Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more,so that we may fear less. - Marie Curie
In the movie Scent of a Woman, the character played by Al Pacino forcefully states that “There is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that.” Those words are quite powerful and had great impact in the movie, but they also have great impact on ourselves when we reflect on our difficulties in life. Duquesne University has a motto in Latin “spiritus est qui vivificat.' The spirit gives life. An amputated spirit then must indeed be a horrific, fearful sight because the spirit is cut off from life when the spirit itself gives life.
What can cause such a thing as an amputated spirit? We would suggest that fear would be something that amputates the spirit. Fear can be paralyzing, and in some cases, as stated earlier, amputates the spirit from life. Without the spirit, there is no life and the absence of life is death or worse, indifference to life.
Courage per Webster's dictionary is defined as mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty. As fear then acts to amputate the spirit and remove it from life, it takes courage to act against fear and preserve life. Mary Anne Rademacher wrote “Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” What courage that takes! If we keep trying again for tomorrows after tomorrow, we must ask why? What is the reason for trying? The reasons are often simple.
The courage we speak of and even celebrate is the courage to try. Life does not promise us success, it does not promise us really much of anything except life. So let us engage life head on, embrace it, embrace that notion that we have power within ourselves to craft that life if we but participate in it. That active participation and engagement in life can begin to create meaning in line with our values.
Yet what about fear? What might we fear and more importantly, why? We are not talking about fear of spiders or snakes or bugs necessarily, because they don't often paralyze us to the point where we cannot move forward in our lives. We are talking about the fear that make progress in achieving our goals more difficult or impossible.
What do we fear? A crisis in our lives can cause us to fear a result, an outcome, or to fear the possibility of change itself. A crisis can be a danger or an opportunity, a turning point, a fork in the road. When we face a crisis, something that we might fear, we can remember that this crisis, this fear could have meaning for us. How can we find meaning when confronted with these crises, these difficulties, these dangers? Where is there danger? Where is there opportunity? In order to react properly in a reasoned, deliberate manner, we must first of all understand our life purpose and our authentic values. These values are the traits and beliefs that underlie our behaviors, particularly our behaviors when reacting to a crisis.
As Marie Curie informs us, if we understand our fears, we can fear less. We can understand our fears if we understand our values, and our beliefs. Armed with that understanding we can construct behaviors that react to a crisis and fears more in keeping with our goals in life. Understanding our values and those things that have meaning in life, we can begin to face our fear. Perhaps the fear is less fearful than addressing the fear.
Understanding our fear brings us to know why we fear. Perhaps, we fear the unknown. Let us consider a common fear, the fear of change. What can happen? What is the worst that can happen? Well, the upside of course would be success. The downside if failure. What if we try and succeed? If we don't try, failure is assured, because then we can never succeed unless we try. At times, we fear change so much that we choose death over change, because the situation, in business or in life, is that if we don't change, we can go out of business or in life, fail to live, a fate worse than death.
Why do we fear? We fear because we do not understand the fear. If we are afraid of the water, we need to think about why we fear. Perhaps we never learned to swim. Well, we can address that fear by taking swimming lessons. If we are afraid to speak in front of a group, we should ask why we are afraid. Perhaps we lack confidence in ourselves and in what we have to say. Yet we can speak to close friends and practice speaking in front of friendly audiences to face and overcome that fear. Understanding is the basis of facing our fears.
Fear is normal and is even healthy in animals, especially humans. Fortunately, we do not face the dangers of facing wild animals who can devour us very often. Yet, we still have a healthy flight or fight response. The flight response is simple and to run away from danger. The flight response is often the safest way to avoid confrontation or real, life threatening danger. When faced with everyday fears, fear of failure, fear of success, fear of change, there is only one correct response, the fight response. If we are afraid of failing, then we must fight that fear by taking action, by trying. If we are afraid of success,and that sometimes is a real fear, we must recognize and honor ourselves with the recognition that we are worthy of success. If we fear change, then there is no benefit from running away, taking flight. If we fear change, there is but one recourse to that fear, to face it, to fight the fear. We can fight that fear by facing the fear. Facing the fear means that we should recognize the upside, that we can benefit from the change, that we can exercise our free will to manage and control the effects of the change and how we will react to the change.
To gain such understanding of our fears and to address them, we need to examine our values because our values verify who and what we are. If we are grounded in our authentic values, then we can confidently rely on those values and trust in them to help us face our fears. We are given free will and with that free will we can choose to face our fears. There are several things we can and must do to face our fears:
• remember who and what we are as defined in our values,
• trust in our preparation to face these fears,
• utilize your free will to take action and address these fears.
If we fear and even if we are fearful of succeeding, then we can return to our values, trust in ourselves that we are prepared to face our fears, and then choose to act accordingly. Often after we have addressed our fear and emerged from the experience, we have learned that we are no worse for wear.The fear was not as formidable as we may have thought, and even if it was, we faced it and grew. We are stronger and more capable because of the act of facing that fear.