overcoming-fear Jan 26, 2018
"Which death is preferably to every other? The unexpected."
Fear…we all have it to varying degrees whether we like it or not.
That's what makes this a very difficult topic to discuss because it goes to the heart of many human reactions in a variety of settings.
"As a result of a general defect of nature, we are either more confident or more fearful of unusual and unknown things."
Though many words have been written about it, along with famous quotes like Caesar’s quote above and numerous books on the subject. They all seek to offer some sort of understanding, some sort of solace to help us cope with fear. Most would rather not discuss it at all especially if it pertains to their own fear. Gen Robert E. Lee use to have a saying when speaking to his men,
“Gentlemen, you shouldn’t take counsel of your fears.”
This is probably one of my favorite military quotes because it really sums up the Mindset necessary to push through what I will call for our purpose “Irrational Fear”. Notice again I say “Irrational Fear” (which I’ll get into later), that is because “Fear” is a very human emotion and I believe this is what Gen Lee was talking about.
Anyway, as I stated whole series of books and tapes and seminars have been developed to help people overcome this at times limiting aspect of our nature. This will be the first in a series of Blog Posts on developing the Mindset for overcoming Irrational Fear. I will quote liberally from history because I think it’s important that people understand that the issues we deal regarding our fears are not new. That men have struggled with fear throughout history and always will.
In the Bible, the Book of Numbers Chapter 13 KJV, as Moses writes we see that even with the power of God behind them how the Hebrews were overcome with fear when the spied on the inhabitants of the land which God had given them. So overcome where they by their fears that they disobeyed God. Even with every advantage and after all they had seen they still allowed their fears to control them. My point again is this is not new nor are the issues we deal with today any different than in times past.
As a side note to this one of the things that’s never ceases to amaze me is how people often think that the generation they grew up in no matter what the time period, the people were “tougher” (by definition braver) than subsequent generations. You know what I mean, as a matter of fact if you hear my Dad tell it, you would think they use to engage in “Gladiatorial Combat” when he was growing up.
I sometimes wonder what the reaction would be if a Viking from the 8th Century Normandy raids traveled to the future to witness the D-Day Invasion on the very same beaches? I’m sure he’d have nothing but admiration for the men who stormed Omaha Beach.
Now there are those who will tell you that “fear-is-fear” and that there really is no such distinction between Rational Fear or Irrational Fear since our ability to process and manage fear is relative to our experiences. I don’t necessarily disagree with this assessment because on a certain level you can make a good argument that fear is relative that it is not real or imagined; logical or illogical; rational or irrational; valid or invalid. That “fear” is just an experience.
It may be as some have said that fear is just an intense experience and that on a certain level may have many unappreciated effects on our lives. Whatever people believe it to be the good news is, I believe we can change how we view it, respond to it and that’s what I want to focus on. That’s because I believe that many things that we are afraid of we are conditioned to be afraid of them.
Now, as it sounds like I’m going to talk out of the other side of my mouth. For the remainder of this Blog entry I’m going to divide fear into "Rational" and "Irrational" just because it’s easier to explain concepts in that fashion and in no way discounts the relative nature of fear or one’s personal experience.
“Rational Fear” or as I like to refer to it the “good kind” of fear is what keeps us alive. It is what keeps us from stepping out in the middle of traffic without looking or avoiding falling objects. This is the innate fear response that I believe we are all born with that needs no discussion or explanation.
There are other types of Rational Fear such as not walking down the wrong street or hanging out on the wrong part of town for no reason but it has been my experience and observation that these are things that have to on some level be learned since it takes experience to know what the wrong street of part of town is.
I believe it is our recognition of our own Rational Fears where most of us had an internal breakthrough that brought us to this point to learn a martial art and became the catalyst for us to do something about it.
It is not easy going through life thinking all is well only to find out after you wake up from “The Matrix” that your world view isn’t the way the world is and until you popped the “Red Pill”, you’ve been asleep and it’s been nothing but a bad dream. For some this “conversion” if you will, is almost immediate for most people it takes some time even years and for others they for various reasons never get there and never will. It’s just the way it is.
"No one is so brave that he is not disturbed by something unexpected."
Rational Fear is what drives us to protect ourselves and our loved ones, our nation or come to the aid of a stranger in distress. It keeps your head in the game when conducting military operations or when walking the beat as a police officer, or when entering a burning building as a fireman. To me this is just common sense.
"As a rule, what is out of sight disturbs men's minds more seriously than what they see."
Irrational Fear is well, “Irrational”. It is fear for fear’s sake. True this is probably based more on experience but there is also the type of fear that people have that is just not logical. I think Caesar had it right in the quote above. By the way it was Caesar who first stated, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself” or words to that effect. Trust me as a member of the Legion Caesar knew what the Hell he was talking about.
Rational Fear unfortunately is often lumped in with “Irrational Fear” and mischaracterized as “cowardice” because many people due to cultural conditioning do not have a healthy enough sense of what it really is to understand how important a role it plays in keeping us safe. As a side note, it’s been my experience that the “real cowards” are not the people who are afraid but the ones who are “unwilling” to acknowledge it.
I’ve been to combat numerous times so I can speak directly to this. As far as I’m concerned anyone who doesn’t have a healthy sense of Rational Fear I don’t want them anywhere near me should something go down. These are people who generally have little sense of awareness are reckless and will get you killed. In the “civilian world” we call them idiots or fools. In the military we call them, “shit bags”!
Viewing it in a tiered fashion, we can see below that at the top is our perceived or ideal self, which is shaped by our egos and conversely our egos influence how we perceive ourselves. Below that we have some of our emotions often felt when we experience fear.
PERCEIVED OR IDEALIZED SELF (EGO)
Emotional = Utter Denial - Anger - Confusion – Dissonance
FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, FEAR
At times when hit with the “truth” it’s as if we were struck by lighting and that electric shock "jolts" our body to its core with the uncomfortable emotions shown in the line below our perceived self. Underlying those emotions are our fears. Fear of loss, fear of dying, fear of pain, failure, embarrassment the list goes on.
While these emotions may not happen in the order I’ve shown here what is important to understand is that the underlying cause for these feelings usually is our Irrational Fears and not actually what is happening, pure and simple.
Fear is a threat to our egos we don’t like the way it makes us feel, which is why we try to suppress it. This is why some people say dumb things like, “I fear no man” or “I’m not scared of shit”, you know the type of nonsense people say. Such affirmations only serve to “deceive” the ego if only for a time of what it already knows. You can lie to me, you can lie to others, but not yourself.
Now some upon hearing the truth will visually display this, while most will feel it as it shocks them to their core. It is only if they can process this information that they can begin almost a healing “process” if you will as they reorient their minds toward reality and stop kidding themselves.
"All of Greece knows what the right thing is to do, but only the Spartans do anything about it."
--Quote attributed to Plato
Now, no discussion about “Overcoming Irrational Fear” would be complete without understanding what “Real Courage” is. I believe a part of our Irrational Fear lies in a misunderstanding of what real courage is versus some Hollywood rendition that is about as close to realty as Hell is to Heaven. Of all of the human qualities and traits “Courage” is probably the “rarest” of all.
The reason is because Courage is NOT easy! Who knows what Plato actually said in the quote above but the point is it’s not just enough to know what is right but whether you're going to do anything about it? For to do something about it implies risk, danger, injury or death. Once you get those wheels turning in that fashion it’s easy for our imaginations to gin up all sorts of Irrational Fears. Again, I believe it is this misunderstanding of courage that is at least a catalyst for Irrational Fear to start building in a person’s mind.
According to Plutarch, a Spartan woman, as she handed her son his shield, would exhort him by saying, "As a warrior of Sparta come back with your shield or on it."
I love this quote because it cuts to the heart of the matter, when you cross swords there’s always a risk, there’s no way around this truth. Most of us probably couldn’t see our own mothers saying this but the point is well taken. And this is why courage is both admired yet so difficult for most to grasp.
Courage, you see always, always, always comes at a price and it “always” costs you something, or has an element of risk that cannot be avoided. You go to war you could be killed, you run into a burning building to rescue someone you could be killed or horribly burned, you intervene in a robbery or come to someone’s aid during an assault you could be injured or killed if the “perp” has a gun or a knife. You try to stop a gunman during an active shooting and you could be killed. You stand up to a tyrant or dictator you could be executed, you stand up to your boss at work you could be fired.
The risks cannot be avoided. The point is even when you do "what is right” there is no guarantee you’re coming out of it unscathed. People don’t say it but everyone on an intuitive level knows it. Think about the risk the Founding Father’s took to create this Nation as Ben Franklin said,
“We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”
About 30 years ago, good friend of mine Col. Charles “Chuck” Rizzio who when he was a 2nd Lt. in the Marine Corps, after the helicopter he and his Marines were in crashed into the ocean, the “bird” as we call it, flipped over and catching fire. Yet Chuck, went back into the burning helicopter under the water as the aircraft sank rescuing one of his Marines suffering severe burns in the process.
In my own experience I can’t even count all of the times my battle buddy Master Gunnery Sergeant Franco covered my back when we were in Iraq even after he was wounded by an IED, or the awesome Sgt Padmore, shooting it out with the al-Qaeda in Iraq thugs while rescuing Marines from a burning vehicle in Fallujah. Or the numerous trips I made with my boss Col Wilson along “IED Alley” through Nasir-wa-Salam. We all knew the risks but it was never even a question because we all had each other’s backs and we all knew the Marine Corps had trained us well.
I remember when a Gunnery Sgt friend of mine in Garmser, Afghanistan was shot while coming to the aid of some Marines. Mind you this is a guy who had already been shot twice before, I ran into him again totally by accident because I had thought he was medivaced out of theater and I asked him, what the Hell he was still doing in Afghanistan? He said, “Come on Sir you know why I’m here, I could never live it down if I left these Marines”.
I could go on and on with stories of bravery and things I directly I observed of our young men and women during my deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. To say their courage is awe inspiring is an understatement.
Understand, it wasn’t about being “brave” or even thinking we were brave, it was about doing our duty and I’ve come to learn. When you stand for something higher or greater than yourself no matter the risk, you don’t need to find courage, it finds you.
Granted my stories are obviously from my military experiences and there's more but there are countless examples all of the time outside of war. One of my favorite non-military stories of courage was when I was in college, is that of former Kansas City Chiefs running back, Joe Delaney who in June of 1983 drowned trying to save several young boys in a Louisiana pond called “Critter’s Creek”.
Delaney you see, didn’t know how to swim!
Think of the fear he had to overcome to do what he did knowing full well the outcome was uncertain at best?
What do all of these stories have in common? In every one of them either the people involved almost lost their lives or lost it. There is no middle ground. A phrase I once heard that I like and that is,
“Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to function in fears presence.”
Or this one,
“Courage is doing what must be done even when you’re afraid.”
Again I believe it is this lack of understanding that gives rise to Irrational Fear.
All Show - No Go
"It is not these well-fed long-haired men that I fear, but the pale and the hungry-looking."
One thing I want to cover because it really needs to be said, now there are those who think that courage is all about being “physically fit” or that being “physically tough” which is really relative and so they confuse it as the same thing as being brave. But it’s been my experience that this is all a façade. All show - No go...
It reminds me of a conversation I once had with one of my Marines, where we were discussing how all too often some people even in the military confuse fitness for toughness and even worse toughness for fighting. I told him it’s been my experience that the easiest people to deal with are the guys who “think” they’re so tough by virtue of being fit or whatever in the absence of real fighting skill. He asked why and I said something like,
“It’s been my observation that guys who think they’re tough can’t get out of their own way they think their toughness alone will protect them. So they foolishly expose themselves to things they shouldn’t only to find out the hard way because in the end their head is still their head and their neck is their neck. Easy to be hard, hard to be smart.”
They just don’t have a healthy dose of Rational Fear so it's interesting in that, what they think protects them is actually what makes them vulnerable. There’s no question that fitness and toughness both mental and physical are important qualities especially if you are in combat. But the notion that they in and of themselves make you a brave or a skilled warrior are utterly false. They make you no more a real fighter without training than you can be a doctor without going to medical school.
You’re Either Trained or You’re Not
"We must remember that one man is much the same as another, and that he is best who is trained in the severest school."
If you ever saw the movie “Man on Fire” starring Denzel Washington there is a scene that really sums it up nicely. When the young girl he’s protecting (played by Dakota Fanning) asks him if there is anyone tougher than him he replies, “It’s not about being tough you’re either trained or you’re not.”
This is important because as stated in previous Blog entries, we live in a culture where a large number people are conditioned to become victims including a lot of men. But I can tell you through proper training both mental and physical you can overcome this.
The key here is that since fear is always present on some level once you recognize the underlying cause for these emotions. You can then begin the moving toward a more rational understanding and practical approach to harnessing that fear.
Recognizing the Signs
One of the reasons why we don’t like to experience fear is because of the way it makes us feel. We don’t like that feeling so for the most part we try to avoid it. Now that I’ve sort of laid the ground work since this Blog Post is all about helping folks learn to Overcome Irrational Fear. I’m going to offer some sage advice to aid in the first step of this process.
Ready for it?
Get over yourself…
No, really get over yourself!
You’re not the first person to feel this way and you are far from being the last. You’re not “chicken” or a coward just human. Understand that incorporated into those feelings is your will to survive or that of your loved ones. So get over yourself!
Next, you need to understanding that when faced with a difficult situation one of the first things that happens is your body goes through a number of physiological responses that triggers the familiar fight-or-flight response also called “hyper-arousal” or “acute stress response”. This reaction occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival.
While triggered by our mental perceptions the changes that occur during the fight-or-flight response are activated in order to give the body increased strength and speed in anticipation of fighting or running. Some of the specific physiological changes and their functions include:
· Increased blood flow to the muscles activated by diverting blood flow from other parts of the body.
· Increased blood pressure, heart rate, constriction of blood vessels in many parts of the body
· Paling or flushing, inhibition of stomach (i.e., that queasy feeling we get in our gut), dilation of pupil, auditory exclusion (loss of hearing), tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision) and shaking. (As a side note: I believe the auditory exclusion and tunnel vision are more of a process our brains engage to “filter out” non-essential information allowing us better focus, creating a “perceived” loss and not an actual loss of hearing or vision. I also believe this filtering explains the sometimes near photographic recall or time distortion some people have when experiencing Tachypsychia).
· The blood clotting function of the body speeds up in order to prevent excessive blood loss in the event of an injury sustained during the response etc. (this is a good one to know due to the fear we often have of losing our precious bodily fluids).
“If I am killed, I can die but once; but to live in constant dread of it, is to die over and over again…”
I want to re-emphasize that acknowledging fear doesn’t make you a coward it just makes you human and that feeling this way is the norm rather than the exception. In fact, if you don’t exhibit some of these signs in my book either there is something wrong with you or you’re not paying attention. Not good! You want to recognize these responses in your body and learn to harness them.
One thing that I have found is that over the years due to training and experience my body tends to trigger this to varying degrees. This is what I call my “Spider Sense” and when my “Spider Senses” start to “tingle” game on. It doesn’t have to be much, something as simple as an odd feeling in my gut, flushness in my face and neck or a surge of warmth through my body I’m immediately aware. I’m not hyper vigilant or paranoid just “aware” that something is not right.
I trust my gut, my inner voice and focus my awareness outward as if turning on a radar device. It’s sort of like when I walk my dog, when his ears go up, if he stops to stare off into the distance for some reason or begins to growl I’m on my game. His senses are far more acute that mine so I trust him. I have a rule as well, if my dog doesn’t like you then neither do I, so don’t get on my dog’s bad side.
As I quote Sanford Strong again in “Strong on Defense”, “your safety first their feelings second…” Besides why should you sacrifice your safety? What, so you can feel morally superior for not hurting their feelings? Or because you don't want to "profile some thug for feeling you may offend them? I don’t think so!
You may find this amusing but I’ve run into numerous people over the years who actually think this way. It’s really simple in my mind if you don’t want me to treat you like a thug don’t act like one. I’m under no obligation to be “nice” and neither are you.
Okay, Some More Final Thoughts
One thing that I like to tell people is that since you’re going to panic anyway learn to “panic the right way”. Meaning it takes you just as long to do the “right thing” as it does to do the wrong thing. So if you’re going to panic anyway you might as well do it in a way that is beneficial to you and gives you the upper hand in a situation.
This can be partly done, by focusing your mind on a series of possible scenarios and then focus on simple responses. My attitude is if you hit my "panic reflex" you may not like the way I panic. Instead of absorbing my fear if I perceive you as a threat I’ll give my fear to you by projecting it outward.
You don’t have to use elaborate responses something as simple as anticipating their movement toward you and learning to step out of the way or getting your hands up to protect your head go a long way in developing this ability. You can even develop a number of inner scenarios and war game out so to speak your possible reactions to an attack.
Obviously there is training involved in doing some of this such as how to strike if required etc. but even if you know how to strike it doesn’t matter if your Mindset is wrong.
Well that’s it for this Blog Post, I’m going to continue the conversation on how to further develop your Mindset to deal with "Fear" and how to harness it as a weapon through the Guided Chaos methodology. Because there are some things we do that actually train people away from Irrational Fear and toward the light so to speak.
Until then I leave you with this quote from Einstein.
"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything."
The question is, are we going to stand by and let evil win?
LtCol Al Ridenhour
Senior Master Instructor
For more go to: https://protectyourself.mykajabi.com/
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