We have been talking a lot about fear that is not helpful. But if we all experience fear, then there has to be some fear that is helpful, right? This is what David Richo talks about in this section.
David Richo suggests that there are some basic characteristics of healthy and appropriate fear. One is that if it is an appropriate fear, a solution or alternative is always possible. You are not stuck. David Richo says an alternative could be standing up for yourself (rather than simply staying scared inside and trying to tolerate/minimize/deny what is happening), holding your ground or finding a creative solution to a problem that will work for everyone involved. Notice how these options require having contact with the fear in the first place. Even finding a creative solution or a road around the fear, requires knowing the fear so you can navigate.
The other basic features of healthy fear David Richo identifies are the following: 1. It acts as a messenger to let you know something is happening that requires a response. 2. It is a guide to show you the location of the threat. 3. It is an ally as its energy can be integrated to help us have the resources to respond to the threat.
Again, to be able to leverage the wisdom of healthy fear, we have to allow ourselves to be present to it, to listen to it. If we are always protecting ourselves from uncomfortable emotions, we can block healthy programs we have for managing human life like grief and appropriate fear. If we have the courage to be open to what comes up, we can go with our nature rather than work against it. It does require us to tolerate a little discomfort and have some curiosity during that discomfort. I bet we could all breathe and tolerate a little bit of distress in the interest of life being easier and getting what we want.
Ok, let’s look at a real life example. Let’s say that you get a gut feeling about a person or a place that says you don’t want be involved with this person or be in this place (this is assuming you don’t feel this discomfort about every person or place). Usually those feelings come up for a reason and if we pay attention, we can find an alternative to being with that person or place. Or, let’s say that you are helping someone out, but they begin to ask too much. Maybe not in a malicious way, they just happened to need a lot. You start to feel uncomfortable because it is too much for you. If you listen to your response (maybe fear that you can’t get it all done or that you are starting to feel resentful), you will see that something needs to be done. An unhealthy response would be to deny or minimize your discomfort and not say anything about what is happening. Realize that this usually leads to a blow up or shutting someone out. A healthy response would be: “I really would like to help you because I care about you. And this is too much for me right now. Could we talk about a way that I could help that works for both of us?” Or something along those lines. That way, you can take care of yourself and the relationship you have with this person.
Of course, there are extreme examples when there is abuse or violence and there really isn’t a collaborative approach and you just need to leave or delineate or uphold boundaries. Either way, the bottom line is listening to the signals that your internal world is sending.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".