Stopping Fear

Since that awful day in 2001, I’ve been very clear about one thing. Fear is a weapon. Those who seek to control us, the people, wield fear as a weapon to control our reaction, our attention and pervert our American values. But what is fear, really?

When our survival mode kicks in due to physical threat, fear is real and grounded. It may keep us alive. I’ve felt fearful around violent or intoxicated people...a remnant of childhood when my survival seemed at risk.  But this is a very different fear from imagining a violent incident or out-of-control situation. This type of fear is ungrounded. It is based in our minds by focusing on bad things that MIGHT happen. And those who use fear as a weapon are only too glad to help us paint fearful images, create panic and then seize control as the “hero” who will save us.

What should we do with this ungrounded fear? Bob Newhart delivers simplistic advice on ungrounded fears in this clip. I often find truth in humor.  

What Mr. Newhart doesn’t cover is the replacement or antidote to fear. What works for me is practicing courage. This is the exercise of taking action, despite fear. Action eliminates fear and restores our sense of control. We are no longer “at the mercy” of “whatever may happen.”

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Nelson Mandela

How do you conquer your fear? Do you make plans “just in case?” Do you observe what you are thinking and treat fear like a weed… pulling out those thoughts and planting something nourishing?  I’d love to hear stories from you about times when you’ve conquered fear and exhibited courage.

Our country needs us to be courageous. Our communities and families need to be courageous.


Showing 19 reactions

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
  • commented 2016-01-17 17:28:32 -0500

    Loved this article… many of the same points I tried to make… only better made.
  • commented 2015-12-26 08:29:03 -0500
    Peter Calvet: I guess you missed the point. I certainly do not suggest doing away with our justice system.
    Look at the argument in the context of gun control. How many laws did the shooters break? Personally I don’t know and frankly it doesn’t matter. The shooters were going to do what they did no matter how many laws they had to break to do it. The law abiding citizens died. Imagine if it was lawful for those law abiding citizens to have guns where the shooting took place. That increases the likelihood that a law abiding citizen would have a gun. If a law abiding citizen had a gun the number of people dead would certainly be lower.
  • commented 2015-12-26 06:05:56 -0500
    P Tellini, I followed your argument until your unfortunate conclusion: “I don’t see how a rational person can believe that laws can reduce crime.”
    This sentence practically invalidates your argument. Are you really suggesting that we do away with our whole system of jurisprudence, our whole system of law enforcement?
    There are laws against murder but some people still do it. There are laws against fraud, but some still do it. There are laws against robbing banks, but there are some who still do it. There isn’t a law on the books that someone has not violated. So this means having laws is a waste of time?
    I sincerely hope you can realize the absurdity of your statement. And I didn’t even touch basic laws, like the Constitution.
    Defenders of the second amendment are so passionate that sometimes produce absurd arguments like the futility of laws, but have no problem with the second amendment which is also law.
    That is why discussion about guns have to be held without passion if we are going to make any headway in reducing the violence in our country.
  • commented 2015-12-25 19:42:47 -0500
    Sticking with the topic of this page which is fear here is some food for thought.
    Fear is a very basic part of us. I would like to look at it from a political point of view since the coffee party is a political movement. Fear has been a continual tool. The biggest examples being in the issue of racism and gun control.
    First I would like to address racism. I can picture somebody saying “what do you know about racism? You’re white”. Yes I am white but I have had a unique perspective. I have lived in New England where racism has not so much been an issue and I live in the South in GA where racism historically has been an issue. I have observed and discussed it with various people of various backgrounds. I have noticed black people tend be the ones that bring up racism if there is an issue between a black person and a white person regardless of the content of the issue. A cop could simply be checking out something suspicious and just because the cop’s skin color is white and the person the cop is questioning is black you have a race issue. It’s really sad. The media makes it worse. I have seen headlines saying white man kills black man. Why does the media have to mention their skin color? It’s an easy answer actually. It fuels the fire. It creates tension. Imagine what would happen if an incident occurred between a white man and a black man and the media didn’t say anything about their skin color. Imagine if it became a race issue ONLY if the white person said a racial slur or dressed like a klan member and the black person didn’t say any racial slurs or what have you. Imagine if skin color was not made an issue. There’s some food for thought.
    Hmm gun control…in short, kills. President Obama said gun control has proven to work. I don’t see how. Washington DC and Chicago have notoriously tight gun control yet are notoriously dangerous places with high crime rates. The notorious shootings have been in gun free zones. The problem with gun control is that only law abiding citizens follow the laws. To truly be safe you must be able to protect yourself. A guy once told me he would not feel safe with his child in school if the faculty were armed. Well we see what happens if the faculty are not armed. Innocent people die. Another person told me that is not good enough because innocent people will still likely die. Well I would rather have less people die.
    I don’t see how a rational person can believe laws will reduce crime.
  • commented 2015-12-16 17:24:48 -0500
    John Backman: The idea behind political correctness is to not be offensive even if it is what they’ve chosen. Take illegal aliens for instance. I have been told by many people that the term illegal alien is offensive. Personally, I have no desire for letting somebody feel better about breaking the law. They are here illegally so they are illegal aliens.
    In regards to homosexuals versus gays, that is what they are.
    Political correctness is about making everybody sensitive to offensives rather than being about truth. Basically it is what it is. Embracing political correctness is made this nation a bunch of spineless people. When I say things like this people say I hate? I tell people I don’t hate them. I have known and gotten along with plenty of homosexuals and believe it or not illegal aliens. Disagreeing with their choices does not mean I hate them. It simply means I disagree with their choices.
  • commented 2015-12-16 14:56:57 -0500
    P Tellini: I’m not sure what to think about political correctness. The original impulse seems virtuous enough: people should be called what they want to be called; certain terms for certain groups have acquired historical-cultural baggage and should be avoided. This changes over time, so it behooves us to keep our cultural ear to the ground.

    That said, I’m starting to think that nearly any trend can breed its own extremes. In terms of “correct language,” it seems to manifest itself in shaming and zero tolerance for error in using the “wrong” word. This doesn’t take into account several human propensities: the propensity to screw up early and often, the propensity to not keep up to the minute when many other things scream for our attention.

    Of course, intent and tone of voice play a substantial role too.
  • commented 2015-12-15 17:31:26 -0500
    John Backman: I certainly understand your feelings regarding trumps comment regarding the reporter. That was inappropriate and definitely unacceptable. I agree more with his statement regarding Muslims and Mexicans or I should rather say illegal aliens. I have an issue with Muslims because they killed 3000+ people. The Muslims have been the terrorists. I have an issue with illegal aliens because they’re illegally here. While a blanket approach of keeping Muslims out of the country is a bit hard for the public to swallow and may be considered hateful I see it is largely trying to keep this country secure.
    His comment regarding the reporter has got me thinking more so about Ben Carson. I have been considerably torn between the two.
    As far as political correctness is concerned I will go with personal experiences. Have been told I should call illegal aliens undocumented workers and homosexuals gays.
    I have no problem with “hanging in there” as long as the person I’m talking to does not resort to being an ignorant fool 😊
  • commented 2015-12-14 13:57:46 -0500
    John and P Tellini, it appears to me that you are debating about anger rather than fear, especially by using Trump and his comments as examples. I see the two emotions as separate and distinct. Fear usually brings about withdrawal from a situation and anger results in taking a step forward to combat the unwelcome predicament. In similarity, both are illogical and somewhat instinctive. Most people are not afraid of an attack against them personally. They are more indignant that we have cowards in our midst that will carry out such atrocities against soft targets. Ironically, the cowards that perform these acts have no fear of dying. They seem to fear living instead with the frequency that they take their own lives or submit to police suicide when caught.
  • commented 2015-12-14 10:04:59 -0500
    P Tellini: You’re asking me to be more specific and to choose my words more carefully. Both requests are excellent in my book. Let me give it a go, and then I will ask a question of you.

    On the “hateful” scale, I’d have to put Trump’s mocking of a reporter with a disability at the top of the list. I can’t imagine any universe in which that’s acceptable behavior. After that, I think maybe it’s more precise to say that his extravagant remarks have incited hostility toward groups as a whole, regardless of any kernel of truth that may apply to specific individuals. In this category are the promise to ban Muslims from entering the U.S., his accusation that Mexico is sending its rapists and “bad guys” to the U.S., and his (sorry, I don’t know another word for it) outright lie about thousands of Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attacks in the streets of New Jersey. It is possible that a Mexican convicted of rape has crossed the U.S. border; it is possible that a few Muslims in the U.S. were happy about 9/11. But the effect of Trump’s speech is to broad-brush an entire group. I would be stunned to discover that he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and that, in my book, makes it hateful.

    Like you, I worry a lot—a LOT—about the fact that any disagreement sparks calls of hatefulness. It’s why I wrote an entire bloody book about dialoguing across divides. Similarly, while I do see a lot of merit in what you might be calling political correctness, I also know that it can morph into its own dangerous brand of fundamentalism—a “my way or the highway” approach to language.

    And that leads me to my question. I hope I’ve defined “hateful” in a way that’s useful to you. Now, could you please be more specific in your use of “political correctness”? The term has morphed into a catch-all these days, and if you offer specifics, I think it will be easier to address them in a way that gets beyond generalities. Thanks so much for hanging in there.
  • commented 2015-12-13 19:20:15 -0500
    John Backman: These days many things are considered hateful. Disagreeing with a point of view has been called hateful. A lack of political correctness has been called hateful. You would have to be more specific.
  • commented 2015-12-13 16:13:37 -0500
    P Tellini: I found your observation about Trump opponents intriguing—that they “oppose him because he challenges the status quo and tells it like it is.” I would submit (and Lord knows, I can be wrong) that many oppose him not for his plainspokenness, but for the content of his speech, which they find hateful. Conversely, challenging the status quo and “telling it like it is” are what I hear Trump SUPPORTERS often using as reasons for their support. Would you like to address this?
  • commented 2015-12-13 16:10:13 -0500
    P Tellini
  • commented 2015-12-13 14:54:29 -0500
    Fear is (F)alse (E)vidence (A)ppearing®eal That’s it.
  • commented 2015-12-13 07:33:18 -0500
    I find the attacks on trump interesting. Putting him in the same sentence as fear and even ISIS. Many appose him because he challenges the status quo and tells it like it is.
    Do we need another politician in office or do we need someone that wants to do what is needed?
  • commented 2015-12-12 11:43:52 -0500
    Interesting to see how all the commenters below saw fear in a different perspective. I guess it really is a wide open concept that means different things to different people.
  • commented 2015-12-12 11:18:30 -0500
    Lately I’ve been pondering the difference between fear and hatred. Unless I miss my guess, fear may lie at the root of many people’s support from Trump—and I would like to listen deeply to that fear and understand it. But I cannot countenance the xenophobic hatred that seems to be arising out of fear—the flames of which Trump has so enthusiastically fanned.
  • commented 2015-12-12 08:39:39 -0500
    I find there is a big difference between fear and panic. Fear can be a useful thing, even rational. Panic is not very useful. It prevents you from thinking. Politicians of all stripes whether they be terrorists or elected officials love to manipulate fear. But they do not play on our rational minds but rather attempt to induce panic. The trick is to use fear to think thI’mngs thtough but try not to panic. People like Trump and members of Isis love to sow panic because through panic they can get people to behave irrationally.
  • commented 2015-12-11 19:17:55 -0500
    Fear is not a bad thing. What you do with it can be bad. Fear of fire keeps you from getting burned.
  • commented 2015-12-07 21:04:43 -0500
    I am probably naive but I perceive fear to be a weakness. Caution is definitely a good reaction to have but fear connotes too much of what is already wrong with the human spirit. Never have fear to do what is right. As Farragut once said " Damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead." Fear cost McClellan his General of the Army status and 50 000 more men died than necessary in the Civil War after Gettysburg.

Volunteer Become a Member Find an Event