Fear is really tricky to parse. Sometimes it’s a true signal that you’re doing something dangerous. That deserves consideration. The fear, though, can’t tell just how dangerous that thing may be. It will ping for climbing a tree or for fighting an armed conflict. Fear tends to be binary, on or off. It’s the “check engine” light for your psyche; sometimes it means the car’s about to explode and somethings it means the gas cap is screwed on crooked. When you feel that fear, it’s useful to take notice, identify the source, and decide if you’re comfortable with the level of risk you are taking.
Sometimes your fear isn’t of a risk you are choosing to take. Sometimes your fear is a valid response to factors you have very little control over. Climate change. A Trump presidency. Personally, I respond to that kind of fear the same way I respond to the first kind. Identify the source, consider the fear, and do what I can. My coaching practice is born from that kind of big fear. So many of the systems that should make our world healthy are damaging it instead. This is legitimately scary, and my fear demands that I take action. Coaching the people who will help change it is my action, and that action lets me live with the fear.
Finally, of course, some fear isn’t a warning of anything at all. To continue the car metaphor, sometimes your check engine light comes on because of crossed wires or a loose fuse. Then, you face a powerful fear response with no source. It’s not a warning, it’s just a sudden burst of mindless adrenaline. Sometimes you can wait that out. Sometimes you need help from a mental health professional.
In all three cases, fear is something you should think about. Ignoring it doesn’t bring insight, and can leave you without the health care you need. If we wield it right, fear is a valuable tool.
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