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Fear in Every Day Life

Posted on September 16, 2016 by Joshua Potter-Efron

I don’t consider myself to be one that is governed largely by fear. My father’s theme in the writing he has been doing on his blog is that of Survive or Thrive (http://www.potter-efron.net/SurviveorThriveBLOG.en.html) He has written in the area of anger for at least two decades now and provided workshops on anger across the world – Russia, Australia, China, and of course far too many places to name here in the United States. What is clear to me as I’ve grown older that fear shows up in a lot of forms – anger at someone who is leaving a relationship, excitement as a relationship is cemented in marriage, the daily stress of “not being able to get enough done” at work, becoming paralyzed with inaction as we begin work on a new project or come back from a vacation to two hundred emails. All of these are gradients of fear.

When I look through that lens I can see how fear influences my choices on a daily basis. A concern that I might not provide a service of high enough quality, putting off a phone call because I don’t want someone to tell me no. In truth in most instances that fear shows up though, it is the inaction, confusion, or delay that causes the compounding of that fear and strips me of my ability to take effective action. When I take the actions that are necessary and in front of me, I may feel tired afterwards, I may feel disappointment, in cases of having challenging conversations with those I love I may even leave feeling saddened – but I also come away with clarity and often a sense of great satisfaction that I was willing to take on the challenge or address the concern that had been bothering me.

It is easy to fall back into survival mode in the small actions we take on a daily basis – avoiding what feels overwhelming – forgetting that avoidance triggered by anxiety/fear doesn’t actually allow ourselves to be successful and will ultimately bring more overwhelm as the work compounds. Unfortunately while freezing can be effective for a deer being hunted at times, in the every day world of work the bear or wolf isn’t going to walk by us not noticing that we are not moving. In fact our superiors are quite likely to notice that we are NOT moving or taking action to get things done.

There are ways to overcome this overwhelm – techniques like the Rule of 5 – answer five emails, complete 5 documents, make 5 phone calls, thus breaking down tasks into manageable chunks or making lists with columns such as Must Do, Should Do, Nice to Do, Can Wait, and Delegate and then systematically starting at the top of the list with the Must Do’s (many people start with the items lower on the list as they cause less anxiety, this tends to create a snowball effect however as they are taking care of the things that can wait while thinking about the Must Do’s and Should Do’s, thus draining their energy even further.

All in all, what I recognize now is that in life, fear can be a constant that shows up in small things. This isn’t necessarily something we have to “fight”. It is helpful to recognize that this is because our brain, biologically, is designed to solve problems. To do this though, it needs to constantly scan the environment and create problems to solve. It has a habit of doing this by identifying threats to survival –physical, emotional, fiscal, even mental and spiritual. When we recognize this we can consciously let go of the fear response and take on the task in front of us as an active choice. Something we are choosing to do instead of something that has to get done or else we will face dire consequences. None of us has to work. We choose to for many reasons. Focusing on the choice is another way of keeping us out of fear. So Surviving or Thriving is an every day choice we make moment by moment in the day. I encourage you to remember that your choices are your choice, I encourage you to remember that fear and anxiety in our every day life is an option. Save it for when you really are in danger so that you can love the life you have chosen, and choose a life you love.

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