Fear and Present Danger

False Evidence Appearing Real is a popular definition that is often used to describe fear.

The “Good Book” tells us to fear not. There have been several movies that have tackled the topic of fear. Two of my favorites are Star Wars and After Earth. Master Yoda tells us that “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”. Will Smith’s character Cypher Raige tells us that “fear is not real”, while giving an entertaining explanation on the differences between danger and fear.

What things make you nervous that translate into fear? Admittedly there is plenty to be nervous about from time to time. There are the silly butterflies you get when you ask someone out for the first time or the nervous excitement on your wedding day.

There is the nervousness associated with leaving home for the first time, whether it’s  because of college, the military or just simply embarking out on your own. The nervousness from those scenarios can often be felt by either the adult child or the parent. These situations, no matter how nervous one may be from them, are a natural progression of life and normally don’t result with someone being frozen with fear.

I have four sons and a daughter. One of my sons is twenty years old and was born in late November. That obviously makes him one month old for his first Christmas. He unfortunately also spent his first Christmas in the hospital due to a high fever. In the grand scheme of things, it was very minor situation and his admission into the hospital was precautionary because of how young he was. That did not at the time help the feeling of nervousness and concern I had as his father.

Was I fearful in that situation? I honestly don’t remember but I do recall the feeling of powerlessness and nervousness from not being able to help my little boy.

Approximately four years ago I walked in on an armed robbery. I was entering a retail store when I immediately realized what was happening. The masked individual shouted something to me, which to this day I still don’t know what he said. My reaction was to duck, turn and get back to my car as quickly as possible, hoping and praying that he did not shoot me in the back.

I don’t remember feeling nervous are scared. My concern was getting back to my wife who stayed in the car and had no clue what was going on. My main thought was making sure I got her to safety. As I returned to the car, the gunman was not far behind me. As I was pulling out of the parking space, he was passing in front of the car and appeared to begin to raise his weapon towards us. My wife was very visibly frightened and as it looked as if he was rasing his gun, it was a challenge to attempt to drive and cover my wife at the same time. Thankfully, he never completed the motion and made his getaway down the side and rear of the building.

All of that happened so fast there wasn’t time for me to be afraid or even nervous. While there were some men inside of the store that were pistol-whipped, thankfully no one was shot or majorly wounded. If there is a major silver lining to the story it’s that whoever this man was, he was a thief, not a murderer. The danger was real but for some reason I was not fearful at the moment.

A few days later, while at work sitting in my office, was when the events of that night truly hit me. I began to reflect and realized that night could have gone very differently.  There was an equal feeling of the fear of what could have happened and gratefulness that it wasn’t worse.

I did not have control in either of the stories that I shared. I was reliant on the good doctors and nurses in the hospital to make sure my son was ok and I certainly had no control over whether the armed robber was going to open fire. In the former situation I knew I was powerless. In the latter, there was some level of action I was able to take which helped to give the illusion of control.

Two of my favorite words are perspective and perception and I think they are key in how we deal with nervousness and fear. To keep things simple, perspective is your view of a situation or circumstance; perception is your interpretation of that view or situation.

With the situation involving my son, it was naturally a slower moving scenario so my thoughts had time to formulate and go through various progressions which ultimately led to a feeling of nervousness (perception). In the robbery situation, all I thought was “gun” and “getting my wife to safety” (perspective), as I shared earlier it was several days later that I gained some perspective on the circumstances which changed my perception and became emotional about the event.

Feelings of nervousness certainly aren’t bad or wrong but when we over think situations that we have no control over,  we can cloud our perspective which can negatively impact our perception, which can create fear.

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