Fear that makes us run from a mad dog is useful and necessary, whereas fear rooted in mistrust is unhelpful and needs to be overcome. – Dalai Lama
What does that mean?
This is an interesting quote about fear. It differentiates fear based on a real and possible danger from that which is based primarily on our emotions and our imagination.
Both kinds stimulus generate a real and true fear. However, by looking beyond the fear to the cause of it, we find out useful information.
Some fears we should listen to, and we put ourselves at risk of potential harm if we do not. This would include the mad (rabid) dog in the quote.
Other fears we should avoid or ignore, and we put ourselves at risk of doing something dangerous or stupid if we do not. This would be mistrust or other unhelpful emotions.
Why is paying attention to cause of your fear important?
There are plenty of scary things in the world. Sometimes we even pay to be scared, to have our fears played on. Roller coasters, haunted houses, and scary movies come to mind. But that is not a life-or-death fear. It may feel like it, but it really isn’t.
YouTube is full of pranks which aim to play on the fears of a person, and often the results are appropriate for a truly dangerous situation. Whether that involves running or fighting, the victim feels the fear is real and justified, and acts accordingly.
Hopefully that kind of fear is as close as we will ever get to the first kind of fear. The other kind of fear is usually related to our emotions, our mistrust, and our imaginations. These are the fears we need to examine, and avoid or overcome.
If you have time, ask yourself “Why am I afraid?” If the answer is obvious harm, then it is likely the first kind of fear. However, if you find you are worried, or anticipating something bad happening, you are in the second part of the quote, and need to overcome your fear.
Where can I apply this in my life?
I believe, as I often do, that this quote can be applied to pretty much our entire lives. The second type of fear can be as insubstantial as fear of talking to someone, or as substantial, but rare, as a car accident. Neither are in the first category, unless you are bringing unpleasant news to Attila the Hun, right?
So the question is how to tell the two apart. A real car accident is very scary. However, unless you have reason to believe the driver (yourself or someone else) is more likely than not to crash, you are anticipating an unfavorable result.
So the point made earlier is how I would differentiate between the two kinds of fear. If there is real danger, it is the first type. If it is simply our emotions, our misunderstandings, and our imaginations, then we should do what we can to not fall into the grip of fear.
Sometimes there is an uncomfortable gray area between the two. If you are lost in an unpleasant part of a city, and you see a group of male teens walking towards you, is the fear of the first or second type? How do you know what their intentions are? How do you know if you are in danger?
Determining that may require more information, including how others are reacting, and how well you can defend yourself. You might look at how they are dressed and interacting with others and within their group. This also includes your past history, and what may have happened to you in the past.
I included that to point out that it isn’t always as easy as one might hope to determine the category in which a fear belongs. However the vast majority are far easier to sort out. And key to that determination is what your fear is based on, reality or emotions, mistrust, and imagination.
Any time you believe that the fear is based on the latter group, it is up to you to try to figure out why you feel that way, and correct that issue in your life. Is it an irrational fear? Is it something that you know better, but fall prey to anyway? Perhaps that is something to look at as well.
Fear is good, so long as we are honest about the nature of it. When it is warning us of danger, it is useful. When it is just a figment of our overactive imaginations, our mistrust, or other unhelpful emotions, we must do what we can to overcome its grip.
- Learning to Touch Fear (workingwithact.com)
- Survival vs. fears (heroicmastery.wordpress.com)
- Shock Therapy: Fear Is NOT Real (raynaanderson.wordpress.com)
- 12 Tips for Pushing Past Fear (camtaylor.net)
- These Are The 7 Biggest Fears That You Need To Avoid Having In Your Twenties (elitedaily.com)