“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
Fear is a natural instinct.
Fear keeps us away from danger.
Fear forces us to evaluate.
Fear is a mental reaction. Originally, threats came in the form of a tyrannosaurus rex or velociraptor that wanted to make us the Sunday afternoon meal. Our reaction either made us an easy snack or allowed us to live another day.
Today, the same reaction exists. However, the threats are very different. Our fearful reactions come when we get an unexpected email from our boss: “come see me.”
Or when a loved one texts you – “we’re done” What does that mean????
Non life threatening reactions have become triggers for fear. In this post I want to describe the four types of reactions that have been described to me.
How do you react to fear?
I’ve talked to several different people about how they react when fear sets in. From these informal interviews there seem to be four types of reactions to this feeling we all have from one time to another.
Like a dear in headlights. Muscles tense up. Heart rate increase to levels that almost make you want to pass out. The nervous system is saying do everything and anything.
This tendency is to go head first into a fearful situation. Often mistaken as a courageous move, this reaction is really an evasive maneuver. The hope is that by moving forward the range will pass on by.
In the workplace this person appears unafraid to take on anyone. And many times this works. Colleagues never expect a head on collision and don’t know how to react.
The tendency is to go anywhere away from the current situation. The intention is the same as the forward reaction type, but the direction is different. This reaction is often described as the cowardly move. However, it is no different than going headfirst. It’s all about evasion in hopes of that the danger will go way.
Like a storm chaser getting close to the twister. One has to be calm, relaxed, ready to move as necessary. Typically this form of reaction is trained and practiced.
An observer understands that the biological side of fear and can thereby take a step back. They can watch and learn. They can make an assessment and decide what to do.
I don’t believe that fear is something that we should conquer. I believe it is something that we should be aware of and understand so that it does not become a barrier to doing the extraordinary work that we are meant to do in this life.
Someone once told me that the definition of courage is not the absence of fear. Instead, courage is feeling the fear and choosing to act anyway.
What is your natural reaction to fear?
What habits have you put in place to handle it?