A few weeks ago, I went down into our basement when no one else was home. It was dark and I had this thought come to mind suddenly: “What if someone was living down here and I didn’t even know it?” Images of someone coming out of the darkness filled my mind and I felt stricken with fear. The rational part of my brain said, “This is totally and completely ridiculous. No one is living in your basement waiting to jump out at you”. But it was hard not to hurry up and get back to the safety of the main floor.
This doesn’t happen often to me, less and less it seems. But I suspect that it happens to all of us from time to time. An irrational thought gives way to a creative imagination and the fear feeds on itself. It may not be monsters in our closets anymore, or something under our bed, but fear is a powerful motivator.
What’s strange to me is how helpless our rational mind can be in the face of fear. We can logically recognize something as ridiculous, but our fight-or-flight instincts kick in pretty hard. Sometimes trying to convince ourselves that it’s irrational only makes us even more afraid as we imagine more and more scenarios! We tell ourselves, well, it’s possible isn’t it?
Fear comes in many forms and while it’s not always irrational, I wonder how often we convince our rational brain that our choice is the prudent course, even though it’s just fear working its magic.
One of my favorite authors, Seth Godin, pushes people to make art with everything they do in spite of the fears it invokes: fear of rejection, fear of failure, even fear of success. He suggests that we should learn to be comfortable when we are afraid. Instead of hopping out of bed to go make sure the front door is locked, chose not to. Become comfortable with the uncertainty. Fear can’t be talked down – like pain, it can really only be endured until it passes. And it will pass.
Fear subtly sways our actions and rarely for the better. Training ourselves not to act on it in the small things encourages us to be strong in the bigger things. Try living with it instead of acting on it next time you feel the fear.
Photo Credit: Dar’ya Sipyeykina