"As I travell’d hither through the land,
I find the people strangely fantasied,
Possess’d with rumours, full of idle dreams,
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear"
King John (Act IV, Scene II)
Fear is not something we can conveniently bury or wash away. It is inside us and all around and it will always be. Even the serene Zen monk strikes fear into the heart of his student, putting them through physical hardship and punishment to literally break them out of their attachment to certainty.
Fear is energy without a purpose. Without fear we are an empty vessel. If there is too much fear it just burns us out. We are told to "be brave" and unafraid, as if a logical argument is going to solve and emotional riddle.
The coward and the hero both feel the fear, the only difference is one is succumbs to it, the other uses it to take action.
Fear of failure, fear of success, of being judged, not being noticed, not fitting in, standing out, not standing out, being insufficient, being ruled, being ridiculed, having bad breath, losing hair, having too much hair, being too big, being too small, being hit, having to hit, losing a loved one, not waking up tomorrow and not being missed.
Fear is a many headed self consuming monster. Fear is the fuel that feeds upon itself. The solution is not to deny or project our fears onto others. Fear is not our ally or our enemy. So what are we to do with fear?
Can we "own fear" without being being possessed by it? Just like people own cars, others are owned by their car. Since we are going to feel it anyway, can we own fear rather be possessed by it?
Frank Sinatra and Sir Laurence Olivier were both masters of their craft. They both talked openly about their stage fright throughout their illustrious careers. These two very different men, tell the same story (at different times) about the day they realised it was time to retire. They said it was the day they lost their fear of going on stage. They knew that the fear was gone because suddenly they no longer cared enough to make what they were doing, matter. If they did not care about the perfomance, then fear had not place. They could only perform as long as they could feel the audience. The fear of not getting it right was just part of the creative process. An energy that they had learned to tap and turn into beauty.
We need to replace the slogan "no fear" with "know fear".
"Alas! it is the baseness of thy fear
That makes thee strangle thy propriety.
Fear not, Cesario; take thy fortunes up;
Be that thou know’st thou art, and then thou art
As great as that thou fear’st"
Twelfth-Night - (Act V, Scene I)