Help Yourself To A World Free of Fear
On a skiing holiday
a few years ago I stood at the top of what looked to me like a vertical cliff
face and was told by my instructor that I was going to ski straight downwards
and into the unknown.
The hill was so steep that it was impossible to
see the bottom without edging forwards and peering over into the abyss. I am not
a great skier. Two-year-old Swiss children ski better than I do.
you will not be surprised to hear that I told the shocked instructor that I had
no intention of doing anything so stupid. I started to unfasten my skis, getting
ready to climb down the cliff face until I found a rather flatter piece of snow.
`You are afraid!' sneered the ski instructor, a callow 19-year-old
German with about as much experience of the world as I had of skiing and, it
transpired, about as much imagination as the average civil
`You're right I'm afraid,' I told him. Fear is the basis of
The 19-year-old looked at me with undisguised
contempt. `I do not know fear,' he said, with a sniff and a vain toss of his
We fired him there and then.
I did not want a ski instructor
who was so stupid, inexperienced and insensitive that he had never been
That sad young man will almost certainly have known fear by now,
of course. He will have met it when he least expected it.
The fear may
have come at him in a brown envelope or over the telephone.
being investigated by the income tax authorities.'
`Excuse me, sir. We're from the police. I need to ask you a few
questions. You can call your lawyer if you like.'
He may meet fear half
way down a twisting mountain road when he realises that the brakes on his car
He may meet it in the instant that the person he loves
most suddenly collapses unconscious.
It might come rushing towards him in
a hurry when he sees the lorry coming straight at him and realises that there is
nowhere to go.
He may feel fear when he realises that he is too old to be
a ski instructor and doesn't have any skills to do anything else for a
Most of us meet fear eventually. Most of us face it and fight it,
all our lives.
Even those unimaginative teenagers who walk around with
`No Fear' on their T-shirts, or with `No Fear' stickers on their car windows,
eventually have to come face to face with fear.
Fearlessness can only
exist in someone who is totally ignorant and completely lacking in imagination.
You Can't Be Brave Unless You Are Afraid
and more imaginative you are the more fearful you will be.
We get more
fearful as we get older because we become more experienced.
We find out
that there are more things to be frightened of. We discover that the world isn't
always entirely fair. And we discover that things do, sometimes, go
My young ski instructor was so stupid that he thought he was
He wasn't brave at all, poor thing.
You can only be brave
if you have fears. Bravery is the act of overcoming those fears. The more fears
you have - and the bigger they are - the greater your bravery.
old soldier who deliberately walks out into gunfire to save his friend is brave.
But the young soldier who has no idea what death means is not being brave when
he rushes towards the enemy. He is reckless. Stupid, even. But not
By and large the young do not fear death, partly because they are
still innocent and arrogant enough to believe that they are immortal, partly
because they have not yet seen death and do not realise just how real and final
it truly is, and partly because they have not lived enough to know the value of
Conquer Your Fear And Regain Your Freedom
Mental illness is commoner now than it has ever been. Anxiety,
sleeplessness and depression are endemic.
The turmoil, the agony, the
mental distress, the rage - most of these things come not from what others do to
us but from what we do to ourselves.
Understanding this simple truth
does not make life any easier but it does make a little clearer what we must do
to protect ourselves.
The two bitter sweet emotions which rule our lives
are love and fear.
Love (the sweet) gives us pleasure and makes us feel
good - whether the love is for another person, an animal, a type of food, a
particular place or some material object.
And fear (the bitter) is the
Most people think that fear is a minor problem: an
Negative emotions drive us harder than
positive emotions and you have to be at peace with your negative emotions - and
that means your primal fears - before you can love properly.
Varieties Of Fear
There are many different types of
We fear being alone; being a social outcast, an oddity.
bereavement because we will be left alone.
We fear pain.
We fear loss of
freedom or liberty.
We fear losing control of our lives.
We fear death. (And the fear of dying gets worse with age because we
know that the fear is steadily becoming more realistic.)
We fear the
We fear humiliation, embarrassment and shame.
We are frightened
of feeling inadequate. We fear losing face. And we fear ridicule.
being different. (And we fear being perceived as being different).
failure. And we fear success because we aren't sure that we will deserve it, or
be able to cope with it if it comes.
We fear the things we know and
understand because we know how dangerous they can be. And we fear the things we
do not know or understand simply because they are different and unknown and we
do not know how dangerous they can be.
Fear is the single underlying force which lies behind
loneliness, sadness, greed, resentment, bitterness, anxiety, jealousy and hate.
(We are, for example, jealous because we are afraid that we may lose the
person we love.)
Fear is the power behind those negative forces which
cause stress, mental and physical disease and which are usually treated (quite
wrongly) as though they are primary problems.
The workaholic, who
destroys his/her health through a searing, unquenchable ambition, is driven by a
fear of inadequacy.
Even sex addiction (that 21st century favourite of
the tabloids) is a result of fear. The individual who is frightened that he/she
has lost his/her attractiveness to the opposite sex, and is frightened of being
left alone, will keep acquiring new partners in a constant search for
reassurance - and freedom from fear.
When fear goes out of control we
demonise it still further by calling it a phobia.
Fear is also the basic force behind anger.
Psychiatrists and psychologists get things wrong as often as weather
They regard agoraphobia as a fear of open spaces. This is
phooey. Most agoraphobics aren't really frightened of going out of doors.
They're frightened of meeting people.
And the so-called experts regard
anger as a primary emotion. As a result anger therapy is enormously popular
these days - particularly among the self-indulgent.
But if you think
about it you will, I suspect, agree with me that long-term anger (the
destructive variety) is not a primary problem.
Anger develops because it
is caused by fear. Fear causes anger and anger, in turn, creates more
And until you know exactly what you are afraid of you won't be able
to do anything about your anger.
It's a vicious, nasty, destructive
Humbled And Humiliated
When we are afraid we
feel humbled and humiliated. And when we are humiliated through fear we feel
resentful and angry. Eventually the hatred builds up and creates insecurity and
a feeling of worthlessness. That in turn all makes us ever more vulnerable to
fear. And so it goes on.
The worst and most powerful and most destructive
hatred is that which we feel towards ourselves for being afraid.
the under-rated, unacknowledged basic force which wrecks millions of lives.
Many of our most destructive emotions are often treated as though they
are primary problems. But they are frequently secondary to a deeper problem -
Fear is a primary force in our lives: it is the most fundamental
cause of pain and distress. It is, perhaps, the most powerful and most
fundamental force of all. It is the father of a whole range of destructive and
Whichever of your fears is the greatest will determine
the twists and turns your life follows.
And the most fundamental fear of
all is fear itself.
Where Does All This Fear Come From? (And Why
Are We So Afraid)
`The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation',
wrote Henry David Thoreau.
He was right, of course.
desperation comes out of fear.
Why are we so much more afraid than our
ancestors? Our ancestors lived in a world about which they understood
very little. They should have been consumed by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear
of being eaten alive. Fear of starvation. Fear of death and illness.
by contrast, should lead relatively fear-free lives.
But, all the
evidence suggests that fear now plays a bigger part in our lives than it ever
played in our ancestors' lives.
We fear change.,br>
We fear anything new
because it is different and we don't know how it will affect our lives or how we
will react to it. We have far more things to be frightened of than our ancestors
ever had. They were afraid of hunger, cold and sabre-toothed tigers. We have
1001 things to be afraid of every single day of our lives. All
New technology constantly creates new fears.
about whether we will be able to cope. We worry about whether we will be able to
understand how to use the technology. We worry about whether we can afford to
keep up with the latest technology. And we know that long before we have learned
how to use a new piece of software it will be out-of-date.
And then there
is the fact that our society needs us to be frightened.
Fear is a
powerful driving force which helps to push us forwards. Fear encourages us to
spend money, to accept progress and to treat those around us with contempt and
disrespect. Fear helps to keep us weak but it helps to keep our society strong.
Fear divides us and cripples us, but gives our social structures strength. Today
we are never allowed to forget our fears for an instant.
It is no
accident that industries, advertising agencies, politicians, experts and
television commentators all contribute to our daily ration of fear.
is one of the most potent forces used to control us and to manipulate our
emotions. It is fear which often leads us to change our habits - to the
advantage of some part of our society. It is fear which justifies progress.
Our Fears Are Manipulated
Fear is everywhere and is
constantly used by people who want our support.
Politicians make us
frightened of street violence in order to encourage us to allow them (and the
social structures which they operate) to have more power. Police chiefs
recommend stronger policing. Prison officers recommend better
Politicians make us frightened of our enemies abroad (even if
our enemies abroad are no real threat to us) because by making us frightened
they can win more power for themselves. Fear wins elections.
Fear is a
potent weapon and the availability of television and radio mean that we can be
frightened more speedily and more effectively than ever before.
representative of every social structure uses fear to manipulate us. Fear helps
our society to sustain itself and to increase its power over us.
Copyright Vernon Coleman