Show me someone who doesn’t have anxiety and I’ll give them something to worry about…
Is anyone without fear? I don’t think so. Even really brave people. The most convincing descriptions of bravery I have heard are from ordinary people who have done amazing things despite being terrified. We are not brave instead of being afraid, we are both simultaneously. Bravery and fear are not opposites, much like a sandwich and hunger are not opposites. Bravery is acting through fear. You cannot experience bravery without experiencing fear. The otherwise lacklustre film ‘We Bought A Zoo’ contains an engaging motif of bravery essentially consisting of 40 seconds of courage. The theory, repeatedly expounded, is that you only ever have to be brave for about 40 seconds. This resonates on such a human level. “I’ll be alright, just give me a minute.” Love can spark, lives can be saved, the fate of whole populations, can and is decided in 40 second chunks.
From birth, to death, to survival, to romance – overcoming fear is the fundamental human experience. We all share it. Rich and poor, young and old we all hurtle through life negotiating its twists and turns. There is no reset or reboot. Take for example meeting somebody. That first encounter is the last time you are going to meet that person for the first time. No takebacks. Life is unexpected and constantly moving and fear is a physical and emotional experience we cannot avoid. It serves useful purposes, warning us of danger and encouraging us to be aware. Adrenalin heightens the senses. To be afraid of something is to really experience it, the fear of God eh? We are imaginative and while this allows us to tread fearfully far and wide it also means we can cripple ourselves by making fear the opposite of what it was intended for, something that keeps us static and trapped.
Fear should help us interact with the world, not make us retreat from it. Learning, fundamentally, is overcoming fear and the unknown. The strange and inexplicable becomes useful and familiar through interaction. We all gotta learn sometime. Being un afraid is not an option. We must pass through fear and anxiety.
It is okay to be anxious.
It is okay to be afraid.
It is okay to be unsure.
It is also okay to relax.
It is also okay to act.
It is also okay to ask for help.
You do not need to punish yourself.
Fear is something, I suspect, that we all encounter several times a day. Fear is a filter we can use to look at the world and it can be a helpful one if we are to survive it. If we ignore or deny fear we can harm ourselves and others. It is okay to raise it. We can and should acknowledge our fears to ourselves and to others as it is appropriate. Brave people are aware of their fears. A wise friend, Adrian Plass, once said fear should be treated as a guest you are polite but formal towards. Invite them in but don’t give them much to eat and they’ll soon wonder off. I like the idea of fear as a freeloading neighbour (“She had these marzipan squares last time… didn’t get as much as a pink wafer today…).
It is also okay to erase it. A fear, or anxiety, or painful memory, can gnaw away at your bones. It is understanable that you want to erase these fears that hurt you in the retelling. But benign neglect (as Adrian’s advice above) is the best way to erase these fears. Fears – like a lampost – cannot be willed out of existence. But if it is neglected it will eventually go out. ‘Forgive but never forget’ is emotional blackmail – even when applied to yourself. Lessons can be internalised without constantly reliving the lesson. If you’ve got baggage it’s okay to forget it. It really is. But you won’t forget it overnight. Don’t hold it over yourself. Don’t keep picking it up to throw it away. It will blow away in time, the bastard 🙂
So it’s okay to have fears. It’s okay to raise them and it’s okay to erase them. It’s also okay, and really quite fun to raze them! Raze them to the ground! Burn it all until all that’s left is ash and pulp. You can occaisonally take that fear and burn a trail, confront it, push through it, raze it! There are those moments when you suddenly think, yeah I could do that maybe, for a minute or two – I could overcome it. Raze that fear! This takes guts, 40 seconds of guts, and may have to be repeated, but just as it’s okay to raise it, and erase it, it’s okay to raze it! Glorious destruction can lead to renewal. Just as new growth springs from wreckage and almighty volcanoes make lands almightily fertile. A razing is an action of great intent, sometimes to tackle our fears this is what we need, a resolved action.
Show me someone with anxiety and I’ll tell em it’s okay. It really is. I have had and continue to have issues with mental health. But I tell myself, and I tell you, it’s okay to raise it, erase it and raze it.