Is fear a foe or friend? Some run from what they are afraid of while others face fear straight on and learn important life lessons. Some common fears including being afraid of heights, snakes and spiders may be best dealt with through avoidance. But when a person avoids rewarding experiences such as embarking on a new career, starting a business, falling in love, getting married, speaking their truth, or going to social gatherings because they are fearful of being rejected, abandoned, embarrassed or being emotionally hurt, they miss out on life.
Fear is not always an enemy. When looked at with some neutrality and curiosity, fear is a friend and teacher. It may be there to let a person know when they are about to take an important step, reminding them that they are stepping out of their comfort zone into something new. Not something bad, just new. Unfortunately there is a fine line between fear and excitement. Many misinterpret the heightened sensations buzzing through the body as something foreboding. The mind takes over creating stories of failure, rejection and ruin. The stronger imagination a person has, the scarier the images become.
When Fear is a Friend
Fear becomes a friend when it is realistic, warning of imminent danger or upcoming trouble. Stepping out onto the street just as a car speeds by triggers the body’s natural fear response. A burst of adrenaline supports the person to jump back onto the sidewalk, but it quickly dissipates. Fear that hangs around haunting and taunting has become a foe.
An inner feeling of uncertainty gurgling in the stomach may be an instinctual or intuitive sign not to move forward in the direction intended. It is more of a deeper knowing that the situation is not as it seems or the person in contact is not to be trusted. This subtle feeling of fear is offering guidance. There is no major story being created, no past memories being flaunted in the face, nor any future projections of disaster.
When Fear is a Teacher
When a person begins to procrastinate or avoid doing something that they know they would enjoy, fear is lurking underneath. This is often linked to past painful experiences of being abandoned, rejected or embarrassed as a child.
These fearful feelings may intimidate a person at first, but as they face fear directly they realize it has nothing to do with current reality. It is just a bundle of energy from the past that hasn’t been released, but instead fed with future negative images.
This type of fear is there to teach a person how to be bigger than it, how to move beyond the past and be free and fearless. Until a person faces what haunts them and heals old wounds, they can’t grow, evolve and live life to the fullest. Fear will remain with them though, pushing them to be stronger. If they cave in, fear wins and waits for the next teaching opportunity. If they move into the present and face fear, it diminishes in size and loses its power over them. The student has surpassed the teacher and it is time to find a new challenge, with a new teacher.
How to Overcome Fear
The first step to overcome fear is to recognize when it is a friend, teacher or foe. When it is a friend, nudging a person in a new direction, it is not to be overcome, just heeded.
When it is a teacher, deeper inspection is required. What is the underlying fear – is it rejection, failure, embarrassment? Where does it come from? What needs to be felt and released? What action needs to be taken in order to be bigger than the fear?
When it is a foe and being irrational, the mind has most likely taken over and needs calming. Relaxation techniques, exercise, meditation, and positive self-talk are many options available for moving past useless fear.
It takes discernment to know whether fear is a friend, teacher or enemy, but over time it becomes easier to recognize, and therefore easier to take appropriate action.