Fear. It is one thing most of try desperately to avoid. I don't mean the fear you experience when watching a scary movie with your friends, or when a sibling jumps out from behind a corner and yells "Boo!". I mean true fear. Fear of not knowing where your next meal is going to come from. The fear of thinking you may have just spent the light bill money on food. The fear of not being sure if you will have any money to live on once you retire. The fear that you will never be able to retire. We try to avoid these fears at all cost. You shouldn't. You need more fear.
Why? Is he crazy? Why should I try to become MORE fearful? Precisely because that which tends to fill fear's void is far more insidious: Denial. Rather than experience and address our fears, we deny that we have them. "No problems here" we say. You have told yourself that lie too many times. You are still telling yourself some of those lies. I know, because I am doing it too. We all do.
Why is denial so insidious? Because it prevents us from taking action. It stops us from fixing the problem because "there is no problem". You need more fear in your life because fear is motivating. True fear goes beyond motivating and becomes sheer compulsion. Here is an example:
In a true story from Gavin de Becker's iconic book, The Gift of Fear, he recounts an encounter a client named Kelly described to him. She had been conned into letting a man into her apartment under the pretext of helping her carry groceries she had dropped. Her intuition told her not to let him in but she didn't listen to her intuition. She let him in. He proceeded to rape her. After the ordeal, he closed her bedroom window which had been open and told her, "I'm going to get a drink from the kitchen. You stay here. Once I am done I'll leave, I promise." She responded quietly, "Yes, you know I won't move." Up until that point, she had done everything he asked, so he believed her. What happened next is where Kelly's fear transcended motivation and became pure compulsion. As he was walking out of her room, Kelly rose from the bed, covered in the bed sheets and followed him out. She was so close behind him that he could have felt her breath had she been breathing. She silently followed him as he made his way to the kitchen but once there, she broke off and exited her apartment. She walked straight across the hall to her neighbors door, opened it, closed the door, motioned to her stunned neighbors to remain silent, and sat on the floor and waited for him to leave. She described to Gavin de Becker how it wasn't her operating her body when she walked out.
"I was observing myself do these things and had no control over my actions. It was a true out of body experience."
True fear had compelled her to move; to take action. As it turned out, this particular man had raped and murdered before. He was going to the kitchen for a knife, his murder weapon of choice. Had she stayed on that bed he would have returned and killed her.
That is a long story to make one point: True fear is a motivator and compels you to action. I am not saying I want you to be Kelly's position. Far from it. But I do want you to face the fears in your life. Why? Because having a healthy fear of having no money for retirement will motivate you to save money now. Having a healthy fear of not knowing how to protect yourself will motivate you to seek training. Having a healthy fear of not knowing enough to pass your college algebra test will motivate you to study. Denial however will kill you. As surely as the sun rises and falls each day, denial will kill you.
Denial robs you of preparation, it keeps you unaware, and tricks you into thinking "All is well" when all is not well. Think about the examples I listed: Denial will cause you to save zero dollars which will result in bad things when it comes time to retire. Denial will cause you never to train and learn how to protect yourself which will likely result in you being victimized by violence should you be attacked. Denial will cause you not to study for that college algebra test which most likely will result in you failing the exam. Denial is the killer, not fear.
Fear is feedback. If there is something you fear, look at what that fear is trying to tell you. It is trying to save you from future pain. You are tortured by fear of uncertainty of your future when you don't save money because the fear is meant to motivate you to act in ways to assuage that fear -- in this case, to save money for retirement and to invest wisely. Taking those actions will alleviate the fear. Denial does not alleviate the fear, it only numbs you to it. It shuts your nerves off, which only serves to mask the symptoms. Chronically, the fear is still there, and the more you attempt to silence your fears with denial, the more painful the outcome will be in the future. The greater the denial, the greater the pain that comes when the thing you deny actually happens.
Denial paralyzes you and renders you incapable of action. The deep sea diver who is fearful of sharks will take the appropriate precautions against them. He also dives knowing that a shark attack is a possibility-- meaning he is at least that much more prepared mentally to face a shark than someone who deep sea dives and has never even considered it a possibility. Which of these two metaphorical divers do you think will panic more when attacked by the Great White Shark? The one who took precautions, prepared, and carried the proper protective tools (shark cage, suit, knives, underwater guns, etc.) or the one who denied that he could ever be attacked by a shark? Who do you think is more likely to survive the encounter?
I will make one more example that applies to more of us than the deep sea diver example: Attacks on our schools. Who do you think is more likely to survive when a mass murderer descends upon the school with the sole mission of racking up a body count? The teachers and students who have mentally and physically prepared for such an event, who are carrying tools to protect themselves and who have taken the necessary preventative measures against such an attacker OR the teachers and students who have denied that such a thing could ever occur? Those who deny that this can and will occur will not prepare. They will not be carrying tools to protect themselves and others and they will oftentimes neglect taking simple preventative measures such as locking their classroom doors.
In this situation, if you fall into the category of denier, it will kill you twice. Once when the bad man murders you. This death is easier. The second and more difficult death is if you survive but watch as dozens of the people around you die. People who you were trusted to protect. You will be mentally slain. Spiritually slain. Your denial never prepared you to deal with the aftermath of a mass slaughtering because you never believed it could happen to you and those you love.
Don't die these deaths. I beseech you not to be this person. Train now. Prepare now. Take the first step and first admit that there are bad men in the land who seek to do you harm. Violence is real. Violent people are real. Do not be deceived and seduced by denial. It is an appealing short-term benefit but it is a deadly, long-term poison.
In conclusion, it is okay to be fearful. Let your fears motivate you to become more aware, more alert, more prepared and more active. Use your fears to motivate you to prevent the bad man from ever getting to you and your family. Do not be killed by denial. Do not suppress your fears. Own them. Face them. Allow them to compel you to greater things and to break free from the slavery of denial.
Always live in the battleground,
The Warrior Speaker Blog is a collection of warrior lessons Alexander has learned in addition to practical information about protecting yourself and all that you deem most personal.