Fight, flee, or freeze.
This has been our human evolutionary response to danger ever since we ascended as carbon based life forms out of protozoic ooze and formed the earliest inklings of a brain.
That brain has been working against us ever since…
There are so, so many things that can bring fear to our fully developed and evolutionarily superior (kind of) brains. And in modern times, with overstimulation being the norm, our fears are not just rooted around a saber toothed tiger lurking just outside of the cave. We are products of overstimulation and information overload, something evolution did not prepare us for.
The result for many of us being in a nearly constant state of fight, flight, or freeze is elevated anxiety and overwhelm at the least, and often paralyzing panic.
Modern times call for modern measures.
In the midst of our feelings of fear, it’s important to remember that we can discern the actual danger from the possibly irrational and uncontrollable. There are three ways progressive ways, I choose to represent by three archetypes, in which we can choose to experience fear. The fight/flight/flee approach is just one of those ways.
The classic response to fear is fight, flight, or freeze. It’s our instinct, and therefore our default. For those of us who experience regular anxiety and fear, this can be a pretty regular occurrence. Sadly, in an age where we don’t have to worry about saber toothed tigers (we don’t, right? Please tell me we don’t…) we experience learned helplessness in the midst of our fears. We begin to feel like victims of our circumstances, or environment, our brains, other people, and just about everything.
When we feel helpless, when we lean into victimhood, we also lean into short term or immediate “solutions” to our fears.
For me, over a decade ago, I leaned into alcohol to help with my anxiety disorder. While it helped in the moment, it did little to address the root of the anxiety and fear I had. It suppressed it in the moment, but my anxiety grew over time as I tried to run from it.
When we fight or run from fear or anxiety, it wins. This is why we become victims. Because as we continue to fight it, and lose, we perceive ourselves as victims of our circumstances. We think there’s no way out…
But fortunately, there is a way out.
When we are ready and willing to heal (willing is an operative word there), we can rise up out of victimhood to FACE our fear.
Now it’s a common misconception that facing fear is equivalent to fighting it. But we are no longer fighting it. We are doing something much braver, which is why I call this archetype the soldier.
While soldiers are known for fighting, more than that, in this context they exist to keep peace. When we meet the fear where it’s at and show that we are willing to accept it as part of who we are, and part of the human experience, we take its power away.
We begin to heal.
In addition to being brave and keeping peace, a soldier is also bound by certain ritual and routine. When I was finally willing to recover from alcoholism, I walked into my first AA meeting, an act of facing my fear. I held to the traditions and the structure which gave me certainty. This environment allowed my fears to melt away.
One of the key elements of AA is taking a fourth step inventory. In the process, we take inventory of our fears. We acknowledge them, accept them, and let go.
We stop fighting our fear. We face them.
Rising up to face my fears allowed me to heal. But the next elevation was where the greatest transformation – the transcendence – was made.
We can live happy and comfortable lives in the soldier archetype, existing in harmony with fear and living an entirely human experience. However, just beyond the scope of simply coexisting with fear, we have the ability to live a truly abundant life with a new perspective on fear.
We rise above it to embrace it.
How the hell can you embrace fear? Fair question. Think of a time where you were scared of something you really wanted to do. Maybe it was racing a triathlon. Maybe it was performing live in front of an audience. Anything that sparks that fear in us with an equal measure of excitement.
Now think of how you felt when you finished. Assuming you were still safe, chances are you felt an amazing sense of euphoria having achieved a goal.
That, my friends, is growth.
Growth is the juice. Growth is the thing that keeps us fulfilled. It’s the fuel for high performance. And it’s the result of rising above our fear.
When we take on the hero archetype, we look at our fear as something not to be feared, but something to be embraced. A signal that we are about to do something that will help us grow. Something that will allow us to milk this life for all its worth.
When the hero experiences fear, their eyes light up. They lean in. And they run toward it because regardless of the outcome, either they win or they learn.
If you feel like you are living in the victim archetype, there’s good news. You can heal. You can rise out of it and face fear. We all have that ability to retrain our brains to face fear and ultimately rise above it. Embracing fear doesn’t have to happen as one giant leap (I still will NOT jump out of a perfectly good airplane with a parachute). Embracing fear could be as simple as pushing just 1% past your comfort zone. That 1% triggers growth, which gives you that sense of euphoria, which (if done consistently) can reframe your mindset to look at fear differently.
The result of rising above your fear to become the hero of your own story will be a greater sense of accomplishment, fulfillment, adventure, and of course, freedom from victimhood.
Rising out of victimhood to face my fears was the first step to achieving my wildest dreams. It’s where I began to heal and rebuild my relationship with myself. Rising above my fear to embrace it, I have experienced more of life than I ever could have dreamed. A true life of abundance. It’s definitely not free from challenge, but I’m no longer overcome by the challenge. And often times, I run toward it with open arms.
Will you commit to rising above the fears that are preventing you from living your most abundant life?
If you would be open to discovering how you can rise above fear and realize your ultimate potential, reach out to me for a free strategy call. I look forward to hearing from you!