Fear Is Good

Imagine that you are invited into a room prior to participating in an important event and told that you will be given one second to make a choice between two states of mind that you can adopt in preparation for the occasion. You wonder whether the two options will be optimism and pessimism but they turn out to be subtly different from these polar extremes.

After a brief period for composing yourself, following a countdown displayed in big red numbers on a digital clock, a red curtain is rapidly drawn back to reveal the two mindsets. You are given the briefest of opportunities to select your preferred emotional profile. If you take longer than a second you will be penalised and if you pause for more than three seconds, procrastinating over the decision, you will be disqualified from participating in the event.

Card A on the left bears the words “Arrogance and Complacency” while card B on the right reads “Fear and Ignorance”.  You hesitate for a fraction of a second before pressing button B. Based on my own experience, this would be the better choice by far. But why?

Fear is a constructive emotion provided that you do not allow it to overwhelm you. You must, of course, control your fear so that you are able to deal effectively with the root cause. As everyone knows, the antidote to fear is action. The alternative is paralysis. Fear is your friend because it alerts you to something that requires your attention in the same way that pain does. Show it your gratitude, as you would a stranger who, when passing by, gives you a valuable piece of information.

If you never feel fear in your life, it may be that you lack awareness or have no true purpose. Perhaps you are not living at all, at least in any meaningful way. You will certainly be opening the door to the evil twins Arrogance and Complacency.

Ignorance too is a powerful force for good in your life if you offer it the same courtesy that we have advocated for fear, recognising the opportunities for discovery and exploration that it offers. My own ignorance is both broad and deep. I welcome the massive dark holes in my learning like old friends who I greet in the gloomy night with a powerful torch. Can you imagine being ignorant of Beethoven’s symphonies and grasping the opportunity to embark on such a journey of enlightenment?

Arrogance and complacency will dull your senses, convincing you that you are the master of your circumstances and need not exert yourself. Their cosy embrace will prevent you from seeing the danger that lurks out of sight, diligently waiting to ambush you. Your good intentions and self-confidence will prove to be inadequate armour.

The Knot Garden believes that a little fear is a good thing, provided that you experience it as a natural effect of a challenging endeavour. Ignorance too. We must acknowledge that they bring us valuable messages, to which we must respond effectively before cheerily waving them on their way.

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