In 2003, if I recall well, we visited Cefalù, a city on the island of Sicily and famous for its huge white cathedral that you can see from many miles before entering the city. One day, I saw my son (5) leaving the children’s swimming pool and walking slowly – and fully determined – to the (3 metres deep) adult swimming pool. As he continued walking, I started following him from a distance as I didn’t trust his determined behaviour. Despite various and continued warnings he just kept on walking, stepped into the adult pool and sank to the bottom. Fortunately, I didn’t freeze, ran to the pool and dived after him. Apparently, this whole experience had been very funny to him as he burst out in laughter after my rescue of him. The fear had been for his sister, mother and me.
Interestingly, fear of water is one of the most common fears in humans, along with similar fears of snakes, bugs, mice, bats and heights. What do these have in common? They are dangerous. Fear is adaptive because it protects us. More importantly, it protected our ancestors. Hence, it has even been proposed to be an “evolutionarily relevant” fear. (link 1, link 2)
The feeling of fear is clearly in our brain and not in our mind. Also see my April 17 blog. The mind is used to reason fears away, a process that could also be described as personal risk management.
A few days ago, I had slept badly due to dreams that contained fear elements. The only thing new that day had been a potential job. During the last 3 years, I had turned down this very same job some 4 times. This time, I expressed a – conditional – interest. When fear enters into my dreams then I realise that such fears are getting serious and should not be reasoned away easily. My dreams always feel like some kind of a warning to me and are never “pleasant”. Wishing someone pleasant dreams makes little sense to me. I actually prefer not to dream.
Fear and hope appear to be like Yin and Yang in our lives. I now also realise that I need to make a small amendment to my April 12 blog on Human Emotions as it lacks Hope as an opposite of Fear. Excitement is temporary but Hope is lasting. Like Fear. It doesn’t really matter as that blog has been my most challenging one anyway and any further improvement is welcome.
While a new relationship is now within reach, fear has also returned to my mind. I was already surprised that it took so long. I suppose fear makes us take balanced rational decisions rather than impulsive emotional ones. Yet, other combinations are still feasible: a balanced emotional decision versus an impulsive rational decision. Hope and fear are like weighing the pros and cons of an important decision.
In many situations, I prefer feeling a healthy dose of fear. Such fear is more commonly referred to as stress. Not feeling stress always makes me a little concerned as something does not feel right. Stress releases the hormone (nor)adrenaline in your brain which is quite helpful in dealing with a particular situation. (link 1, link 2)
Lastly, some relevant quotes by the French writer Francois de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680):
“Hope and fear are inseparable. There is no hope without fear, nor any fear without hope.”
“We promise according to our hopes and perform according to our fears.”