In Mendelssohn’s Oratoria “Elijah”, Be Not Afraid is exciting, inspiring listening. As advice, however, it has its problems. To most, it makes little sense to freeze when an elevator door opens. Elevators are the world’s safest means of transportation! On the other hand, it makes a great deal of sense to flee when the tsunami alerts have been posted for the beach your laying on. And for most Americans after Pearl Harbor, fighting Hirohito, Hitler and Mussolini led nations was a correct, though excruciating, response.
If you’re following me so far you probably have been led astray. Here’s why: Freeze, Flight, Fight (and a fourth “F”, fornicate) are the responses to the experience fear, but only when we delude ourselves with sloppy language can a person “be afraid”.
This distinction requires further explanation. Before the explanation, know that at DolphinWork Life Coaching there are skilled coaches who increase accuracy in one’s response to fear and sharpen one’s use of language. Mention this article and you’re guaranteed Be Not Afraid will be yours for life!
Dr. Athena Staik writes in her Neuroscience and Relationships column, “The human brain is always in one of two modes: “learning” or “protective” mode. Emotions are signals that decide whether the brain operates in either a “learning mode or in a “protective mode.”
“It is through ‘molecules of emotion’ that our brain, glands, organs, and immune system are in constant communication,” says Dr. Candace Pert in her book, Molecules of Emotion: The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine.
Emotions are molecules of energy that move in one of two overall directions, safety and love, or anxiety and fear.
They either disturb this balance of energy, as occurs with painful emotions rooted in fear, or they restore this balance of energy, as happens when we experience emotions that produce pleasant love-based sensations.
Fear doesn’t have to control us. The direction fear takes us, depends on our response.
Simply put, whereas love-based emotions calm your mind and body, elevated levels of fear shut down the learning processes and redirect energy to prepare the body for survival.
Recognize that language alone can trigger the molecules of energy we have labeled fear. Some of you had a small rush of the experience we call fear when you read “elevator” or “tsunami” or “Pearl Harbor”. But you are not your molecules. Molecules exist within you, yes. You are much more than any subset of molecules.
Our language patterns let us down. No one in casual conversation asks, “Did you have the fear experience?”. It is accepted conversation to ask, “Were you afraid?” The correct answer to that question is always “No”! Because our emotions are a part of us, not who we are.
Unfortunately, sloppy language far too often leads to sloppy response choices. If “I am afraid”, then pick an “F” action. If, “I am experiencing the emotion called fear”, I can reflect upon the choices available to me and act in an informed way. Our emotions provide essential information that is ignored at peril. When we become our emotion, we put our relationships and ourselves on molecule control and at much greater peril. Attend to fear, always. Be afraid, never!