Fear is the strongest motivator. It is also the best deterrent.
Fear was developed by living things eons ago so that they could keep on, well, living. However, the concept of fear has since taken a drastic turn thanks to the introduction of more complex brains. Now, I’m a biology geek at heart, so I’ll spare you the lesson on fight or flight, but it really is interesting to take an abstract look at fear, and the power it holds over living things. As I said, life invented fear as a way of extending said life, yet at some point, fear gained the upper hand, and became less of a survival skill, and more of a hinderance to human lives. There are a few things that our ancestors left in our DNA, that seem almost trivial by today’s standards. Being afraid of the dark is probably the best example. The literal darkness is simply a cosmological event, but it holds several deeper meanings to us humans. We fear the dark because naturally, it dampens our senses, leaving us more open to an attack of some sort. People also fear the dark because it represents the unknown, you can’t fight what you can’t see, type of deal.
Though there came a time in human history, where the things that were scary to us, we overcame. We built homes to protect us, raised crops to avoid starvation, invented lightbulbs to chase away the darkness. While some of us are still “blessed” with the fears of our ancestors, (ie spiders, snakes, loud noises) the majority of people have evolved to overcome these fears. Yet there is one that still haunts us all, that most people are unable to escape. The fear of death. I say most are unable to escape it, not meaning that some escape death, just that some (like yours truly) no longer fear death, and some (me before treatment) openly welcomed death.
You might be thinking to yourself, why the heck did you just read through what felt like a dreaded college elective, when I said I’d spare you the lesson. I know, I apologize, my sciencey side often gets away from me. The reason I brought all that up, and explained it the way I did, was to illustrate why fear exists. Now I know you’re not stupid, and you probably already knew all that, but you’d be suprised on how many people slept through science class in highschool. The power that fear holds on our lives is often overwhelming, but with good intentions, though less good execution. In my mind, there are two types of fear. The fear that makes you do something, and the fear that prevents you from do something, like I said in the beginning. The multiple fears that force you out of bed at 5 in the morning to get ready and go to work. Or the irrational fear of boats that prevents you from going on a cruise vacation, even though you understand the science of buoyancy (that’s me). The oh so common, “If somebody put a gun to my head, I’d do it.” Fear has little to do with not being eaten by a saber tooth tiger, and is more of “how am I going to pay my bills this month” in our current day and age. Something that was born within us to keep us alive, is not really used for that reason anymore, and is more often than not, an obstacle that we must overcome. That being said, there are still crazy things people do when they are afraid for their lives, pushing their bodies to the limit, just so that they may see tomorrow. But what of those like us, whose brains are our own worst enemies? Well, as you probably already know, fear is usually in our way at every turn. Toss in some debilitating depression, and you’ve got yourself quite the conundrum. The fear of death is replaced with longing for it. The commonplace of everything else is replaced with crippling fear. Fear of rejection, fear of not being good enough, fear of being a burden. The list is as endless as the night sky, you and I know this very well. Hell, I couldn’t even make my own doctor’s appointments until well into my 20’s.
I would love to say that these misplaced, irrational fears can be turned into motivation with enough hard work, but I can’t say that, not without lying to you. I honestly don’t know why my generation was raised so that the answer to all life’s problems is “hard work”. There are things in life that you are just unable to beat. These things are programmed into our brains with the intent of keeping us alive, but in actuality, they prevent us from living life to the fullest. However, just because you can’t beat them, doesn’t mean you can’t get stronger than them. Hard work this, hard work that…No, as you can tell, I don’t like hard work, for numerous reasons. When it comes down to it, you simply need to accept your fears. They are real, they aren’t always reasonable, but they are justified. You accept that your fear of whatever is okay, and that it doesn’t make you any less of a something or other. Once you do this, you can begin working around your fears. Fear of making that phone call to the doctor’s office? Try doing it through their website, but you still have to do it, no getting someone to do it for you. The more comfortable you get with your fears, the less scary they are. Granted, they’ll never go away, sorry to say, but you can change the power dynamic. Instead of it holding the power over you, it becomes more of a “drop in the bucket” sort of situation. The fear is there, it’s not going anywhere, but you’re doing the best you can, that’s all anybody can ask for. Dr. Cannon was right when he first said that fear only leaves you with one of two options, you stand and fight, or you run to fight another day.
If you like what I write, check out my personal blog Out Of My Mind for more thoughts about Mental Health and such from me, Alan Wolfgang