Skáldskapr: Fear is a reaction. Courage is a decision.

In this episode, we’ll talk about the contrast when considering our options in facing life’s challenges, we ultimately have two choices. We can allow fear to flood our decision processes, and succumb to the paralyzation that comes with that, or we can stand up, lean our mental shoulder into that concern.

Throughout the last year, I have discussed the physiological response the body goes through on the Alaska Outlaw podcast. I’ve identified the natural bodies reaction to the “fight or flight syndrome”. Where the chemical balance within the body, and more dangerously, the mind, causes the electrical pulses across the synapses within the brain, the we call thought, to become scattered because the markings on the path it needs to take can become so convoluted under the influx of these new chemicals. It is for this reason that I’d like to discuss the power of fear. Fear can be an incredibly powerful, or influential emotion. However, like love and hate, it too soon fades away as the ph balance within the brain take shape again, and the chemical scattering fades away.

{Hail Ódinn chant}

The American Psychological Association defines it as:

Fear n. a basic, intense emotion aroused by the detection of imminent threat, involving an immediate alarm reaction that mobilizes the organism by triggering a set of physiological changes. These include rapid heartbeat, redirection of blood flow away from the periphery toward the gut, tensing of the muscles, and a general mobilization of the organism to take action. Fear differs from anxiety in that the former is considered an appropriate short-term response to a present, clearly identifiable threat, whereas the latter is a future-oriented, long-term response focused on a diffuse threat. Some theorists characterize this distinction more particularly, proposing that fear is experienced when avoiding or escaping an aversive stimuli and that anxiety is experienced when entering a potentially dangerous situation (e.g., an animal foraging in a field where there might be a predator). Whatever their precise differences in meaning, however, the terms are often used interchangeably in common parlance. -APA website.

So much has fear dominated the actions and thoughts of humans throughout history that the monotheistic church defined many fearful things as evil, or bad. However, fear only controls you when you allow it to. Establishing mitigation techniques, and hedging our wagers, by using some of Loki’s cunning, we can navigate through our fears to the other side of them. What lies on the other side of our fears? Self-confidence. By achieving success at getting past or through our fears we can acquire the self-confidence we need to tackle it, or worse, the next time and obtain courage.

As I mentioned in the beginning, fear is a reaction. It is the bodies response to an unknown situation. However, there are many ways we combat fear. In speaking with a friend we discussed her feeling of helplessness in her abusive relationship with the father of her children. According to her, she lived in fear. I semi-disagreed with her, as it was 50/50 in fear, and the other part coping mechanisms (or appeasement). As we spoke, we discovered that her coping mechanisms of appeasement, may have prolonged the situation far beyond where it should have ended. What she lacked for many years was the courage. Remember fear is a reaction, courage is a decision. We talked about the night everything ‘came to a head’, and he hurt her very badly. She was rushed to the hospital, and her former partner arrested. Fortunately her sister could keep the young children for a couple of days while she healed up. She was terrified to go it alone, as she had always worked menial jobs with very little pay, and now with two small children she was rightfully terrified. She also demonstrated strong lack of confidence in herself. We talked about her two options, to be afraid of going it alone and continue the cycle, or to challenge that paradigm and explore some mitigation techniques. To tackle her fear head on using some small preparatory steps.

Drilling down further into the concept of fear, we find that fear does not exist outside the human body. The idea that a stimulus whether it be visual, audio,  or whatever, then triggers the release of particular hormones that are released into the bloodstream, ultimately ending up in the brain. These hormones, upon reaching the brain scatter the bio-electricity that’s transmitted across the synapses of the brain, making it impossible to move or fight, this bio-electricity within the brain is thought. When the neurons transmit this bio-electricity across themselves to the adjoining brain cells those are then communicated with the memory stored and collected by this electric pulse that ultimately becomes a conscious thought that then spurs multiple relational data points, so we get any related thoughts to whatever is contained in the pulse. The concept here that we need to talk about with fear being a reaction, is the idea that your biological body is triggering the creation of epinephrine and some other hormones that then kicked the body into the “fight or flight” that then is what ultimately floods the brain and makes it impossible to carry on a conscious thought. We’ve talked about fear and the conquering a fear in the Alaska Outlaw podcast on a couple of different occasions, however primarily the major key is if we are prepared for an event when the stimuli is generated we can then control our actions and our reactions because we’re better prepared, this then minimizes the amount of hormones stuffed into the brain, and gives a step-by-step action steps to take to overcome this event.

The most difficult portion of courage to obtain is that first step. Making a choice to step into the unknown and face her fear was the courage she sought for a long time. We discussed how she could mitigate her fears by obtaining guidance from local agencies designed to assist women in her position. However, I told her that Hel would raise her fist again and again in an attempt to break her spirit, and that she needed to stay focused on the reward at the end, the safety and happiness of her and her children. The journey would be long and arduous, she would be tested many times, and needed to keep that end result in the forefront of her mind at all times. When she was not facing an immediate fear, she could methodically identify the next resource that was necessary for her continued success. Small steps.

Courage. Courage is the absolute knowledge of failure and pain, yet marching forward anyway. In most cases, courage is that first step you take into an unknown, whether that unknown be in physical form, or on the spiritual realm, the value of courage cannot be overstated. Even our ancestors knew the gravity of courage and while they may have exhibited this unbridled blood lust, there was always a level of courage needed to enter into a fray.

In the old Norse there were a series of virtues that humankind needed to be successful within their society. These nine noble values set the society of their day to a benchmark to a measuring stick that they could all rally and understand. Those nine noble virtues are

  1. Courage
  2. Truth
  3. Honor
  4. Fidelity
  5. Discipline
  6. Hospitality
  7. Self Reliance
  8. Industriousness
  9. Perseverance

Courage is the capability to continue to move forward while being deluged in hormones overwhelming the brain. The idea that courage is a matter of continually moving forward, and providing action steps even when flooded with these paralyzation inducing hormones. In many cases, particularly in a combat situation we find many people are temporarily paralyzed by fear when bullets start flying, and many of them panic, meaning they succumb to the flood of hormones to the brain and are unable to act, or think. This brings an idea that we can program ourselves to continue to act even when our brain is mush. This is some of the tips and tricks I teach on making cheat sheets or having things as visual affirmations that can keep you moving when you are afraid to step forward and doing what is necessary, whatever that may be. The idea that we are no longer paralyzed by this fear then allows us to continually act and react accordingly in a safe prescribed, thoughtful way. One of the things I teach in my real world classes of dealing with stress and fears are making step-by-step guides for ourselves that we can then follow in very clear concise steps. Now, what I find more often than not is that after a successful accomplishment of following our step-by-step‘s getting through this fear, or this phobia, we can then begin to do it without our checklist essentially programming ourselves. The brain is no different than a computer program, as it simply waits for an action to be dictated that it needs to do. These are the steps into building what we referred to as courage. As the fear or the influence of fear overwhelms us, we can use our checklist we step through we continue move forward, and we are successful. Once were successful 1, 2 or even three times, we find that our self-confidence begins to build that we can address these without our checklist, and without our teaching, we have now programmed our coping mechanisms to deal with fear. Is this courage? Or is this preparedness?

I mentioned before my friend, who was in an abusive relationship. I am happy to report that she employed a little courage in her self by preparing. She contacted the agencies that were necessary, she contacted friends, and she built a path to success of getting away from that relationship. Small steps re-programming her path to success. She is happy and healthy and the kids are doing great. Again, her first step in breaking from the relationship was the courage to take the first step. But, with all of the pre-planning she did, it made it easier to take that first step. There are plenty of examples of real courage throughout the ages, and ultimately it happens every day. People exhibit courage. They take the first step in changing. Sometimes as mentioned throughout the show the first step is the hardest.

While I have only discussed the fear, mitigation, and ultimately the self-confidence that develops into what we call courage. I believe that there really are two types of courage:

  1. Is the courage of innocence, or inexperience. This courage is derived from the inexperience of a particular situation. As an example, if a child does not know the dangers of a rattlesnake, the lure of the rattle may seem tempting to grab.
  2. Is the courage of prepared. This subsection of courage is handled by being prepared with visual cues and checklists that can help provide us with concrete steps to power through the fear the self confidence that awaits on the other side.

While there are many in this world who have an intrinsic courage that they can draw on, some are simply needing that initial push. Just like riding a bicycle, as your parent pushed you down the street as you learned, then they release you. Initially the fear grips you, you have a death grip on the bars, what seems to be a lifetime until your feet start peddling. This is the brain trying to get the right things going while under the influence of highly potent chemicals floating throughout. However, if you have done it a thousand times, or if your parent is giving you audible instructions, it is then that the brain can engage actions. The same works every time the brain is flooded with these excitement hormones. It becomes critical for us to use visual cues, during these times, to prevent us from being paralyzed by fear, and exert a little courage to power through.

I hope this episode has given you an understanding of fear being a physiological response, whereas courage is a conscious decision to continue. It is with great hope I have for the human race that they embrace courage and take the first step in changing the world for the better for all of us.


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