“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”–Yoda
One of the greatest lessons to be learned in life is that we have little control over what goes on in our lives, other than the choices we make for ourselves. As much as you would like to not be scared of the dark or afraid of the stock market crashing, you can’t change that the dark will always be there or that the stock market could take a dive. What we do have control over, however, is how we allow things to make us feel, but gaining that control is no easy task.
If something makes you feel angry, there’s a good chance that the deeper issue is your fear. If something makes your heart race with panic, there’s a high probability that what is driving that is fear. If you are wanting to succeed in life but find yourself messing up the interview or the opportunity, you might find that underlying fear is at the root of your problem, and once you address that, life becomes a more joyful adventure! Sometimes, fear is necessary to keep us safe, and sometimes it is a mental stumbling block. Healthy or not, fear drives us–sometimes to do big things and more often to dwell in a darkness that keeps us from a better life, or as Yoda says, it is the path to the Dark Side.
Fear comes pre-packaged in our system. Feeling fearful is not always a negative thing and doesn’t always lead us to dark places. When the men and women of cave-dwelling days had a tiger chasing them, the fight or flight reaction kicked in out of fear of being caught and eaten. That fear was a healthy response to a scary situation and probably saved a few lives. If we didn’t have a built-in response of fear to danger, we would keep touching the hot eye on the stove and wondering why it left a painful blister every time, or we might go back for more every time someone hurt us (imagine domestic violence victims who were unafraid of the pain).
With shows like Fear Factor, you see people facing their fears with gusto. With other reality shows and sports activities, you see people who seem to have no fear. It isn’t that they don’t have fears, though, it’s that they love the rush of adrenaline that comes with doing scary things. While a haunted house with a guarantee of safety allows people to get that adrenaline rush knowing they’ll be ok in the end, many people go a step further risking their lives for the great reward they will feel if they are able to survive the feat and knowing that they will have died doing something they love if they don’t.
Webster’s Dictionary says fear is an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. Fear seems so silly at times, and yet it paralyzes us by its serious risks. If we could remove the power of the perceived danger, could we find a new freedom in life?
Freedom is the last thing a person who lives with fear ever feels they have. Fear locks us up and holds us captive. Fear of gaining a pound drives people to extreme eating problems. Fear of ending up alone drives people to put up with actions from others that should be unacceptable. Fear of spiders can keep people from entering a room where a spider has been seen. Fear of being heartbroken can keep people from enjoying a relationship. Living with an extreme fear of anything is living on the other side of freedom.
Part of the dangerous power our fears have comes in the way they keep us from engaging with other people. “What if they discovered our fears?” we think. A study at UCLA a few years ago found that people who spoke about how they were really feeling when facing a particular fear were better able to face that fear the next time than those who hadn’t wanted to talk about it. Our words are full of power in so many situations, we keep learning.
No fears lurking in your head? Good for you, but I hope that you will try to imagine what life must be like for people who have fears that control them.
Are you one of the fearful? It takes a lot of courage to admit it, and now you can learn how to help yourself, and those you love, live with a little more freedom. That is the most overlooked part of fear, after all: it doesn’t just impact the life of one person. Fear is costly. Relationships, health, and even financial stability are all at risk when our fears take control.
Maybe today you will begin by admitting to yourself what it is that causes you to feel fearful, removing some of the control your fear has over you. Ask yourself what lesson your fear might be teaching you. Share your story so that you might learn how others have overcome similar fears, and they might learn from you. If you think you have no fears, then be compassionate to those who are trying to overcome what is holding them. And by all means, remember that if you are suffering with anger, hate, and fear, you are closer to the dark side than you need to be. It’s time to change your path.