What is this thing called fear? Is it just a physical reaction to an outside stimulus or is there more behind it?

Wikipedia ( defines fear as follows: “Fear is an emotion induced by a threat perceived by living entities, which causes a change in brain and organ function and ultimately a change in behavior, such as running away, hiding or freezing from traumatic events. Fear may occur in response to a specific stimulus happening in the present, or to a future situation, which is perceived as risk to health or life, status, power, security, or, in the case of humans, wealth or anything held valuable. The fear response arises from the perception of danger leading to confrontation with or escape from/avoiding the threat (also known as the fight-or-flight response), which in extreme cases of fear (horror and terror) can be a freeze response or paralysis.”

Fear is indeed an emotion, which (this time) Google ( defines as: “a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others.” This indicates that fear is not only something natural, but it is also situational or circumstantial. This means that the absence or presence of fear depends on the specific situation that you find yourself in and fear will be experienced if something in that situation is perceived as a threat.

I learnt that this perceived threat is always based in one of two things. We either believe that a specific situation might cause us to lose what we have or it may cause us to not get what we want. What is certain about these situations, is that it is about me. It is about what I have and what I want or think I need. Taking this into account, I know that my fear is significantly ego based.

The definition also refers to our response to fear. It says that there is a change in brain and organ functioning (I am not going to go into the gory physiological details of adrenalin and the likes here), which results in us reacting in a certain way. These reactions are put in two boxes, either we run or hide, which is the “flight reaction”, or we stay and take on what scares us, which is known as the “fight reaction”. In the rooms of twelve step fellowships we refer to FEAR as standing for either Fuck Everything And Run or Face Everything And Recover. Like I said, flight or fight.

It is also said that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. This points to the fact that fear is often subjective. It is perceived - from our own point of view. Personally, I know, most of my fear is not based in reality and that stems from the fact that I struggle to live in the here and now. Real fear, for me, is based in the present. It is the car swerving in front of me and my body reacting instantaneously. It is the dark shadow that appears next to my car window when I am at a, yes I am going to use the real South African word, robot. It is the phone ringing while I am waiting for blood test results. But, how often am I in these type of situations? Yet, I feel fear far more regularly than when I am waiting for the phone to ring. My fear lies in the uncertainty of the future. My fear lies in the unknown. The “What is going to happen if Eskom collapses completely? “ The “What if that client thinks I am a nasty person if I assert myself? The “What if my father dies during his next operation?” This is fear that I create in my head. This is fear that I chose to invite into my life. This is fear that I do not need and which I can abandon from my life by being present, in the here and now - by comprehending that, right here right now, everything is okay. By knowing that most of what I worry about is not only never going to happen, but it is also beyond my ambit of control. Whether I fear it or not or worry about it or not, shit is going to happen. It is going to go down either way.

So, how do I live a normal life without fear? Well, that is impossible. As mentioned earlier, fear is normal and I am going to experience it. Things are going to happen that are going to invoke a natural fear response in me. Those situations are invariably of short duration and our response to those are mostly primal - natural.

I CAN have a life of not living in fear though. That is completely possible. How do I do that? By first remembering that the opposite of fear are faith and courage. I need to constantly remind myself that courage is not the absence of fear, but it is carrying on despite the fear. I need to be mindful of my own spirituality. My belief that I am cared for, no matter what. I also need to constantly ask myself what it is that I am afraid of losing and what is it that I think I want, which I am afraid of not getting. I then need to remind myself that those are invariably ego things. That right here right now everything is okay, as it should be and that is good enough. That I am enough. I need to stay in this moment, because it is the only place where true serenity is. I can also remind myself that a lot of what I fear revolve around others and was actually not my stuff to worry about to begin with. By practicing these few basic skills I manage to get through most days relatively sanely.

Sometimes I just feel afraid, for no apparent reason. I then reflect on what is going on in my life and try to pinpoint the source of the fear. If I cannot get to the bottom of what it is, I call a friend and share how I feel. I know I am not alone and that makes me less fearful. There is strength in numbers. Invariably, once it is out of my mouth, it is also out of my head and my body too, and I relax.

On the odd occasion, I still feel fearful once I have applied all the techniques I know. I then know that there is some form of incongruence between my rationality and my emotionality. When I can rationally explain the fear and comprehend it, but the level of fear I feel around it is out of sync, I know it is not me sitting with this fear. It is then that I know I need to go into myself and take my inner child in my arms, hug him, talk to him and put him at ease. I need to remember that Freddietjie perceives life differently than I do and allocates meanings to things the way a child does and that is okay. Some situations trigger past unpleasant memories for him and bring up negative feelings up for him. I know I have a little fearful, and ill-equipped for life, Freddietjie inside me and that is wonderful. Once I have hugged him and reminded him that we are not driving the bus and that everything is okay for as long as I remember that, then he too relaxes and we can come back to this moment, where everything is indeed as it should be.

Sometimes I do not do these things, then I just fuck everything and run!