The Double-Edged Sword of Fear

In the first part of this “Stuck In Orbit” series, I discussed the mental state of being “comfortably satisfied”, and how hard it can be to “fire the engines” of life when things are just fine.

Conversely, the mental state of “uncomfortably unsatisfied” is perhaps the most misunderstood human motivator, if you can overcome fear.

In 1988, at the age of 22, I felt “uncomfortably unsatisfied” as a wingless member of an Aviation unit in the Army Reserves. As mentioned in a previous post, a serious football knee injury postponed my scheduled ROTC training and officer commissioning, and I ended up in a reserve officer status after college graduation, with no defined date to attend flight training.

Once a month, I would report for weekend duty, only to watch the aviators put on their cool flight gear, complete with Ray-ban sunglasses and shiny silver wings, and take off on adventurous aerial missions. They looked so happy and self-fulfilled, and oozed confidence and purpose. I wanted more than anything, to be part of that community.

Instead, my community of “wingless” wanna-be aviators would sit around, like a bunch of non-flying penguins, and commiserate about our lowly status and crappy administrative duties.

It was terrible.

I was so “uncomfortably unsatisfied”, that when I stumbled across a creative, but risky path to earn my wings as a Warrant Officer flying the best Army aircraft on active duty, I ran down it without hesitation. I was not concerned about the fear of failure, including losing my officer status if I washed out of flight training, or whether or not I actually had “the right stuff” to become an aviator. I didn’t even care about crashing.  I just wanted to earn my flight wings. Fire the engines! “Ready And Raring To Go”

The fact that my fear (of minor things like death, loss of status, humiliation) was so easily put on the back burner under the right conditions, is an interesting point.

Fear is powerful emotion, and the ultimate double-edged sword. It can be productive, or paralyzing.

One day this past summer, I was lifting the plastic trash bag from the outside trash container when the bag stuck and lifted the container off the ground…to reveal a rather large snake, just as surprised as me. That instinctual moment of fear generated a burst of adrenaline, and I moved back fast! Maybe as quickly (at age 50) as I moved as a 20-year-old college football player! That’s good…

Maybe you are fearful that your work presentation will flop, so you channel that fear into intense preparation and focus to deliver an excellent presentation. That’s good…

However, fear also can paralyze, weaken and confuse us.  It depends on how we channel the powerful emotion..

Do you think the brave firefighter, who runs into a burning building to rescue trapped people, feels any fear?  Of course, but the firefighter’s places such a high value on saving another person’s life, that he can function under extraordinary risks, and is willing to lose his own life.

What about all of the soon-to-be mothers who demonstrate courage as they approach the moment of childbirth?  As we know, there is no such thing as a routine childbirth.  She may be filled with fear of the unknown, but her overwhelming desire to become a mother and give life, allows her to carry on.

How about the soldier willing to face fear and even die in service?  Clearly, her unit camaraderie and patriotism supersede her feelings of fear.

When we read about extraordinary stories of courage in the face of fearful circumstances, it is important to realize that the heroes in the story likely felt fear, but overcame the debilitating force by channeling a more powerful emotion.

It is not an absence of fear, but the presence of a more powerful emotion.

If you are Stuck In Orbit because of Fear, and you are “uncomfortably unsatisfied”, I have a simple recommendation for the first few months of 2018 to focus your mental energy.

Clarify what you want in life. Make it crystal clear, and don’t compromise.

Then ask yourself this question:  Is your dominant emotion for wanting to take action, more powerful than the fear that traps you?

If not, stay in orbit for the time being…

When your life goals are powerful enough, there won’t be enough internal resistance from fear to slow down your deliberate exit of orbit, and onto your lie adventure.

You will be ready to take action.

4 thoughts on “The Double-Edged Sword of Fear

  1. Great article Frank! Inspirational and energizing….just what I needed.

  2. A great lesson for all ages! I have always taught my kids that if they can learn to turn fear into productivity it could take them places! I will share this post with them! Thx for sharing!

  3. Good reading! The force of following a dream can defeat the fear of falling/failing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *