As humans, we are neurologically wired to respond with fear when we feel a sense of danger or when our physical, mental, or emotional safety is threatened. Fear is our protector and has always been there to keep us safe from harm.
Fear shows up in many different ways in our life. From an evolutionary perspective, the purpose of fear was always to promote survival. When people learned to fear the right things, they survived and were able to pass on their genes. Therefore, our fear response was always a necessary part of our evolution.
In a wonderful commencement speech given by Jim Carrey in 2014, he stated that one of the big wins in his life was being able to conquer unnecessary fears in his own mind. Although he was infusing humor into his speech, his message was very clear and intentional.
He said that through the deep practice of mindfulness and meditation, he was able to understand the difference between real and perceived fear and this was a game changer for him in his own life. Perceived fear can be paralyzing and holds us back from what we are truly capable of achieving.
What Jim said was this:
“Mindfulness and meditation allows you to separate who you truly are and what’s real from the stories that run through your head. It allows you to walk behind the mind’s elaborate set decoration and to see that there’s a huge difference between a dog that is going to eat you in your mind and an actual dog that is going to eat you. That may sound like no big deal, but many never learn that distinction and they spend a great deal of lives in fight or flight response.”
What role does fear play in your life? Are you able to distinguish between real versus perceived fear? In the words of Jewel, ‘Fear is a thief and it takes the past and projects it into the future. And it robs you of the only opportunity you have to create change’.
Learning to sit with our fears can help us to see our inner terrain differently and better understand what our fears might be trying to communicate to us. And through this discourse with ourselves, we may be able to see how irrational some of our fears are.
Life is certainly not about living fearlessly. It’s not about thinking that we can control every fear. But looking at our fears through a different lens might soften them over time. Taking on a different relationship with fear can lead to exploring more possibilities in our lives and with this may come greater purpose and fulfillment.
If you want to hear Jewel’s amazing podcast with Dr. Michael Gervais, please click on the link below. In this conversation, Jewel deeply unpacks the ways that she has learned to better cope with fear in her life and impact that this has had on her career. Thanks for reading.
KAUST Faculty, Pedagogical Coach. Presenter & Workshop Leader.IB Educator. #RunYourLife podcast host.