Turn Fear To Your Advantage
Barbara is a manager at a direct mail company that has seen
business decline in favor of internet marketing. She is
concerned about her job because the company may have to
close, and she worries about her future since direct mail is all
she has ever known.
In these uncertain times, she will not be able to walk into
another job and she feels fearful. As a result, her thoughts
can't keep quiet; "How am I going to survive?" "What will
happen to me if I lose my job?" "Where will I end up?"
Barbara's anxiety was so overwhelming it took on a life of its
Most of us have experienced the paralyzing effects of fear.
Now, with increased global insecurity and economic
downturns, fear threatens to permeate further and deeper into
our daily lives. What can we do to cope?
Contrary to common belief, fear is more than a useless,
unpleasant emotion. According to the Toltec approach to life, it
is a vital life force that can be used, controlled and channeled
constructively. In the end, we can do more with fear than
merely "handle it." With the right attitude, we can use fear to
constructively bring about positive growth and change in our
Fear Is Natural
The first thing to accept is that fear is a natural part of life.
Fear is so basic it runs not just through human emotions but
the entire animal kingdom. Therefore, we need to consider
that if fear is so pervasive, it must have a purpose.
Every aspect of life has a positive use — even those things we
do not enjoy. Fear has a positive use arising from its origins as
a natural instinct for self-preservation. This can also be seen in
animal behavior. When frightened, animals tend to run away
or fight for survival, especially when cornered.
Like most animals, our Sympathetic Nervous System is
concerned with many of our responses, especially with the
Flight, Fright or Fight response. When we encounter a
particularly stressful event, the Sympathetic Nervous System
prepares our bodies to meet the crisis.
When the event is over, our bodies are supposed to return to
normal, so that we can move on. However, in practice, things
do not always turn out this way. This is usually because we fail
to take immediate action to internally resolve the stressful
situation — either out of choice or through circumstance.
So, what happens is that we perpetuate fear and stress by
worrying about the stressful event or consequences that
followed — playing out different scenarios in our minds --
increasing stress and becoming more and more debilitated.
Detach, Gain Clarity, Take Action
To avoid becoming paralyzed by fear, it is important to
recognize that fear acts as a support mechanism to focus our
attention on immediate challenges at hand.
Yet, although intense focus is useful when dealing with
pressing danger, it does not help in situations that require
objectivity and a clear strategy. In these cases, you may not
need to fight for your life — it may be more appropriate to be
able to step back and assess the situation carefully.
When you detach and gain clarity, you can recognize your
fear's origins and you can determine whether there is any valid
basis for your fear. Then you can objectively plan your next
moves. If someone is about to attack you, your fear is about
the need to save yourself. But, if your fear is that you will not
survive without your present job, you will quite quickly be able
to see that this fear has no solid foundation, and is simply
based in the mind.
To detach and gain clarity from fear, here are some questions
to ask: "Why do I feel afraid?" "Are there other reasons I am
not acknowledging?" "Is there a factual basis for my reasons?"
"How can I get a better, more objective picture of the true
situation and my fears?"
The next step is to take action. It is tempting to wait until you
have all questions answered before embarking on a course of
action. However, when we are dealing with a life crisis, events
move quickly and procrastination means that we can end up
being overtaken by our fear.
Taking action dispels fear since it confirms to us that we can
cope with the situation. Taking action generates a momentum
of its own. And, allied with the sense of inner confidence that
action facilitates, taking action can open new opportunities,
while keeping fear at bay.
Using Fear To Your Advantage
Once we are equipped to handle and control fear, we can start
using it to our advantage.
In its positive sense, fear can drive us; it can spur us to
become bigger and better, wiser and more tolerant, more
awake and therefore more responsive. In particular, once we
learn to place fear into its proper perspective, we can use it as
a useful and positive catalyst for change.
Fear hits us mostly as a result of a major crisis in our lives,
whether through an accident, a traumatic illness or a sudden
job loss. Such a crisis will often signify a big turning point.
How we respond to the crisis will influence whether this
turning point will turn out to be a tragedy, a nightmare or a
triumphant statement of our human spirit.
Many have used the traumatic experience of losing their job as
a springboard into a brand-new and successful career.
Although their initial experience was filled with fear, they
focused on the opportunities that they could gain, took the risk
of branching into unknown and new fields, and just kept going.
We can see how this works by imagining a job interview. By
using fear positively, interviewees can keep sharp and alert to
every opportunity that presents itself. If the interview
becomes challenging, for example, they will not panic, but will
be wide awake and quick to respond.
Fear is natural, but we should not allow it overwhelm us. By
learning to handle our fear and by using it to look for
opportunities, we can take the same gap that other successful
people have also taken in their lives. It all depends on our
ability to channel this vital force constructively, and turn it to
For more information about Théun Mares
describing the Toltec Teachings, please visit