Fear vs. Faith: Confronting Darkness

FEAR. Let’s start here. There is a common misconception among men that the truly brave operate fearlessly, while those who experience fear are fundamentally cowards. I’m here to tell you that this is simply untrue.

In my experience, the guys who run blindly into critically dangerous situations either don’t appreciate the scope of the threat at hand, or — while they do get it at some level — they are hardwired to dissociate before the panic sets in. In the first case, the guy is oblivious; he simply doesn’t know that there’s a threat. In the second case, the guy is ignorant; he understands that there’s a threat, but he’s ignoring it at a subconscious level. This is classic denial… the old “this is fine” routine.

Obliviousness doesn’t demonstrate bravery, obviously. If you have no clue that there’s a threat, there’s no act of bravery involved. Similarly, ignorance compartmentalizes the threat before it can be consciously processed, so it’s not especially brave. In fact, there’s an argument that denial is cowardly, which is why manning-up involves “facing the music”, so to speak. Instead, bravery is demonstrated when we understand exactly what the risks are in a given situation, we allow ourselves to experience unpleasant feelings ranging from heightened anxiety to sheer terror, and despite being gripped with debilitating fear we proceed forward anyway. Bravery is defying fear, which requires not only acknowledging it but embracing it, and definitely not avoiding it.

In my own personal life I have survived some unimaginably scary situations. It isn’t interesting for me to tell war stories — this is about you, not me — but believe me when I say that I’ve been to Hell and back. Not once during any of those horror films that I lived through was I was calm, cool, or collected. It’s an understatement to say that I was absolutely terrified. But I did what I had to do, in spite of overwhelming feelings of dread. And the truth is that these pivotal moments in my hero’s journey have served as reminders that YES, life can be scary; but also, life rewards those who manage fear and bravely choose faith….. even if that bravery feels like cowardice at the time.

FAITH. I went through a very defiant, rebellious period in my life during which I vehemently attacked the idea of faith. To me it meant stupid. To me it meant “sheeple”. It meant blindly subscribing to some magical thinking bullshit, instead of using critical thinking to solve problems and scientifically explain phenomena. To me the words “faith-based” indicated that someone had been brainwashed and indoctrinated into a religious cult; I considered the words “religious” and “cult” to be synonymous. Also, it was during this time that I was the most terrified, the most risk-averse, the most judgmental, the most aggressive, and the most depressed. I was directionless. I was powerless. I was truly lost.

Somewhere in the course of my life, I began to appreciate the mechanics of it all…. and by “it all”, I literally mean all of life as we presently know it. Or maybe it’s better to say: as we have the potential to know it, once we address our limiting beliefs. I started to understand how fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. I started to appreciate the importance of practicing faith — investing all of your thought energy into the belief that that things can and will get better — even in your darkest hour, when they seem most terrifying. In fact, I learned that practicing faith in these moments, not just when things seem slightly scary but impossibly hopeless, creates opportunities for us to access something miraculous deep within us. We have superpowers; but we don’t practice them, so they lie dormant.

This is of course the crazy-talk that I once attacked others for using. But when you learn what you learn, and you know what you know, you can’t unsee it, you can’t unknow it…. and suddenly it all starts to make sense. My clients come from all walks of life. Many have been raised with the traditions of the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam. Others are Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Zoroastrian, or simply nondenominational Spiritualists. Over the years, I’ve learned as much as possible about the religious traditions of my clients, so as to be able to communicate with them respectfully about FAITH in terms that they are most comfortable with. This said, I’m always careful to remind them that whether they have faith in God, Allah, Elohim, the Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the Sky…. the critical piece is the faith itself; combined with self love, love for your brother, and love for all creation.

So let’s sum it all up. How do we bravely practice FAITH over FEAR in our darkest moments?

• Accept that you are afraid. Allow yourself to accept the fear without fighting it, or trying to deny it. Yes, you’re scared shitless, and that’s okay. Being afraid isn’t unmanly, nor does it indicate weakness.

• Evaluate the situation, and determine what you can control and what you cannot. Be reasonable, and accept that you may need to take minor or even major losses.

• Make a plan for handling the things you CAN control or influence, and systematically begin addressing them. There may be risk involved, and fear of failure may overwhelm you…. but be BRAVE and make moves anyway. Being mechanical about task-stacking and execution is critical.

• Regarding the things you CANNOT control, or have no seeming influence over; HAVE FAITH that these will work themselves out, even if they do not seem to be resolvable in the moment. Good luck is just as reliable as bad luck when you learn to practice an abundance mindset.

• Be STILL. By this I mean internally as well as externally. Practice meditation. Practice the rote recitation of validating statements. DO NOT make judgmental statements about yourself, your situation, and others…. regardless of how justified they seem. Simply DO NOT. Be calm in the face of what seems like imminent doom, and trust that you will come through without catastrophe.

I’m certain that if you are reading this while going through something majorly scary in your own life, this advice seems both typical and impractical for saving you from your current conundrum. This said, I’m telling you it’s best practice. Wait out the dark night, brother. There’s light at the end of all of this. Trust the process, and if you need help getting through…. hit me up.

– Dennis