Living Without Fear
The Parasite of Fear
What is a parasite? It is something that lives solely on another. Vampire bats suck the blood from cattle. Some parasites may live in a person’s intestinal track. Big, ugly, long tape worms. Parasites conjure up a vision that most of us find disgusting. The parasite of fear should conjure up that same feeling of disgust. Living without fear is impossible unless you take the steps to remove the parasite.
Fear, not hate, is the opposite of love. It is from fear that other negative emotions spawn. Feelings of hate, jealousy, and selfishness all can be traced to an origin of fear. If love brings us happiness, it would stand to reason that fear is the ultimate risk to that happiness. We can be doing everything right–developing love for ourselves and others, identifying the passions that move our spirit, eliminating negativity from our life–but unless we learn to manage our fear, we may never attain true happiness. The attraction to the negative will begin to creep back in. Living without fear is one of the secrets to living a fulfilling life.
Everyone feels fear; it is OK to feel fear. We are designed to protect ourselves from harm; fear is our “call to arms.” There are two responses to fear: 1) It heightens our abilities; 2) It paralyzes us. Now, given that we know we will feel fear, we must learn to manage it and direct it to heighten our abilities. Living without fear isn’t saying fear doesn’t exist, rather it is the ability to recognize it and dismiss its impact. If we choose the response that allows fear to paralyze us, it can stop us from following our dreams. Fear can reinforce negative self-talk. Fear can make us hate. Fear can undo all the positive work in your life.
Fear is a magnifying glass in our life. Think about this: when you use a magnifying glass, you are not enlarging what you are looking at; you are simply altering your perception of what it is you are viewing. Fear does the same thing in our world. It causes you to focus on that thing that you are afraid of, and as you focus on the problem or element of your fear, it gets bigger and bigger until you are ignoring all the other positive, wonderful elements in your life. Then fear controls you, and you assume the worst and experience failure because you were too afraid to move forward. Now not only have you not been enjoying the wonderful things in your life because you are focusing on your fear, but also you fail because fear magnifies and paralyzes you. Ultimately, fear, and the failure it brings, is unpleasant and so you start avoiding anything with risk in your life. You settle for an average job, relationship, home, etc., but at least you don’t feel afraid. Is that really a trade you are willing to make? No, living without fear is what your want, true?
Have you ever been afraid to approach someone, maybe an attractive person of the opposite sex? As we ponder how we will walk up to this person, what we will say, and how we will say it, we start to assume this person will respond to us negatively. Fear causes us to look at the worst-case scenario–she’ll reject me, she is too pretty for me, she hasn’t even noticed me, etc.– all before you have even said a word to her. But have you ever talked to someone you were afraid of talking to and then said afterward, “That wasn’t so bad”? Here’s another simple example. Have you ever been fearful of an amusement park ride, participated in it anyway, and then, after you finished, you not only said, “That wasn’t so bad,” but also said, “That was awesome!”
Fear keeps us from enjoying the “awesome.” Living without fear brings us joy.
Adam Honnald may be the mentally strongest person I have witnessed. Normally he is known for his physical strength. Adam is a mountain climber and has climbed some of the most harrowing mountains on the planet…without ropes, without help. Imagine climbing a rock face of a mountain straight up for sixteen hundred feet. He often is hanging with all of his weight being held by only his fingertips. Any slip, even the smallest of mistakes, would result in certain death. That is a very physically strong person. He is living without fear.
But think for a moment about the strength he has mentally. When you free-form climb, it is nearly impossible to stop climbing and go back down. Simply, going down to safety is harder than going up and is not an option. What can happen to climbers is that they reach a place on the face of the mountain that feels impossible to climb. Their arms and feet may be too tired, or they just can’t find the cracks to jam their fingers into to give them the leverage to climb. This is where the strength of the mind must kick in. Fear starts to creep in and very quickly the climber can be overcome and frozen to the face of the cliff. They can neither go up nor down, and that sense of panic completely paralyzes them. For many who have experienced this, it has brought the ultimately penalty. Death.
When Alex climbs he seems to simply ignore any fear. Again, he is living without fear. That does not mean it isn’t there waiting to pounce on him. It means he uses his mind to manage fear, even whistling as he climbs the most difficult phases. Now he is in top physical condition and seems to know his limitations…if there are any. Certainly being aware of one’s capabilities fuels confidence and provides a barrier against fear. That must be nurtured in whatever we want to accomplish. If we want to start a new relationship, we need to be that which we want to attract. If we want a kind, confident, independent partner, we need to be kind, confident, and independent. If we want someone who is physically fit and lives a healthy lifestyle, we need to be physically fit and live a healthy lifestyle.
So often someone will yearn for a relationship. They feel lonely, sad, and unhappy. They think, “If only I had someone in my life, I wouldn’t be lonely and would be so happy.” Unfortunately, feeling lonely, sad, and unhappy attracts sadness, loneliness, and ultimately unhappiness. Even if a person attracts someone while feeling these negative emotions, the person attracted will only reinforce these feelings. Believe me, you can feel incredible loneliness in a room full of people. And the worst loneliness may be when you are with your partner and have nothing between you.
Get yourself in that same place as that you want to attract. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary. Once you have gotten there, you will have confidence that you haven’t previously felt. You will then be ready when doubt rears its ugliness and fear comes to derail you. As Adam Honnald does, you simply whistle and ignore it, and go forward. By doing that, fear heightens your skills and drives you further than you may have gone without it. It stays a positive thing, and fear was meant to be positive. In other words, living without fear is really living by managing fear.
Imagine the feeling Adam must get when he meets his challenge. Imagine doing something nobody thought you could do. That is living life as it should be.
Fear has a left jab called doubt. Just like a boxer leads with a jab over and over, it is never the jab that knocks you out. It’s that big punch waiting in the wings. As you start to get beat down by the jab of doubt, the knockout punch of fear is in the wings. Stay protected, and neither can get you. Let your guard down, and it’s lights out. Manage your fear and you are on your way to a thrilling, passion-filled life. It’s living life without fear.
Top Five Excuses Fear Generates
Fear generally starts with excuses. Excuses that slowly build until there are enough reasons to justify not moving forward with something you desire. The subtlety of fear is the snare. Be on the lookout for these excuses. They are simply disguises fear uses to ensure that you live a life of mediocrity.
1. It is too hard.
Achieving a life that is filled with joy despite the adversity you may be experiencing may feel difficult. But remember you are exchanging sadness, pain, and unhappiness for this hard work. Ultimately, living with that pain is actually the hard work. Making the change to incorporating your passions into your life will be easy. Let your mind accept this truth. It will be easy because you are meant to be happy. Joy is what God wants you to have. It is important to recognize this excuse as a falsehood meant to convince you to settle. Living without fear eliminates the excuse that something is “too hard.”
2. There is too much risk.
You have a destiny. Think about that, you have a destiny to fulfill. Now certainly there are times that responsibility and duty block your ability to take risk. For me it was so hard to leave the business world to follow my passions. I had a family to support. I had a respectable job. My duties kept me from following my God-given plan. Finally, it became apparent that my personal well-being was at stake. If taking risk is simply overwhelming, you need to slowly incorporate your passions. You will see that the excuse of too much risk is a red herring. Risk is real and failure is a possibility. But you must understand that failure is simply a flat tire on your trip of life. If you are driving on a long-distance trip and you get a flat tire, do you just stop there and not continue with the trip? Of course not. You fix the flat and continue on with the trip. Risk is scary, but you will never truly be happy until you fully commit to your convictions and destiny. The reality is that not taking risk is the riskiest thing of all. Living without fear sometimes requires risk.
3. It will take too long.
We are often told we need to have patience in this life. Patience has never been my greatest strength, and so time has been one of my own most difficult excuses to overcome. One thing that helps me is to not use the word “patience,” but rather use the word “allow.” There is some negativity associated with the word “patience.” It suggests time is a struggle that one must endure. Rather we need to look at time as a series of moments that allow your destiny to be fulfilled. The universe is furiously working to ensure you are attracting happiness. You simply need to allow it to occur. Of course it may take you time to develop skills, return to school, or engage in another activity to build your talents. But keep in mind, time moves forward whether you are pursuing happiness or reinforcing mediocrity. In four years from now you will be four years older, whether you choose to pursue something that will bring you happiness or not. You might as well choose happiness. Don’t let time stop you from living without fear.
4. I’m too busy.
The things that make your life too busy are rarely the things that matter most. Obviously caring for family and employment are critical, but if you are truly honest with yourself, you will find a host of things that suck your time and are not nearly as important as pursuing your passions. Organize and declutter your life and you can find time. It may take sacrifice, but you will be sacrificing those things that are not as important for those things that develop long-lasting happiness. Living without fear requires a re-prioritization of what’s important. That’s okay!
5. I can’t afford it.
Remember the Cornerstone Statement I introduced earlier? In it I say “I am worthy of unlimited abundance and prosperity.” You must feel this to your core. You are worthy of anything that helps you realize your dreams, and this often requires money. The excuse of not having money only reinforces images that are not in harmony with the vision of the Cornerstone Statement. The universe has plenty of resources for all of us to reach our dreams. There is unlimited abundance. You will attract it.
Recently I was watching a movie called We Bought a Zoo, starring Matt Damon and based on Benjamin Mee’s memoir. It is a fun family film with an engaging story, especially for animal lovers, of which I am one. But there was one thing in the story that struck me as profound. In the story Matt Damon’s character is taught a lesson by his brother. He is told that if he will commit to showing twenty seconds of absolute courage in facing his fears, it will change his life. Simply, only commit to yourself that you will be flawlessly courageous for twenty seconds when you are afraid. If you do so, you will overcome some of your greatest challenges. In the story he used that “rule” to have the courage to ask a beautiful young woman out, and she later became his wife. Had he not shown twenty seconds of courage, he would have never met his wife. Living without fear can happen in twenty second increments.
Almost all of our fears subside after we take the initial step. Whether it is a phone call that we are afraid to make, a paper we are afraid to sign, or a love we are afraid to share; by showing twenty seconds of absolute courage, we will learn to manage and overcome our fear. A great place to start in managing our fear is to implement the twenty-second rule.
Fear is indeed a parasite. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t realize what it is doing to derail our happiness because it is so subtle. Fear is the opposite of love for that reason. Watch it closely. When you see excuses for not pursuing something meaningful to you, it is the beginning of fear and the magnifying of negativity. Catch fear in its beginning stages and do not focus on it or allow it to take hold. Manage your fear and make it a source of heightening your abilities, rather than paralyzing you from action, and you will have removed the number one stumbling block to happiness.
You might find this article by Tony Robbins to be helpful, How to Use Fear. You might also enjoy my other article, Strength in Adversity – Life’s Greatest Challenge.