Two kinds of fear

Two kinds of fear

Fear is one of those huge things that holds us back.  Sometimes it feels like the potential of walking through those spike bushes in the photo above. But did you ever stop to really feel that fear and wonder what it is that it is trying to tell you?

We feel fear when something poses a potential threat to us in one way or another, whether that be physical, such as flying thousands of feet in the air or being faced by a tiger, or mental, such as standing up in front of a large group of people, speaking up in a work meeting, or applying for a different job that stretches us.

The thing is that, luckily, there are different kinds of fear, and when we tune into them we can learn how to use them to better craft the life that we want.

Tara Mohr describes two types of fear – yirah and pachad. Pachad is the fear that we recognise easily – the kind that comes from our lizard brain that was made to keep us safe from woolly mammoths and sabertooth tigers. These days it shows up when we go outside of our comfort zone or get in a dangerous position. That might be when we put ourselves in the spotlight or have the potential to receive criticism.

Pachad, lizard brain fear, can be calmed by deep breaths and by movement, like shaking it out of the body through dance, a gym session, a run or a brisk walk. When you feel it, label it for what it is and be curious about it – what is it trying to protect you from? Follow it down the rabbit hole of worst case scenarios. You might be surprised – often once we face the possibility of the worst, we can get back to the present and get on with it.

The other kind of fear, yirah, is something that you have probably felt, but perhaps been unsure about how to deal with it.

Try thinking of one of your deepest wishes. Imagine yourself doing it, making it happen. How does that feel? Often our deepest wishes, the feelings of hope and excitement are accompanied by fear. It’s that “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh” that we scream to our friends or partners when we are about to jump feet first into something that excites and scares us. This is yirah.

The thing about yirah is that we can misdiagnose it for pachad, that fear that tries to tell us to avoid things. But yirah is telling us to go for it. It is a flash of energy that we should follow. It is something we want to breathe into, rather get rid of. Feel the energy of the fear and recognise how similar it is to excitement.

When I think back to the big decisions in my life, they were almost all accompanied by yirah. The day I decided to travel through Central and South America by myself for a couple of months is a good example. I almost let the fear get to me when my plans didn’t initially work out. Instead, I thought carefully about why I had wanted to go in the first place. I leaned into that fear/excitement and made other plans.

Fear itself isn’t the problem. It is the way that we react to it. If we spend all our life running away from fear, we will never challenge ourselves or do anything different. You would never take a risk or a chance, simply because of the possibility that something might go wrong. The secret is that even when things don’t go according to plan, they still turn out (mostly) ok.

So my question to you: what fear are you running away from? What yirah do you want to follow?