I was pouring over the photographs and reading some of the essays in the book Perfect Waves: The Endless Allure of the Ocean, when I came across a piece entitled “A Primitive Fear”. I read the short essay with interest, especially as I was sitting in a hotel room looking straight out at the ocean.
The waves were calm. The beach was quiet, with one or two early morning walkers strolling along the sand on this brisk, yet chilly January morning. “Fear of waves,” the essayist tells us, “reaches down to our most durably coded genes and brings our most primitive instincts and survival reflexes back to the fore.” (Perfect Waves, p. 58). Thoughtfully I digested these words.
As I scanned the calm waters outside the window I saw a lone swimmer out in the distance. I am sure he was enjoying the emptiness and tranquility of this vast watery space all to himself. Meanwhile, my mind wandered back to October 29, 2012 when the storm surge wreaked havoc on New York City and much of the East Coast in the form of Hurricane Sandy. There was nothing calm about the waves at this event. Yet, many people faced the elements to catch a glimpse of this powerful act of nature. The rush of adrenaline and endorphins that come when you face your fear is perhaps what kept these people looking on.
“Run or fight. Submit or react. Fear can prove a tremendous motor. It can allow us to evaluate a crisis more quickly and accurately.” (Perfect Waves, p. 58).
Getting rid of unrealistic fear begins with facing your fears. When you face your fears you are giving yourself the opportunity to use the built in mechanisms, such as reflexes, intuition, experience, and senses, to overcome them. When you face your fears head on you are able to 1) assess the situation, 2) determine whether it is real, immediate or dangerous, and 3) make a decision. If you don’t face your fears and take action against them they will always be a reminder of your shortfalls.
“So it is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will fight without danger in battles. If you only know yourself, but not your opponent, you may win or may lose. If you know neither yourself nor your enemy, you will always endanger yourself.” Sun Tzu, The Art of War
I love to swim, but not being a strong swimmer it is rare that I take the plunge and swim away from the shore. In fact, the swimming pool will do just fine for me. I know my limitations. What about you? Have you faced your fears and made an assessment? What is one major fear that stops you from stepping into the life you are always dreaming about? Today, take the plunge and face it head on. The tools to help you do this are right within your reach.
Nouqueret, Pierre, Editor. Perfect Waves: The Endless Allure of the Ocean, Abrams, NY, 2006