A book I’m currently reading urges us to think of ‘fear’ as the mental equivalent of physical ‘pain’.
On one level they’re the things we want to most avoid; but looked at another way they are just simple signalling mechanisms. Pain is the body’s only way to draw our attention to a problem. Fear is the mind’s.
This opens up the possibility of a different approach to fear. Not do everything to avoid it; but objectively acknowledge it, accept it and maybe sometimes push through it…
The idea is that fear is just the psyche’s way of signalling boundaries to us – which is very much the same role pain plays in the body. They are both acutely and finely tuned signalling mechanisms.
Just like a burnt finger keeps us off hot kettles; so fear keeps us away from scary situations. But as a very experienced sports coach told me at work – strength is built by how you recover.
So the idea is to recognise when fear is signalling a boundary and just feel it – don’t fear it. And if it still seems like a good thing to do, push through that fear a bit.
I can’t say I’m quite there on this one yet. Stuff you don’t know how to do, can’t control or which could go very wrong still seems pretty scary to me. But if you accept it’s always going to feel scary, that calms the troubled waters a good deal.
And then what?
Well if you accept fear is often just a signal of the new and the unknown – and that variety is the spice of life – then trying new things and meeting new people are indeed things one might fear; but they’re not things to avoid…
To test my thesis I’m going paddle boarding this week on holidays: a thing I don’t know how to do, with the risk of humiliation and getting wet, for the first time, all on my own, with a lesson from someone I’ve never met.
Exactly what I’d generally avoid – so here’s to giving it go!