It Is OK to Be Scared But Don't Yield

Our initial reaction to fear is helplessness, maybe even a doomsday scenario for some. And it is quite normal to feel so.
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Have you ever been subjected to the dreaded "we need to talk" moment by someone you love?

What was the thought that crossed your mind when your doctor said, "Let's run some tests"?

Remember the time you applied to all those colleges and days went by without a line of response.
How did you feel when a series of calls to your kid's phone went unanswered?

You see fellow colleagues being handed pink slips in your office. How do you feel?

Think of the night before an important presentation to the board or a business pitch to those "angel" investors?

What do cops, SWAT team members or firefighters undergo while breaking through that door, going in blind?

Are all surgeons always cool as a cucumber as they walk into the OT?


Source: photo credit: Soviet Cold War Bunker via photopin (license)

There is something in common with the above instances -- fear, a sense of dread or being afraid or generally scared with the expected outcome or the situation per se. Our initial reaction to fear is helplessness, maybe even a doomsday scenario for some. And it is quite normal to feel so. Otherwise you will be like Shaw or Root or my favorite Christina Yang. (Okay we are not discussing them right now!)


Face It

Let me share an example from my life. I was 13 years old when I had developed a small lump near my neck just below my ear. It was there for quite some time. Meanwhile, I was leading a normal life, attending school and playing lawn tennis. I avoided telling this to my family thinking that the lump might go away by itself (for which I waited hopefully for days) as I had a nagging feeling that this might be the precursor to something bad. Finally I told my mom. Thankfully those were the days before Google or else I might have had read up about 101 diseases and my impending painful death.


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My parents were naturally worried but I guess they had more experience of handling fear than I. They immediately took me to a M.D. (Phy.) because according to mom "sitting and pondering about the lump won't make it go away." The good doctor asked me a set of questions and calmly advised a biopsy. I could see the grim look on my parents' faces and imagined the worst. My mind was reeling with worst possible situations and I could feel my heart race, hands become clammy and mind shutting down. I did not know what to do.

Luckily for me the doctor said that I want you to understand the prognosis so that you and I can work through this. He said that he suspected that the swelling of my lymph node could be an indication of tuberculosis (which in my case the doctor assured was not communicable). This will be confirmed through the biopsy. I was clueless about TB and had only read about cases in books. I was not sure if people still suffered from it anymore. I had never undergone any surgery till that point in life. I resolved to clear my ignorance thus overcome my fear. I asked the doctor about the surgery, anesthesia, after effects and cure in case the reports came positive. He patiently explained each and every thing stating that there are medicines I will need to take for 6-9 months to get cured.

That night I sat down with my parents and had a long chat. We decided to move one step a time and not get unduly worried or depressed. Waiting for my biopsy results, I still hoped that it will be negative. But God had a bigger plan. He wanted me to go through the complete experience and come out at the other end wiser. I completed the entire medication cycle, got myself tested multiple times and was cured completely. Later on the doctor said that TB is not as uncommon as we feel. And people suffering from TB need not be impoverished or underfed as is the typical assumption.

Converting Fear into Verve

Feeling scared or sensing fear is a perfectly normal thing and should never be considered as a sign of weakness. On the contrary it shows that your senses are active and the "thinking part" of our brain is working just fine.

It is what we do with this feeling of fear (or after acknowledging that we are scared) is most important. There are only two options for us -- to continue being scared and get sucked deeper and deeper into the vortex of fear or figure out the alternatives and hack through the condition to get rid of the feeling of being afraid. Our general tendency is to feed the fear instead of tamping it. But fear is a great change enabler. Once we are done with the initial feeling of fear, we must decide to turn it around because how bad can things be?


Source: photo credit: Grace and poise? via photopin (license)

Okay, so you are probably going to lose your job! Start searching for another or broaden your skill set. Improve your brand value, move to a different city (even a country if need be). It is not the end of your life!

If your kid is not responding to your calls, check her online status. What does it say? When was it updated last? Another embarrassing option -- call up your kids' friends. Maybe the phone battery conked off.

The doctor says, "Let's run some tests." Get the tests done. If the test is positive, well then go on to the next step. Don't spend time googling the symptoms, trying to be your own doctor and reading only those pages which talk about terrible things.

If you feel scared, remember nothing lasts forever, not even fear. Go face it.