I’m sure most of you have heard the New Age acronym for fear, False Evidence Appearing Real. Okay, so I agree in part, yet only in part. We, as a species are programmed with a fight or flight mechanism. It is for survival. Granted, we are no longer chased by literal saber tooth tigers and there’s no T-Rex knocking down the back wall of the house, we still have situations in our world where the fight or flight response protects us.
For example, the driver who pulls out in front of you at the very last second, causing you to slam on your brakes, catch your breath, and if you’re anything like me, invent new expletives just for the occasion. Or, there’s a fire in the kitchen and you have seconds to put it out before the whole house is on fire. Or, and this is one I’ve dealt with recently, you’re out jogging and a dog decides you’re playing some sick game and begins chasing you. Fight or flight is still necessary, just in new and different ways.
However, most of us tend to take it too far. With unemployment still at a totally unacceptable rate, many people are finding it harder every day to pay their bills. I know people who are choosing between food and their car payment, between heat and medical care. So, is the fight or flight response helpful with these situations? For the most part, no.
When you are awake at three in the morning, your gut clinched to the point of pain, cold sweat on your brow and the only thought running through your mind is: how am I going to make the car payment? All you’re doing is making yourself sick; mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically sick. Is there a repo guy at your front door at that moment? Probably not. Is there anyway you could be earning money right at that moment? Maybe, yet the truth is, probably not.
What about irrational phobic fears? For many years, mine was spiders. I’m over it for the most part, although truthfully, I still don’t like them. I can either ignore them or at least remove them from my personal space and go on with my day.
So, lets examine ‘fear’ up close. First, ask yourself what you’re really afraid of? In the example of the car payment, are you really fearful of loosing your car? Or is this more about the discomfort of negotiating with the finance company to make partial payments or maybe even ask a relative for a loan? Maybe you’re just tired of the struggle and the discomfort is causing you to react to the situation in a more negative way. Will you die or be physically threatened over getting behind on your car payments?
What about phobias. When I look at a spider what I actually see is something grotesque. My common sense tells me that spider is still smaller and more fragile than I am. What am I really afraid of? Honestly, now it seems silly. Can it kill me? Not unless I’m trapped in a Stephen King novel. The absolute worst that can happen is a bite which requires a trip to the doctor. The odds on this actually happening are so small, I’d probably win the lottery first. (And please, no statistics to burst my bubble )
We have been given adrenal glands to secrete a hormone which will get us up and going when the occasion calls for it. However, we’ve let our imaginations run away with us. Many of us live in countries where we are free to make decisions and be responsible for the outcome without worry of physical threat. (I know there are some readers out there living in places where this isn’t true, and to you I apologize). Yet, for the most part, we know the laws of the land and we know how to make decisions which keep us safe based on these laws and just the everyday societal policies of every day life. Fear has a purpose when we’re in physical danger. The rest of the time, we are in control of our lives and how we react to the circumstances of our lives. Fear only has control or even space for being noticed when we allow it. We have much more command of the situation than we acknowledge.