It was midnight, and the long shadows cast by the waxing moon played havoc with my mind. Suddenly, the scene burst into light and I was thrust into the thick of the battle. Armed with nothing but a flimsy shoe and a can of bug spray I fought bravely against my 8-legged enemy. Spray, spray, parry, spray. He was a worthy foe. Sweat beaded on my forehead as we battled hard. We both knew that only one us would survive the night. The spider - angry and frenzied by my bug spray - changed his method and launched a direct attack. It caught me off guard and I only just managed to swing the shoe down in time, smacking it into the ground with an almighty roar.
Dust rose around me as the battlefield fell silent. I was victorious, but I was frazzled. It had been all too close this time and I could not shake the feeling of intense fear that had coursed through my body as the spider had approached...
Later that night, as I replayed the event in my mind, it somehow seemed less glorious. I was just another man killing another spider - a pretty simple task that men achieve around the world without the same level of dramatisation. It was then that I realised just how irrational and useless fear is.
Fear is Irrational and Useless
Fear is not a rational thought. Fear is a creation of the imagination - a fictitious future filled with pain and suffering. It is just a negative lens for looking at the future, and it pays little regard to logic or common sense. This makes fear irrational and useless.
Think about my battle with that spider. I would easily be 1000 times bigger, have enough force to crush it with just two of my fingers, and also have access to chemical sprays (and footwear) that kill spiders easily. What did the spider have? Eight legs, some venom that wouldn't even hurt me, and a creepy looking face. Yep, fear is irrational alright…
But don't we use fear to protect us from dangerous situations? Doesn't fear stop us from getting hurt? Isn't our ability to feel fear a major component of our human survival instinct? No, and this is a common misconception that confuses fear with our ability to sense danger.
Take fire for example: when we look at fire we know that it is dangerous - we know that we could be severely hurt, or even die, if we touch it. But we do not fear it. We just recognise and understand the danger the fire presents and we adjust our actions accordingly. This is our danger sense in action and it has played a key part in the longevity of the human race.
Fear, on the other hand, is stress about a possible future state that may or may not actually occur. It provides no evolutionary benefit and I will go as far as to say it actually hampers our natural survival instinct.
The Uselessness of Fear
In previous ages, when humans were not such a dominant force on the planet - when we had to hunt and gather food whilst avoiding deadly predators - a sense of fear would have actually been a major detriment to our survival.
Think of a time when you were in the clutches of a very strong sense of fear. What sort of reaction did it cause in your body? Were you thinking clearly and able to control your actions? Or did it feel like you were lost in your fear, as if your body had stopped paying attention to you?
There is a reason why authors use phrases like "frozen with fear" and "paralysed with terror". ;)
Fear, does not serve any positive purpose. Why? Because it is just a form of worrying about the future, rather than focusing on what is happening right now. If you do not live in the moment, if you are not acutely aware of your surroundings then how can you make the right decisions in order to survive? How will you recognise danger and know how to respond?
Unfortunately our modern society does not have as many immediately threatening dangers and people are getting too comfortable. The result is a decrease in the usage of our ability to sense danger and an increase in the silly and wasteful concept of fear. Just the other day I saw a lady nearly lose her life simply because "her mind was elsewhere" and she stepped out in front of oncoming traffic. I would bet everything I have that she was worrying about the future, rather then paying attention to the current moment.
The Top 10 Fears
Writing this article led me to research what common fears people have and I found what are supposedly the top 10 fears across the world. These are:
- Fear of flying
- Fear of public speaking
- Fear of heights
- Fear of the dark
- Fear of death
- Fear of failure
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of spiders
- Fear of snakes
- Fear of intimacy
Reading through that list do you think it is the actual event listed that is feared or a series of imagined (and improbable) outcomes from those events? I'd say it's the latter.
People do not fear the act of flying per se, but they fear the possibility of something going wrong mid-flight and the plane crashing. For public speaking, people do not fear the act of saying words to others but instead fear that they will make mistakes and/or be judged negatively by their peers.
And just like during my battle with the spider where I thought I was fearing the spider, I was actually fearing the outcome. I was fearing that he would attack me - crawling on me with his furry little legs. I mean, who wants a spider to crawl on them? It's gross right?
Nope, it's just an overreaction caused by my fear. My irrational, stupid, and completely useless sense of fear.
It is time to remove fear from our lives and start being positive again. It is time to think, act, and be in the present moment.