The fear response is a naturally occurring physiological event. It provides the body instant energy to “flee, fight or freeze.” It occurs when one is confronted by a perceived (or actual) threat. When used to accurately address a genuine threat, it can save your life. When it occurs when there is no actual threat or when it lasts too long, it can cause physical and emotional breakdown.
Overcoming the fear response when there is no perceived threat requires what is usually known as “courage.” Napoleon Hill wrote, “Fears are nothing more than a state of mind.” Precisely how you overcome your fears is a skill that requires managing your mental activity (mind) that creates your perceptions, conclusions and decisions in a way that reduces unnecessary fear.
Historically, fearful people usually conclude that they need to increase their physical strength in order to diminish their fear responses. Whether they be fists, sticks, stones, swords, bows and arrows, guns, bombs or powerful aggression…weapons are used to “fight” a fear-driven perceived threat. For centuries, people have used their fear to strengthen their “fight” response. Decisions to use war to diminish their fears is the most violent method for lessening one’s fears.
In today’s modern world, most people rarely think that violence or war is good. But they often believe it to be necessary for: defending or gaining territory; economic gain; spreading religious beliefs; strengthening “nationalism”; taking revenge; dismantling an “unjust” government; resolving disputes/conflicts; freeing oneself from fear (creating “security”). They believe that these goals can be attained only by using weapons in violent aggression.
Today’s weapons however, are so powerful that they are usually self-defeating. That means they are rarely successful in attaining and maintaining their desired outcomes (above). There are however, other ways of accomplishing those same goals. Such ways require taking risks and those actions require courage. Examples include:
Violence invites retaliatory violence. Killing the enemy creates more enemies. Fearful domination creates passive resistance or active rebellion. In like manner, being heard invites understanding. Cooperation invites teamwork. Addressing physical and psychological needs invites mutual, peaceful activity. Look what happened with the Japanese and western Germany after world war two. Peacekeepers need to attempt these risky behaviors prior to engaging in violence or going to war.
Unarmed peacekeepers are only effective if their presence is determined by their known reason for being there is NOT to engage in violence and killing. It is most effective when it is known that they are there to listen, work together with “the enemy” to address and create mutually desired outcomes. That takes great courage.
Nelson Mandela wrote: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Perhaps developing courage is the best way to triumph over any fears. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
Taking risks can also be the most “moral thing to do.” President John F. Kennedy spoke these words: “The courage of life is often a less dramatic spectacle than the courage of the final moment; but it is no less a magnificent mixture of triumph and tragedy. A man does what he must-in spite of personal consequences; in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures-and that is the basis of all morality.”
The common results of courageously taking the necessary risks to engage in non-violent actions is best described in the following poem written by that famous unknown author, Anonymous.
To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out for another is to risk involvement.
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.
To place your ideas, your dreams, before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
But risks must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.
They may avoid suffering and sorrow, but they cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.
Chained by their attitudes, they are a slave, they have forfeited their freedom.
Only a person who risks is free.