In this section:
“Where there is fear – there is power” Starhawk
- Fear is “expectation with alarm”
- Fear is a normal, instinctive response to a perceived threat
- Fear is largely based on pondering a possible future or the what-if’s of the past, whereas the power to make change is in the present.
- Fear is often a little voice inside you head that wants you to avoid things that are uncomfortable – confrontation, speaking in public etc. That little voice can create monsters in your imaginations
Fear has a physiological base. There are chemicals in our head that stimulate three primary fear reactions – crying, freezing or aggressive response. Fear can lead to panic, which is not knowing what to do when you are afraid. Typically when afraid the adrenals kick in, boosting the fuel, increasing heart and respiratory rate. This can give you amazing strength but can also make it harder to think in the moment if you are not experienced or prepared for the situation.
One of the most difficult aspects of fear is the anticipation of what will happen – we often stop what we are doing as soon as we start to get afraid. When we push boundaries, fear can get worse and worse, more intense till we think we are going to die. The truth is that part of you needs to die in order for you to move beyond this fear – that part yelling in your ear, that feels you need it to survive.
We cling to things the way they are so we don’t have to change into who we’d be without it. The truth is you can’t know until you go through it and understand that your fear is not keeping you safe. The real obstacle is understanding that fear is often you fighting yourself to avoid changing into your future self..
You can run away from the thing that scares you or you can empower yourself in your relationship to that object or source of fear.
If we can express what we are afraid of – we have taken the first step to moving through it. We choose to deal with the elephant in the room…if we don’t express it, it becomes a ghost – present but unseen, unknown, lurking, haunting us and our work.
One way to deal with fear is to take the object of it and break the big problems down to little manageable steps and make it a habit of dealing with these little problems one at a time in the present.
Organizers need to create a space for people to feel comfortable, safe and included. A space where people can reveal their fear and deal with the real story of what is going on…
One easy exercise is to put people in groups or pairs to talk about Hopes and Fears around a particular action, situation etc – then report back and see who else has the same fears. You can do this by simply asking for a show of hands of who has the same fears.
Some steps to working with fear:
- Notice it – express it, make it visible
- Explore it – what is real, what is imaginary
- Ask “Dumb” Questions – so what if that happens?
- Make it huge – what is the worst that can happen, then what, agitate to anger
- Make a plan to deal with it– motivate
- Break it into with simple, small steps
- Identify what support is needed
- Get Commitment – easy, immediate, short-term tasks – focus on action to take
- Provide Support – build confidence
- Follow-up, Debrief, Learn
In strategic nonviolent conflict we want to keep our wits about us and our fear at bay. To put us in the best position to address our fear is to do good strategic planning and organizing that builds confidence. From our confidence we can access our courage. Courage is not the lack of fear; it is the willingness to take action despite it.