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Monday, November 4, 2013

The Alchemy Of Fear

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.

---Litany Against Fear, Frank Herbert's Dune

Fear is a basic survival mechanism which takes the form of an emotional response to a perceived threat such as pain or the threat of danger. Fear often triggers a release of chemicals in the brain that cause an accelerated heart beat and shallow breathing also known as the fight or flight response.

Like other emotions such as happiness, jealousy, joy, etc... there are degrees of fear which range from moderate (caution) to extreme (terror). Fears can either be rational such as having a fear of death; or irrational such as a fear of long words (called Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia).

Paranoia is a form of fear that falls in the irrational category. It is defined as a chronic perception of being persecuted. It is an extreme emotional state in which a person had deluded themselves into believing that they are in danger.

There are certain universal fears among human beings such as a fear of speaking in public, rejection, terrorism, snakes, success, etc...Scientist believe that certain universal fears where a result of evolution in response to situations that were believed to bring about harm. For example, being in an enclosed space makes one more vulnerable to predators and other enemies. Other fears are a result of mimicking our parents fears, or of experiencing/witnessing a frightening episode such as being caught in a burning building.

Anxiety is distinguished from fear in that fear is a response to a direct threat while anxiety is a vague unpleasant emotion that is experienced in anticipation of some (usually ill-defined) misfortune. I have personally always been an anxious person. My anxiety often takes the form of anticipating what might happen.

My anxiety has been both a blessing and a curse. On one hand I'm often prepared (both mentally and physically) when something bad happens; on the other hand I've often missed out on a lot of opportunities because I was afraid of looking like a fool at a party, or having a car accident because I wasn't sure how to get to a certain destination.

Over the past few years I've challenged myself to overcome my fear of the future with a simple technique. Whenever I feel myself becoming anxious about something, I simply tell myself that I'm not afraid, I'm excited! When you think about it, excitement and fear are a lot alike, they both occur in response to an outside stimulus, both are marked by biological changes such as shortness of breath and an accelerated heart beat. So, I keep telling myself over and over that I'm not afraid, I'm excited until finally I transmute my fear. When fear becomes excitement, you're not afraid anymore.

I challenged myself everyday to do something that I otherwise would not have done. Each day, I took a different route to or from work; I would break up my routine and go shopping during the busiest time of the day; I would make it a point to smile and say hello to a stranger. I sang karaoke, I danced. I shared a deeper part of myself with the world. Because of this I have been able to learn more about the place in which I live, met a lot of great people, and begin to live the best life that I can live.

And you can too! So tonight, I am challenging you, my readers, to break out of your comfort zones and do something you've always wanted to do but didn't because of fear. Tell me your story......

Carolina Dean

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