Part one of a three part series on fear. [1,340 wds]
10:00 p.m.: Two officers were called for a domestic disturbance. When they arrived at the run-down apartment, they heard a male’s voice yelling, “Die! Just fucking die.” Loud thuds came from inside the small apartment, as though a physical fight was taking place just inside the door.
The officers began banging on the door, but received no response. The commotion continued. Finding the door unlocked, they tried to open it. The door opened about three inches and then couldn’t be budged.
The fight was taking place just inside the apartment, behind the door. The male was yelling for someone to “die,” and the officers could hear that someone gasping for air. They had walked in on a murder in progress.
The male was in a rage, oblivious to the police banging and shouting at him to open up. One of the officers removed his Taser from his belt and pushed his hand through the opening at the door. He had no idea where he was aiming, but he didn’t have time to care. He turned the Taser toward the commotion and blindly fired it. The Taser hit the male and caused him to stumble backwards. Other officers pushed on the door, but there was still resistance. A female was down, lying against the door.
The officers finally managed to push the door open and squeeze through. Half of them jumped on the male and wrestled him into handcuffs. The other half turned to the victim, who was nearly unconscious. She had a belt looped around her neck, pulled tight. The officers struggled to untangle the belt and remove it from her neck. She was rushed to the hospital, and mercifully, she survived.
What makes this story so personal to me is that a few weeks prior to this incident, I had responded in my capacity as a police officer to a report of a domestic fight between these two individuals. The female was uncooperative, just like she had been the past fifteen times the police were called. She always refused to cooperate. She always refused to prosecute her attacker for any of the assaults.
I pleaded with her to leave and get away from him. Her typical response was, “Where am I supposed to go? I don’t have anywhere and I don’t have any money.” In the meantime, she refused shelters and help from her own family, even though these were available to her. It is frustrating to try to help someone who won’t help themselves. The female even joked with officers, “He will probably kill me one day.” She was almost right.
This female eventually did leave the male after nearly being killed. But it took that final incident of being nearly strangled as the catalyst. Ironically, she stayed with him up to that point because she was afraid. Sure, she was she physically afraid of him, but she was more afraid to attempt her life on her own, without him. He was scary and physically abusive, but he was familiar and provided routine. He was predictable even during an unpredictable rage. She knew what to expect from him, whereas getting away from him opened her to an entire world of unknowns.
Fear is one of the greatest motivators of human behavior. Fearing change or the unknown can produce so much anxiety that staying in an abusive relationship feels like the safer alternative. In that woman’s mind, the risk of getting out was greater than the risk of staying even at the risk of being killed.
Fear is a controlling emotion capable of erasing rational thoughts from our minds. The scenario I described above is extreme, and we don’t all find ourselves in that type of situation. But we all know of everyday situations where we are paralyzed by the effects of fear.
Most of us have two lives: the life we want to live and the life we actually live. What stands between those two lives is fear. Fear of change, fear of rejections, fear of failure, fear of ridicule, and so on. We are afraid to make the necessary changes in our lives and, as a result, we never find the life we want.
How many people stay in dead-end marriages or relationships for years? We stay because of the children, or not wanting to be alone, or not having enough money to leave. The list of excuses goes on and on. How many people stay in dead-end jobs for an entire career? We stay because of security, or we don’t know what else to do, or we are afraid of failing at some new adventure.
We ignore the life we want, and we talk ourselves into the life we live. We rationalize why staying in the current situation makes more “sense” and the life we want “just isn’t meant to be.” We tell ourselves that we will change at some unknown point in the future, but that day never comes. Ultimately we end up miserable.
After this point, we move into the justification phase. We convince ourselves that our life “isn’t that bad.” Somehow we become thankful for the life we do have, because “others have it worse.”
The problem is, this leads to a life of settling for “less than.” It’s a life of un-fulfillment and not living up to our potential. That eventually leads to a life of regrets. I look back at some of the actions that I did not take soon enough in my life, and I have regrets about them. All the excuses I made to not take action were not valid. They were simply my way of talking myself into not taking action.
Not taking action is simple. Taking action is hard. It’s fear that causes us to go with the easier of the two choices.
We all have the ability to bridge the gap between the life we want and the life we live. No one said it was the easiest path, but it’s the path we owe to ourselves. If something scares you, you are probably passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you need to accomplish it. I live my life differently now in that the things I fear most are the things I know I must go after.
It’s empowering to accomplish something in the face of fear. Once you take action and get beyond it, you realize your fears were irrational. That unlocks a whole new mindset and outlook on life. It also unlocks your potential to accomplish anything you want. The choice is truly yours. Part of that is choosing not to let fear control your destiny.
In part two of this series on fear, I will discuss how our fears manifest themselves and sabotage our lives. Finally, in part three, I’ll explore strategies to overcoming fear and unlocking your true potential.