BS File #14: Fear is Fuel

The BS Files are kinda like the X-files – full of myths and urban legends and mysterious things. I feel that it is my duty to tackle them (occasionally). Because, you know, the truth is out there.

Case #14. Fear is fuel. Bullsh*t!

I read this on a coaching page yesterday and I was surprised by my reaction. Grrrrr. I’m so tired of reading all that garbage about how we need to get out of our comfort zone and face our fears, everything needs to be a struggle, or that fear will fuel us to monumental achievements. It really is bullshit.

Look, we live in a time where lots of people feel a lot of fear – for good reason. What has it fueled? Are these really the fires that we want to stoke?

Fear is an emotion. It is a response to a perceived threat – real or imaginary.

Fear causes a chemical response in the body – adrenaline, stress hormones and long-term stress. These chemicals trigger our amygdala (our survival brain or primitive brain) to respond and take charge.

Our survival brain breaks things down into good or bad, right or wrong, friend or enemy. It polarizes things so that we can make an easier choice.

Note that I said easier choice. Not better. Not strategic. Not healing. Not reconciling.

The survival brain excels at dishing up our options into short-term black-and-white polar opposites so that we can survive another day. Not thrive.

Fear is an indicator, a messenger. It is information, telling us that there’s a threat to something that we value.

We need to learn to let the initial emotional wave wash over us, take a breath and then process the fear with more evolved parts of our brain by asking questions. Questions interrupt our pattern of reacting to fear.

What is the information fear is presenting? This question engages our analytical mind.

What do I value? This question engages our heart.

How can I look at this differently? This question engages our creativity.

What are at least 3 options I have to act, not react? These questions keep us from polarized thinking. To really avoid the black-or-white thinking, I like to ask “What’s the orange option? (or pink, gold, magenta, blue, etc.)

Truth: We need to stop this cultish adoration of fear, and start using fear to our advantage. Yes, fear is useful, but not as fuel.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!

Love and light,



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