[October 22, 2019] Yesterday, while I was writing my article on the Anglo-Zulu War battle at Isandlwana, I thought about fear and how it affects us in different ways (link here). Knowing fear and how to control ourselves while under its influence, is a subject most leaders would like to avoid. For this reason and the fact that fear is such a confusing emotion, I will do my best to untangle it.
Searching the Internet, one can find thousands of websites dedicated to unraveling the mysteries surrounding fear. For example, I found an article in Psychology Today titled, “The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share.”1 While the author did a good job overall, I think he left out some of the major elements I’ve been looking for in this primitive emotion called “fear.”
In the professional opinion of Dr. Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto, there are generally four types of fear. It’s important to list each because this will help remove some of the confusion we have when discussing it.2
- Fear of our inadequacy and evil.
- Fear of society (because it judges us and sometimes tries to kill us).
- Fear of nature (because it constantly tries to kill us).
- Fear of the unknown.
These are listed, not because any particular fear fits into these categories easily. I list them to educate so that when discussing the idea of fear. Fear covers a broad range of emotions. As an illustration, the soldiers fighting in the Battle of Isandlwana certainly felt fear of the variety of these categories; and not just in #2.
“Battle is the most magnificent competition in which a human being can indulge. It brings out all that is best; it removes all that is base. All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood.” – U.S. Army General George S. Patton
It has been said that courage is not the opposite of fear. For those who have seen battle and its carnage, we know better. Courage is the ability to conquer fear – to be able to function despite being frightened of our inadequacies, society, nature, or the unknown. Fear triumphs over us all. It is an emotion that strangles our deepest desires, needs, and beliefs. Fear supersedes all things, and it takes tremendous personal control to overcome it.
This article is Part 1 of a 3-part series on “fear” and laid out over the next few days. I hope you enjoy it this mini-series on professional development. Please comment so that we can add to our understanding.
- I recommend Professor Peterson’s YouTube video on the subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vckndTeiLc