I was on a camp with a class of 13 year olds in the bush near Waitomo recently and one of the things we did was explore a cave. When we were well inside the cave, the leader asked us all to turn our torches off and be completely silent. But although the lights all went off, leaving a blackness so pure even after several minutes we still could not see anything whatsoever, they didn’t manage to be completely silent. There was always a scuffling, moving, rustling, or other noise to break the silence. When I told the leader that I was surprised about this, she told me that it was due to fear. Although they were 13 and gave the impression of being tough, they were actually still fearful. Complete darkness still – for some at least – instilled fear. Without being able to see, they had to stimulate the other senses to be reassured.
This reminded me of my French friend Pascal, who was 1m50 and frail of build, but had a fire, confidence and attitude towards fear which was out of the ordinary. At 80, he lived alone in the country in the south of France in a big house. A couple of the neighbour’s houses had been burgled, though his had not yet been targeted. They must have sensed that they would have to deal with his wrath – something I do not wish my worst enemy! Anyway, at night, as is common in the country, there were strange sounds outside. But rather than lie in bed wondering whether it was a burglar or not, he would get up, grab a torch and go outside to investigate. When I told him that at 80, this may not be the best idea, he replied that if he just lay in bed, wondering what it was, he would start imagining the worst and his fear would grow and grow until he could not sleep. He argued that by going outside to see, he could clear up the insecurity. “What if…?” is fear. Only by confronting that fear can you clear up whether or not it is a danger. If it was indeed a burglar, then at least he would have a real danger to deal with. If, on the other hand, it was some insignificant noise like a branch or animal, he could then go back inside and concentrate on the task at hand – in this case, sleeping peacefully, having dispelled the fear. As he correctly pointed out, fear is not in the present, but in the future.
In the – very wise – words of Cypher Raige:
“Fear is not real. The only place that fear can exist, is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. Do not misunderstand me, danger is very real, but fear is a choice.” (This is the basis and also the only redeeming factor of the evening I wasted watching After Earth)
By not letting yourself be influenced by fear, by confronting whatever you are projecting in order to create fear, by determining and differentiating between danger and fear, you can become more confident and achieve anything you set your mind to.