Friday Follies: A Question of Fear

Today, I am responding to the question, “What fears have you overcome and how?” To be clear, I debated almost a week before starting this post. And to be perfectly honest, you could accuse me of being afraid to respond to the question.

If it was fear, I overcame it. Also, if it was fear, my anxiety was about possibly sounding braggadocious or being seen as a first-class a-hole. However, let’s jump to the second part of the question. I am not certain I ever overcame a fear. Instead, life helped me control the perceptions, feelings, or concerns considered the basis of fear.

Life taught me that being afraid was often a waste of time. Life also taught me allowing fear to control or greatly influence you could prove disastrous, if not fatal. That does not mean I did not have instances of anxiety, especially in my childhood years. If I remember correctly, I was fourteen when I had one of the most frightening experiences in my younger days.

I was sound asleep. Suddenly my bed was shaking, and someone yelled at the top of their lungs, “Wake up, wake up, the ship’s sinking!” I clearly remember sitting straight up in bed and screaming, “The ship’s sinking?” My heart was racing, and I was looking around, expecting to see water pouring in from the windows.

As I became fully conscious, I saw my father standing at the end of the bed, laughing like a hyena. He’d been working late, had a few beers, and wanted some company eating the donuts he picked up on the way home. The fact he’d almost caused me to go into cardiac arrest didn’t bother him a bit.

I learned a lot about controlling fear from that and several incidents over the years. Some were what you might call near-death experiences. That is what points out the problem with the question above. Overcoming fear is the wrong way to look at the situation.

Fear is an important aspect of human consciousness or understanding. I’ve seen the results of people overcoming fear, or worse, not realizing they should be afraid. The outcomes were often disastrous. I’ve also seen the results of people letting their fear control them. They often learned sobering lessons as well.

Fear is normal and can be helpful unless your fear rises to the level of psychosis. The key is not to overcome the fear. The key is to learn to control the fear until the threat or perceived threat is neutralized. Then you can let the fear come out.

I learned this lesson relatively early in my law enforcement career. Before that, like many guys, I shrugged off the fear and convinced myself I was too tough to let fear control me. Then there was the night I came within a heartbeat of dying or suffering disabling injuries.

The details of the incident would be more appropriately shared over a beer some night at a pub. Here, it is sufficient to say I came within a nano-second of having a likely fatal automobile accident while responding to an emergency. Thankfully, I avoided the accident, handled the crisis, and made an arrest.

After transporting my prisoner to the jail and locking him up, I completed my paperwork at a counter in the booking area. Suddenly, my legs went weak, and I had to grab the counter to avoid falling to the floor. I broke out in a sweat and started gasping for air. Thankfully, the incident was over quickly, and no one was there to see me go through the delayed effect of the incident.

I did not faint, fall, puke, or do anything embarrassing. What I did do was realize I had been running on adrenaline and staying focused on the situation and the need to handle it, not the possibility of becoming a statistic. Being the analytical type, I spent a good deal of time running the scenario through my mind.

What I realized is that fear is an essential survival tool. People who overcome their fear and go charging into situations feeling invincible or telling themselves they will not let fear control them are making mistakes. You don’t overcome fear; you own it, do your job and deal with the fear when the dust settles.

© – 2023

About S. Eric Jackson

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