On the BBC 2 show Special Forces - Ultimate Hell Week, we were told by Sonny of the Russian Spetsnaz that we must face our fears. In essence I have no problem with this concept, albeit fear is no more than a concept I can recognise the positive intention behind the proposal. The difficulty arose when I was asked directly, 'what are you afraid of?' Instantly I knew this would spell the beginning of the end for me. On the one hand I could play the game and proclaim to hold a regular fear of spiders, heights or perhaps death but this would be at the sacrifice of my integrity so I answered with the truth, 'I have no fears'.
Not intending to undermine the fundamental aims of the process we were endeavouring upon I presented my justification in the most amicable and non-challenging way I could, explaining that it is my belief that fear is in fact a choice and I chose not to harbour fear at the detriment of my emotions. In fact in Episode One Woody of the US Navy Seals actually voiced the belief that 'fear is a choice' and went on to say 'don't choose fear'. Nonetheless the lead balloon had begun its descent, the next two days were tipped to be long ones.
I was repeatedly invited over the duration of the two days to reconsider my position on this matter and apologetically I expressed my inability to do so. In fact it ultimately resulted in my being removed from the program, despite delivering above average results in ALL activities we partook in, this was of course dumbed down a tad.
Walking away I was proud to have protected my moral standing although I couldn't help but feel this to be somewhat a Pyrrhic victory and it prompted me to think this over in greater depth. I believe it was summed up best in the film After Earth with Will Smith when he stated, 'fear is not real. It is a product of things you create. Don't be mistaken, danger is real but fear is a choice.' Fear is certainly a decision, it is my job as a coach and trainer to teach others that in spite of what our external world presents to us we always have influence on the state that we allow it to elicit.
Following on from the above I think it's paramount to consider carefully what label we bestow upon the physiological responses that occur within the body due to stimulus. As an example, you are standing at the doorway of an aeroplane preparing to jump, your heart is beating rapidly, your breathing is shallow and your palms are sweaty, you naturally decide to interpret this feeling as being terrified. Before you are so quick to condemn yourself think again, is there a time in life when your body may present you with the same physiological responses but instead the emotion is different, perhaps even a positive one? How about excitement?
By labelling this response as excitement rather than terror we make a choice that allows us to draw forth a different and more resourceful emotion from the same initial feeling. 'When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change', Wayne Dyer. This is the difference between an adrenaline junkie and a nervous wreck, labels come at a high price so maintain conscious awareness when interpreting your own state, don't confuse ability to assess danger with fear and learn to love your body's responses they are there to serve you.