Sunday, May 8, 2016

Fear of the Unknown

“Use your fear…it can take you to a place where you store your courage.”  Amelia Earhart 

When I read this quote from Ms. Earhart, I knew I needed to write something about my experiences. Conquering your fears is something easier said than done. Yet, there are times when you have to ‘suck it up’. 

A simple and useful definition of fear is — an anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation
of some imagined event or experience.

Karl Albrecht, Ph.D. explains that fear, like all other emotions, is information needing processing. It offers us knowledge and understanding—if we choose to accept it—of our psychobiological status. According to Albrecht, there are five basic forms of fear.
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of mutilation or invasion of your body
  • Fear of being paralyzed, restricted, imprisoned by something beyond our control
  • Fear of loss, abandonment or rejection
  • Fear of humiliation, shame and disapproval

Three experiences in my life relate to the anticipation or dread of an imagined event or outcome.
1.   My first firefight in Vietnam. No matter how much training, nothing prepares you for the first time bullets fly your way. It doesn’t take long before realizing that they, the Vietcong, are trying to kill you. Fortunately, all that training does pay off when the adrenaline kicks in, you stop thinking, and begin acting. I would describe it as ‘going on autopilot’. It’s what, along with a lot of luck, kept me alive.
2.   When doctors diagnosed my two-year-old with a malignant brain tumor, total helplessness are the first words that come to mind. The fear of losing your child is all-consuming. Yes, you pray a lot, but the worst part is the waiting and wondering. I was a wreck during the surgery. When the nurse carried him out, I couldn’t breathe. But, when he saw me and smiled, I melted. Everything was going to be okay.
3.   When diagnosed with ALS, it was crushing news. “You’ve got to be kidding—not me—I feel fine.” Several years later when correctly diagnosed with SBMA (Kenney’s Disease), I felt relieved.
Courage means to find strength in the face of pain or grief. It is the ability to do something that is frightening.
  • In Vietnam, as unbelievable as it sounded at the time, it was kill or be killed.
  • As a father, I needed to be strong for my son. 
  • When diagnosed, it meant finding solid ground again after falling into quicksand.
In each case, there were no viable alternatives. I needed to dig deep, deeper than I ever had before, to sail through these uncharted waters. There was no way out and giving up wasn’t an option.

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