hearts we know it must be done. 

Fear should not be confused with cowardice, however. Fear is a cause for movement, cowardice is the fear of movement. Cowardice is fear, misguided into a self destructive state. One where you let your fears restrain you, only to feed themselves further. Cowardice tends to feed cowardice as well, and so the cycle repeats. A cycle which many find hard to break. 

That is where the idea of directing fear comes into form. In life threatening situations it’s completely instinctually directed. We don’t even think about it. Our animal brains immediately respond to the stimuli, and we react. We do what we must do to survive.

However in the fear that wears upon you. The kind that influences your decisions, the moves on your life’s chess board. To me, if you’re feeling fear about a decision, then that feeling is telling you that you’re going to have to make a choice. You will have to make a move. 

That move may likely be extremely frightening. Rather than let it conquer you, redirect that into motion. Into action. Give it thought, respect the feeling. Realize that if your boat is sinking, you might have to swim. 

I believe some of the biggest, most important decisions we make in our lives stem from fear of the unknown. In many ways from fear of the uncertain, and our reverence for the comfort of familiarity. We march through the dark woods of life and the fright of certain paths, may fall in front of us. 

Understand your fear my friends. Acknowledge it’s a very real part of life, and a very real part of yourself. Know when it’s time to bear down or when it’s time to jump ship. Use the powerful tool that is human fear along our journey through this present age. 

The modern age is a threatening place. But I won’t be afraid. What about you?

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