Has Fear Got a Grip on You?

Imagine a field. The field is fenced and smack dab in the center of this field there you sit. You can’t move. The grass is dead. There’s no one else there with you. There’s no water. There’s no mode of transport to get you out of there. It’s barren. There’s nothing there for you to use to survive and without help you won’t. You look around for help and beyond the fence stand your family, your friends and other people who can help you. They can throw you a lifeline or step in and carry you out of the field to safety and comfort yet they don’t move. It’s strange, you think. Family and friends are suppose to have your back but they don’t.  Why? What have I done? Why are they turning their backs on me?  

You look closer at the people standing on the other side of the fence and attached to each of them is a string. An enemy controls this string. This enemy some may envision as being dressed in red, carrying a pointy farm tool and sporting horns and a tail. I like to call it fear.

There are two kinds of fear. There’s fright, which gives you a heads up when your tire blows on the highway, someone sneaks up behind you or you almost step into the path of an oncoming bus and death brushes your face. Fright keeps you alive. It heightens your sense of survival. It’s good to have fright in your corner. A good-high pitched scream now and then, gets the blood rushing and makes you feel alive.

Fear on the other hand has a far deeper hold on you and yes, I’m saying it may just very well be the devil in disguise. Not very well disguised, just veiled so that we do not see the true nature of the beast.

Those family and friends who are just out of reach of you and can’t seem to help you are only being held back by fear. Fear that they might get stuck in the same position you’re in and fear that the person holding their string will pull it tighter, choking the life from them.

There’s the fear other people use against other people. Today, I got an email from a social media marketer and he said this to me and about a million other people on his mailing list,  “There is no charge for the education you are about to get in a specialized field, that very few people know about. There will, however, be a loss in your future income if you fail to take advantage of the opportunity. It really is that simple and the choice is totally up to you.”  Oh man… If I don’t listen to this guy I’ll lose my income? Seriously? Or what about those emails you get where if you don’t send them along to 10 of your nearest and dearest, you’re world as you know it, will cease to exist. Why do we buy into all this?

Simple – we’ve grown up in the ‘it’s the all about me, me, me’ generation. Number one comes first. Self gratification and self preservation rules. Our ancestors had to pitch in and help each other out. They fought for survival together. It was the one for all, all for one attitude. It had to be. They worked as a team to hunt for food or they fought side by side. Families shared homes and resources to survive.  How often do we really do that nowadays?  When was the last time you looked your fear square in the face and said screw off I’m helping that person, they deserve my respect and my assistance because of the simple fact they are flesh and bone.

Take a moment to think about that. Are you being controlled by fear? Sleep on it tonight. Consider the choices you’ve made. Has fear caused grief, chaos and anger to be the guiding forces in your life? Who have you helped out of a jam, lately? Has someone called out to you and asked for help and you’ve made up an excuse why you can’t help them. “No, I can’t help you because I’ve got no money; because you aren’t from the same religion or race as I am; because you need to fail to learn; because you shouldn’t have done what you did; because I need someone else’s permission to help you”, because …because…because…total BS. That’s short for Big Story.

We all say we want to help, do we really? Don’t we just want to help ourselves?  On our podcast, The Attitude Shift, we get guests who want to be on the show but the condition is that they have to know how many people listen to us. They have got to be kidding. If they are truly in the business of helping people, does it matter if there are 5 or 5 million listeners?  If by joining our panel they are able to reach just one person and help them change the course of their life for the better, isn’t that all they need?

It’s the fear that’s controlling you that keeps you from extending a hand to help your fellow human being. Will you continue to allow that controlling force to keep you from doing what is right? What is just? Or will you stand up and make a difference in someone’s life by reaching your hand in and pulling them out to safety and comfort?

I looked fear in the face last week and picked up the phone and as I was dialing I could hear in my head the protests of all the people who had been holding me back for years from making this call. It turned out once the connection was made with the person on the other end of the line, fear shrank back into the shadows and love surfaced. I cried like a baby and felt I had come home. The pain, anger and hurt dissolved and the love enveloped us both and we began the healing process.  The ability to work as a team surfaced and we made tremendous headway on something that had been stalled. As a contact of mine recently said on her Facebook page  – TEAM – together everyone accomplishes miracles. Kelly Sylte is one smart cookie.

I’ve been on a journey to find my purpose and perhaps through the pain I’ve lived, the fear I’ve given into and the courage I have discovered along the way,  that is what I am on this earth to do, to uncover the hold fear has on people and to help release the love they have to give,  and discover the amazing life they have to live. No matter, if what I shared today has helped one person I’ve successfully taken my place in the We generation. When you begin to realize the hold fear has on you and you start to loosen its grip, it’s amazing what begins to happen around you. Things that seemed difficult become easier, choices you worried about come naturally and the life you dreamed of is merely an action plan away.

Join us as we start a new generation, one where fear is a distant memory, relegated to the back alleys of life. Shift your attitude and become part of the We generation.

Siobhan Shaw is co-host of The Attitude Shift show on Blog Talk Radio.


2 responses to this post.

  1. […] of women at my fingertips all who are finding their way from broke to stoked. As I’ve said in my previous blog, it’s not about the me, me, me anymore, it’s about the we and with that knowledge I […]


  2. Siobhan:

    I would like to comment on your recent blog entries regarding fear as I believe your readers and Meredith might benefit from a different way of viewing emotions in general and fear in particular.

    In your July 7 blog entry, you mentioned that there are two types of fear.

    The first type you labeled as “fright” and correctly noted that fright heightens your “sense of survival”. There is a book entitled The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker which discusses fear in great detail. It is a fast read and I recommend it to all my female students. Gavin teaches that we should all pay close attention to our bodies when we experience fear rather than to our minds which may often rationalize away a situation which does not appear to be dangerous but actually is.

    In truth, this “fright” is the only real fear.

    The second type of fear you refer to, but do not name, is actually anxiety not fear. This is a common misconception.

    By differentiating fear from anxiety, you are better able to validate both feelings and take appropriate action.

    When you metaphorically refer to anxiety as “the devil incarnate”, you imply that one should avoid or eliminate the feeling. This is also what happens when people label feelings such as anger as negative. When you eliminate a feeling, you rob yourself of the opportunity to use that feeling and the message of that feeling to improve your life.

    According to the Emotions as Tools model, the message of anxiety is that there MAY be a threat out there that you are facing and that threat MAY “kill” you.

    MAY is capitalized because anxiety always alerts us to a future event that may or may not materialize. “Kill” is in quotes because when we are super anxious, we might feel as if our lives, as we know them, might end. Or, we might feel as if we not able to survive the threat psychologically, economically, socially, or, perhaps, physically.

    Stress is another word for anxiety. There is eustress which is motivating. This is what you have used to stay on target and move forward. There is also distress. This is the anxiety that stops us in our tracks.

    To Meredith:

    I have some specific suggestions for how you can use your anxiety as a tool to get your life moving again. But first I must say that while what follows certainly is easier said than done, it is doable. I know because I use these suggestions in my own life.

    So here it is…

    First, it is important to validate (accept) your feelings.

    (“I am really anxious right now.”)

    The point here is that your anxiety is telling you that you are facing a big challenge and must prepare for it.

    Stress is another word for anxiety. The message of stress is that your expectations for what should be happening in your life do not match the reality that you see. Because of the difference between expectations and reality, it seems (feels like) the life you have known is seriously threatened.

    Secondly, use your anxiety as a wake-up call to examine the “reality” of the threat. What skills and experiences (your “great success”, being “healthy” and “unencumbered”) can you call upon now and how can you use support groups such as the Broke Wives Club to move forward.

    (“I feel as if there is no hope but when I look at my strengths, my support group, my will to survive, I realize that I am not helpless.”)

    The point is that you have knowledge and resources upon which you can draw to help you move forward. Your anxiety, if not used as a tool, can distract you from seeing these resources.

    Thirdly, use your anxiety as a motivator to charge up your creative juices and push you to making plans to use the resources you have or will develop.

    (“I can use all this nervous energy as motivation to get this “project” (my life) back on track.)

    Lastly, take action.

    I hope that helps. While this is a very brief overview, it is what I do when I get anxious and it is what I teach my students.

    You can do it.

    Ed Daube, Ph.D.
    The emotions doctor


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