Four years ago I wrote an article about what the “opposite” of fear is. In it, I shared what others thought it might be, tossed around some of my ideas, and drew some analogies, but ultimately concluded I didn’t have any answers and didn’t think there was one correct answer.
Consider the path to my different conclusion. I’ve identified fear as the basis for most, if not all, of the issues my clients bring to me to help them work through so they can live more satisfying, successful, and joyous lives. You may have noticed the number of articles lately that talk about different aspects of fear. Through my studies, growing experience, and thinking about fear I feel I have the answer now.
In developing my course Transform Fear Into Action I created the tag line that Action Gives You Freedom. Initially, I’d even called the course Transform Fear Into Freedom, but backed off thinking that was a huge promise. It was a promise I couldn’t fulfill on. It was a promise the students would have to fulfill on through the work they would have to do. With that work, they could create their freedom.
I danced around the freedom connection to fear and knew that when people unshackled themselves from their fears they’d experience freedom in many areas of their lives. But that unshackling would require a lot of untangling of the fears from their thoughts, beliefs, and egos.
Different Kinds of Fear
The course concept started out as overcoming fear. But, you always will have fear, which is a good thing if you act on the message correctly. How do you overcome fear? The answer came to me as I developed a couple of talks to share my Camino de Santiago experience: you have to take action.
That idea came back to me as I struggled with what to call the course. It made a lot more sense to make the title of the course what I felt the process is. You don’t get rid of fear, but you can transform it into any number of other emotions and experiences — if you take action on the message when you sense danger. That gives you power over fear, rather than fear having power over you.
Fear is a message to take action as the response to the stimulus you are in danger. We’re born with two fears: falling and noise. We have three inborn responses to fear: fight, flight, freeze. (There is a response to socially induced fear called fawn — a topic for another article another time.) Somehow, through the eons, humans have developed fears that aren’t associated with life-threatening situations.
But the body’s response to the stimulus is the same whether your life is in danger or your ego feels threatened.
The innate fear response, a flood of hormones to give you focus and energy, is short-lived. The modern, created fear response also generates the flood of hormones — but that fear and subsequent hormone flood are not short-lived. Therein lies the problem; those hormones have a negative effect on your body when they stick around too long. These hormones can create various illnesses and lower your immune system — which gets worse and worse the longer those hormones are present. Fear can cause you to cower in your life. That’s the fear I guide people to transform.
There’s a fear that can save your life and a fear that can take your life. I think we agree transforming fear either through fast action or transforming it is a good idea. Now we’re getting close to the topic at hand. What do we get, besides better health, when we transform fear?
When you check the internet sources for “what’s the opposite of fear?”, you see words like calm, audacity, curiosity, trust, courage, faith, love, content, peace, adventure, and power to define the antonym of fear. I have a different word.
The opposite of fear is freedom. It’s freedom from anxiety, worry, and stress. It’s freedom to feel confidence, joy, strength, being grounded, and even reckless abandon.
What do you want in your life? Cowering or freedom?