What Are You Afraid Of Part 2: Feeling Better and Stress


Last week I shared some of the glorious lessons I learned from the Ologies podcast episodes on fear. Now I have MORE TO SHARE!!!

Last time was all about facing your fears by naming them and understanding them. (And yes, I remember that I promised to make a list of my fears and report back - to be honest, I really half-assed it and was clearly avoiding actually facing my fears, so I have to do it again.)

This week we're talking about two more things. 

The first is feeling better when we're scared. 

Mary Poppenroth (the expert interviewed on the podcast) says that connecting to community is the number one way to alleviate our fears.

I love this. It's everything from grabbing the arm of the person next to you in a scary movie to emergency-texting your best friend after your boss yells at you and you're afraid you may get fired to the way that fear can make people want to get frisky.

This reminds me of a lesson I got a lot in church. (The connection part, not the getting frisky part.) One of the things they would say all the time is "perfect love drives out fear." Of course, this was church, so they were talking about God and how we don't need to ever be afraid when we've got him on our side (something that is just ineffable enough to not be entirely useful when you are in a moment of terror), but the sentiment carries: part of feeling loved is feeling safe. Reconnecting to the people we love when we are afraid is a wonderful remedy.

The other thing we are talking about this week is stress.

Stress is fear, but for some reason we feel better saying we are stressed than that we are afraid. Perhaps there is weakness in being afraid, or maybe we don't want to admit how much fear is actually present in our lives.

So what would happen if we resisted this cultural rebrand of fear into stress, and called it what it is?

For one thing, I think we might tolerate it less. We might be more motivated to change our lives because being scared all the time seems less okay than being stressed all the time.

For another, we might be better able to face down those fears, as opposed to letting them be a constant undercurrent in our lives that we occasionally pretend don't exist through the "self-care" of bubble baths and Netflix marathons.

One of the things Poppenroth pointed out that I found fascinating is that people who are "big deal" creators and entrepreneurs will talk about their fears quite openly. Their work is often about facing their fears, moving towards their fears, and using fear as a signal that they are on the right path. On the other hand, people who live more ordinary lives tend to talk a lot more about stress than fear.

Now, I'm not saying that we're all supposed to be big deal creators. There is plenty of beauty in ordinary life. But when you imagine the glory of an ordinary life, does it include constant fear or things like reading in a hammock and games with grandkids? Maybe we cheat ourselves out of the life we could be living by tamping our fears down into a constant background experience and call it stress.

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