Halloween is almost upon us, and grown-ups are planning Halloween parties, while kids of all ages figure out what costume to wear and whether to trick or treat. For all the fun we have at Halloween, it is still a day in remembrance of all things scary; ghosts, zombies, witches, spells and curses.
Fear. Or, as I prefer to think about it, F.E.A.R: False Evidence Appearing Real. The “ghost” is a sheet fluttering, the “witch” is but a black robe and tall hat, the “zombie” an amalgamation of tattered clothes and white ghoulish make-up. Yet fear is a real emotion. Any time our survival, our well-being–or that of a loved one–is threatened, we experience fear.
The problem lies, not in that initial survival emotional knee-jerk, but in what we choose to do with it. At Halloween, we may be startled by an apparent ghostly apparition, but a moment later we dismiss it for the illusion that it is. In our daily life, however, too often we confuse our feeling of fear, with something to be afraid of, rather than something to deal with.
I learned this forcefully many years ago when I was rear-ended not once, not twice, but seven times over the course of a year. Even though only the first accident resulted in significant injury, by the seventh I was terrified to get back in my car. I was working, in my late 20s, public transportation in Los Angeles was scarce and Uber wasn’t even a thought in someone’s mind. I had to drive. I couldn’t afford to be too afraid to drive. In desperation, I consulted a hypnotist, something I’d never done before. It worked. In my desperation I did the thing I needed most to do–deal with my fear.
You see, fear is actually designed to be a warning sign: “Pay attention, danger ahead!” I was hit, I was scared–how hurt was I? Would I be OK? But once fear has alerted you to paying attention to your survival/well-being, its job is done. Maintaining a state of fear prevents you from enjoying the life in front of you; your present, the now moment, really the only time you have. Which is why F.E.A.R. makes sense: if you’re on the way to dealing with whatever the threat is, then fear is “false evidence,” persisting merely because you haven’t released it.
Think about it: you had a miserable divorce. You’re afraid to get into another relationship because he/she might be a jerk. Again. You’re hanging onto your fear rather than dealing with how to recognize and avoid jerks. Or, you hate your job. You’re afraid of quitting because you’re afraid you won’t be able to get another job. Your fear gets in the way of exploring your options, such as improving your skill set, checking out where employees are needed, looking into job-search resources.
False Evidence Appearing Real. Just like that scary witch who was nothing more than a dressed-up 12 year old, your fear is nothing more than a “heads up, pay attention here” warning sign. Important, yes. In your best interest, yes. Something to dwell on? No.
Heed the warning; dismiss the fear. Give fear its due, thank it for doing its job, and let it go. The sooner the better.