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.

And so 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 servant.

`You're right I'm afraid,' I told him. Fear is the basis of self-preservation.

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 head.

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 afraid.

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.

`You are being investigated by the income tax authorities.'

Or, perhaps:

`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 aren't working.

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 living.

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

The brighter 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 wrong.

My young ski instructor was so stupid that he thought he was brave.

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.

The wise 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 brave.

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 life.

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 fundamental killer.

Most people think that fear is a minor problem: an irritation.

It isn't.

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 fear.

We fear being alone; being a social outcast, an oddity.
We fear 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 hunger.
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 unknown.
We fear humiliation, embarrassment and shame.
We are frightened of feeling inadequate. We fear losing face. And we fear ridicule.
We fear being different. (And we fear being perceived as being different).
We fear 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 Everywhere

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 Creates Anger

Fear is also the basic force behind anger.

Psychiatrists and psychologists get things wrong as often as weather forecasters.

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 fear.

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 circle.

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.

Fear is 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.

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 damaging emotions.

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.

And the 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.

We, 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.


One word.


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 different.

New technology constantly creates new fears.

We worry 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.

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 prisons.

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.

Every 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 2004