Despite all fears


Fear of failure, fear of being nothing, fear of success, fear of what people may think of us. Fear of feeling hurt, fear of daring, fear of the unknown, fear of looking foolish, fear of losing our position, fear of being lost. Fear of death, fear of being weak, fear of embarrassment, fear of suffering. Fear of the blank page, fear of disturbing others, fear of not being competent enough, fear of reality., Fear of losing faith, fear of the worst, fear of others, fear of poverty, fear of marring our reputation, fear of discomfort, no fear.

There is nearly magic in the last two words: no fear. It sounds so simple; it even sounds attractive. Isn’t it the name of a sportswear company? It is a lovely concept. Some people claim that all fears have the same origin and can be all dropped through insight without time being involved. Others argue that it is a slow process that we can go through – one situation at a time; and that gradually our fears can dissipate.

But isn’t it the case that new fears also get created? Some incidents, accidents, and hurts may leave psychological scars that potentially can develop into new fears. Although I don’t entirely dismiss the possibility of going beyond all our fears at once, I tend to believe in a more gentle, gradual and consistent approach to dealing with fears. A bit like keeping on top of weeds in a garden.

There is no point fooling ourselves, there are real dangers, risks and discomfort out there. For example, last year when we lived in Bali, scorpions would occasionally visit our bathroom, and although we were told that their poison was not life-threatening, their stings were not very pleasant. I was a little apprehensive about handling them, but my fear of being stung did not stop me from releasing them in the garden. It was clear that we had to be watchful where we put our feet, but more problematic for me would have been for ‘fear’ to settle in and for me to pass it on to my son. As a matter of fact, he was totally fine with scorpions, and he learnt to remove them carefully the way we get rid of wasps in England.

Living with scorpions got me thinking about fear and the useful distinction between pain and discomfort. Whereas it is healthy to avoid pain, I believe that it is crucial to learn to tolerate discomfort. As an educator, I have observed that most learning goes through a phase of going beyond our comfort zone. One useful skill is the ability to know the difference between a fear of discomfort and a fear of serious hazards. With hazards, evaluating risks and taking precautions are very effective ways to deal with fears. With discomfort, getting past the first barrier usually does the trick. As the well-known phrase goes: ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Fear of discomfort will most likely stay with us, but we can learn not to be stopped by it.

Overcoming limiting fears is an essential aptitude to develop. A good way to become more proficient at it is to spend some time outside our comfort zone daily. So, what should I do with the fear of the blank page?

Write, despite all fears.


One sentence journal – day 13:
“It is International Environment day and my younger son’s birthday – last year we were climbing Bali’s volcanic bellybutton, the volcano Mt Agung, this year we are going to eat strawberries on the grass outside Yoel’s birthplace. ”

This blog is part of a renewed 42-day writing challenge inspired by Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits Book.
Photo source: BioExpedition