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Facing Fear

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News October 2015
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I often recall a speech given to me breaking down the word fear.
“Fe” is the periodic table symbol for iron, a rigid, unmoving metal while in its natural state. “Ar” is the symbol for argon, which is an inert gas. It’s a gas that won’t combine with any other, thus lacking the potential to form with anything else and become something other than what it is.
Therefore, if you place “fe” and “ar” together you have the word fear, a combination of a hard unmoving metal with a gas that won’t combine with anything.
Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines fear as, “an unpleasant, often strong emotion, caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
We see how fear is caused by awareness and anticipation. But we must differentiate awareness, which is based on assimilation and understanding of facts from anticipation, which is a combination of facts and conjecture.

Dangerous Enemies

I’m not saying anticipation is a terrible thing. In fact, when you hear that voice telling you, “Don’t go down that dark alley” — listen to it.
However, when you feel afraid to return to school, the workforce or your family, that voice may be coming from anticipation, not awareness.
I’ve been taught there are six deeply-ingrained fears classified as men’s and women’s most dangerous enemies. They’re fear of poverty, old age, sickness, loss of love, criticism and death.

Poverty

This specter grows out of man’s habit of preying financially on his or her fellow human.
All animals, lacking reason, simply prey upon one another as a source of food and survival. For humans, however, the act of the strong preying on the weak is so ingrained in our behavior that the government has passed laws specifically preventing that behavior.

Old Age

This fear is closely attached to poverty, since at a certain age many of us will experience a significant reduction in income. We also lose our ability to earn as much money as when we are young.
Paralyzed veterans, however, can no longer work serving their country. Our job choices become more limited. Additionally, we become less physically able to perform many tasks, which can affect our income, thus the specter of poverty looms in the foreground.

Sickness

Our internal sense of security relies on our body’s ability to fight off invaders.
That means our cells already in our bodies must be stronger than the invading cells in order to stay healthy. We instinctually link our ability to survive to our ability to thrive. When our health is damaged, so is our security, thus the fear.

Loss of love

How many people have pushed away loved ones because of this fear?
I hear many stories about spouses leaving their partners after an injury. I’ve witnessed this, but research proves the opposite is true. More people tend to stay with their spouses after a traumatic injury than tend to leave. I just wish these were the stories most often heard around the rehab rooms.

Criticism

People have to be right in the eyes of their fellow men and women.
Arguments continuing beyond the status of reason owe their existence to this particular fear. Fashion, diet and exercise gyms owe many of their inflated profits to this fear.
I have to admit that when I’m out in public I can’t help but wonder if someone is looking at me or at the wheelchair. So, I made sure I got a really cool wheelchair.

Death

We all have that deep, internal question, where did I come from and where will I go?
Many of us were raised with the two options of paradise and brimstone. I understand how our war-torn veterans really question where we’ll end up. There are no easy answers to this question and I’m not a priest, preacher, rabbi or monk.
I spend many hours with my priest attempting to find a positive resolution to those fears in my head. I recommend those with similar fears do the same.

The Fight Isn’t Over

Look these fears in the eyes, acknowledge them, understand them, but don’t succumb to them.
With the exception of death and old age, I’ve experienced all of these fears. I didn’t enjoy those experiences, but I wasn’t defeated by them either.
My favorite quote from the 2006 movie Rocky Balboa is when Rocky tells his son, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”
We’ve all been hit in life. Some harder than others. Yes it’s hard. Yes it hurts. But the fight’s not over. Not for you, not for me. Not by a long shot.
Scoba Rhodes is a U.S. Navy veteran and author of  Rules of Engagement: A Self-Help Guide for Those Overcoming Major Personal Trauma

 

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