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  • Writer's pictureKobe carbajal

Fear: The Good, The Bad, The Messy

Fear: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is arguably one of the universal and most commonly experienced emotions that all living creatures feel; as described in this article by Louise Delagran and the University of Minnesota,

“Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat. It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond to danger with a fight or flight response. As such, it is an essential part of keeping us safe.”

This is of the most instinctual forms of behavior that a living creature can exhibit. Fear is capable of triggering different functions of the body and can have both positive and negative effects. It can cause you to run and think faster, but it can also cause you to freeze in place, or in worst-case scenarios, die. The things fear is capable of doing to us are varied in both effects and usefulness. Self-doubt and courageousness are both byproducts of fear. Not having confidence in your own abilities and overcoming significant obstacles are two sides of the same coin, requiring the same fear to exist.

Most people would look at fear and say it’s the enemy and something we should destroy at all cost. If you know how to master it, I believe that fear can be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal.

What Fear Does: The Bad

Fear has the ability to cause our bodies to shut down and even self-destruct. Living in chronic fear can cause extreme bouts of anxiety and self-doubt. Living in constant fear can also lead to physical and physiological damage like:

  • Weaken immune system

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

  • Accelerated aging

  • Death

Not only does fear have the ability to harm an individual, but it can crumble societies. Anxiety can cause unfair bias, hatred, and violence. It starts wars and topples empires, and if allowed, fear can destroy worlds.

“Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”-Master Yoda.

The thing that makes fear dangerous is allowing it to consume and control you. The moment you let fear encapsulate you is the moment you run the risk of it destroying you and everything you love.

What Fear Does: The Good

You might be thinking, how can fear be a good thing? You just spent most of this post saying how fear can destroy worlds. How does fear help anyone? As crazy as it might sound, yes, fear is something that has the possibility to turn the least likely individuals into stronger and more capable people.

Now let’s all face it, fear sucks! There isn’t any way to beat around the bush. It’s uncomfortable, unpleasant, and overall kind of spooky. But like a child being forced to eat their vegetables, fear, while not a pleasant emotion to experience, is something that can be good for you.

Fear is the body's natural way of defending itself. It can cause you to think and act differently in response to any and all outside threats and hazards. The physical reaction to fear causes the brain to shut down most nonessential functions and diverts the body’s power to arms, legs, etc.

Fear can

  • Enhance your senses

  • Make you physically stronger

  • Make you run faster

  • Sharpen your mind

For as bad as fear can be. It pushes you, and it can keep you moving. Fear is your brain telling you that you are mortal, and by mastering and using it, you can push yourself to reach greater heights and achieve more in life.

In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, the book states, “fear is a tool, that if mastered, can be a guiding principle and the north star in your life journey. If you’re paralyzed with fear, it’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.”

Fear shows that you care; it’s your brain’s way of telling you that you need to succeed, and if used correctly, it can make you a more successful person.

“If you ask yourself, am I a writer? Am I an artist? Chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real innovator is scared to death.” -Steven Pressfield; The War of Art.

Fear is an indicator of aspiration. It demonstrates a need to accomplish and achieve one’s dreams. Through the acceptance and mastery of it, you gain one of the most important keys to finding success: courage.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Fear can be the catalyst of a lot of horrible things and can be the excuse used to rationalize awful acts of hatred and violence. But oddly enough, fear can also be the tool that pushes those who can master it into something more incredible than they could ever imagine.

“Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway.” -John Wayne.

What Fear Does: The Messy

So the idea that fear is either good or bad kind of creates a false start in any train of thought. Starting a line of reasoning that it’s positive or negative blinds you to the reality that both are true. Fear is messy. It can either help or hinder, motivate or demotivate, create or destroy and turn us into the best and worst versions of ourselves.

In the wide range of emotions that we can experience, fear tends to be the most reliable test of character. It can cause us to act with either virtue or malice and is the instinctive trait that makes us the most human. It reflects the content of one’s soul, and it causes us to act with complete honesty by reducing us to our base instincts.

By letting our fear control us, we run the risk of letting it destroy our lives and the lives of those around us, but by working with our fear and mastering it, we can use it to find what we really dream of accomplishing and push ourselves to achieve it.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" -Franklin D. Roosevelt.

So What Is The Point?

The point I’m trying to make is that fear is a tool that can change the way we perceive and approach the world around us. It changes and affects us by either compelling us to become the person we wish to be the most or by causing us to revert to the selfish, hateful, and violent aspects of our being. By mastering and controlling it, we can create a better existence for ourselves and those around us.

Whether we chose to use our fear to become a better person or allow it to destroy us, it is a powerful tool that can affect the course of history and change the world.

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