In light of the holiday we just celebrated, I felt it prudent to discuss a feeling that every living human being deals with on a regular basis: fear.

There has been this pervasive idea in my story growing up, both from my personal experiences and society at large, that says if I feel fear, and worse yet if it tell someone about it, I will be mocked, shamed, and ridiculed. I will be seen as “less than”, “weak”, or a “coward”. To not have fear is to be courageous, brave, worth following. But really?

If I saw a man who was running into a battlefield with bullets flying everywhere, because he wasn’t afraid, is that courageous? If he has no fear to overcome, is it really that much of a sacrifice to run into the fray? I think more of us would say there is something wrong with the person that acts this way due to a lack of fear. Most of us definitely wouldn’t follow that person. I certainly wouldn’t call them brave. Now, if that person was experiencing fear, and still entered the battle, now there is someone that is worth following. The person that is experiencing fear and acts in spite of the fear has courage, not someone with a lack of it.

Fear is good. Fear is natural. The fight, flight, freeze response is one that overrides your brain. It comes from a part of your brain called the amygdala, and it is there for your survival. I have asked clients every week, if you saw a cave and there was a sign that said “Danger, deadly bear inside”, a growling, and bones out front, wouldn’t you want fear? Fear, if listened to, is what leads us to make wise informed decisions.

When we are unwilling or unable to listen to this still small voice, the flutter of the heart, the pit in the stomach, the clenching of the chest, we become anxious. We become afraid of fear itself. This leads us to a desire for control: of the wallet and bank account, of the kids, of the spouse, of God, and of our other emotions. When we inevitable lose control, because life shows us we cannot control, we resort to rage in an attempt to control. Rage says “I’m going to gain control so I don’t have to be afraid, even if it means I throw a plate at you”.

If we listen to our heart, acknowledge our fears, and express our needs to those that we love and are safe with, we move into intimacy: the fuel for our heart. Two resources to help you further understand this emotion are The Voice of the Heart by Chip Dodd and The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. If reading is not the best resource, we have many trained individuals who would love to hear your heart and help you learn more about it yourself so that you can share it with those deserving of it.

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