Fear is an emotional state; one of 6 core emotions, and when using Robert Plutchik’s flower model of emotions, fear branches to terror, apprehension, and isolation. When you break down emotions this way it not only gives you a more extensive vocabulary to describe what you are feeling, it can help you understand what’s happening in any given situation. Let me illustrate with a story of my own.
When I blew it
Earlier this week I was invited to join a zoom call with a community of forward thinking leaders. I was very excited by the potential opportunities this could bring in particular how the connection could enrich my life.
The first challenge I faced was that the zoom call was not really a space for open dialogue, it was stage managed so we only had from a handful of people. This was the point I should have seen the warning signs.
Overall I enjoyed the conversation and I was invited to join another call straight afterwards with a subset of the people that had attended the first call and others. I leapt at the chance. I got onto that call to discover it was going to be a presentation by one person. Over half the time was taken up with a powerpoint presentation, something I have not experienced for a long time.
Then people started to contribute ideas. By the time I got to speak I was so frustrated that I know I sounded quite impatient in my response. I realise now that the anger came from the fact that my anticipation about the calls had not been met. And that leaked so I was unable to keep a sense of aggression out of my voice. Perhaps if I had felt some fear I would have been able to contain my emotional impulse to vent.
It was good learning because I know that for me I prefer it when groups use breakout rooms so we can go deeper and get more intimate with a handful of people. Also that too much online time sends me a little dolally!
Fear as a colour
In colour terms we see fear coming up in Yellow along with joy. Of course no colour is dualistic in nature but it helps with the understanding when we can categorise it in this way. If you think about it that makes sense because we use phrases like “cowardly custard” and “yellow belly” in relation to fear and yellow.
I have provided some insights into fear in my latest Rainbow Resilience video for young people and teens so do check out and comment if it resonates.
What can you learn from fear?
The Sufis understand so much about fear. They say that hope and fear are the two pillars that make up faith. Faith is the first key to unlocking emotional health and wellbeing – more in this video. Some Sufi writers say that hope and fear represent the two wings of a bird which you need to keep you moving forward. Sometimes you have more hope, sometimes more fear but you need both to be able to fly.
In other words it is not about fixing yourself, or eradicating your fear. It’s about being with it because then you go through it. As Teresa Quinlan wrote:
Fear is an important core emotion. Just like happy, sad, surprise, anger, disgust. It has a purpose.
How is fear a gift?
As Plutchik’s flower diagram suggests when you combine fear and surprise you get awe. This leads to what fear can give you. I remember the exhilaration I felt when I conquered my fear of heights and jumped off a 4 metre high diving board. It took me a whole day before I found the courage to do it. Can you remember a time when you conquered a fear of yours? How did you feel afterwards? I share this last aspect with you to further illuminate the model but also to give some substance to the mantra we use with young people when building their emotional resilience in Yellow which is:
Power comes when you overcome your fear.
How do you feel about fear now? I hope that you have got some more insights into this emotion and can see that it does not have to be avoided or fixed. It can be very useful at times and have a purpose. As with many things, understanding and awareness is the first step to overcoming your fear. If you watch the video, it will give you some strategies on how to manage anxiety which seems apposite in a week that is focusing on mental health awareness.