Fear is not necessarily a choice; we can feel it in our bodies. It hums ominously as we try to go about our day. The choice we make is to indulge the fear and to let it stop us. How do we separate the two?
Imagine yourself as leading a group. In this group, your fears are present. You tell your fears what to do; not the other way around. You are the leader. Fears are to be respected as they often protect us. However, fear comes into the game ANY TIME we face ambiguity. In the same way a loyal dog wants to protect you, fears do not discriminate well between safe and unsafe situations. Ambiguity is what stops people from acting in all types of situations. If we do not have all of the contextual clues, we stop and try to figure it out. If we can’t, it is common to freeze or run. Fears take over instead of problem solving processes.
Screw Ambiguity. Perversion and corruption masquerade as ambiguity. I don’t trust ambiguity. – John Wayne
Freud once said that the inability to tolerate ambiguity was neurosis. I am not sure that applies to all contexts. It is certainly true that ambiguity in some situations can trigger a highly neurotic person (e.g., myself!) but there are many situations where ambiguity absolutely needs to be addressed. Let’s say you were watching a fight break out. You have no idea who started it or why, but the fight is getting very intense. One guy pulls out a knife, the other is yelling for that man to stop. People start yelling and jeering, others are looking around for someone to do something. You are scared to call the police in case the guy with the knife sees you and wants to stop you, you are not sure if the fight will end soon, etc. There are lots of reasons to be afraid and it is hard to determine if any action is safe.
In our minds, we often have these “fights” break out. We “watch” our thoughts go back and forth until some start to reign supreme. That is not the time to run away; you will be running away from yourself. It is the time to figure out how to solve the problem. Now, you can’t call the police on your thoughts. In fact, you ARE the police… the thought police. (“Thought police” sounds rather dystopian but in this particular case it is a good thing.) As if dealing with thoughts could not be any more terrifying, you now have to be on the front line. Even more terrifying is that these thoughts, if left unchecked, only bring more thoughts and dealing with all of them at once can feel impossible.
Do not give your destructive thoughts the option to win over the constructive ones. Defend the thoughts that will help you be your best version of yourself. Allow yourself to fail sometimes and embrace the victories. Be your own “thought police” and find the courage to stand on the front lines of your own mind. There is no shame in doing your best to defend your loved ones. Similarly, there should be no shame whatsoever in defending your best self from your shadow self.