The Foundations of FearCategory:Emotions,Fear
Next week I will be coming out with a new book, The Journey Beyond Fear, published by McGraw Hill. It’s a timely book given the current global pandemic and the fear that many of us have felt in confronting a life-threatening disease. But I want to caution against tying the book too tightly with the pandemic.
I actually started writing this book three years ago, well before the current pandemic. I was driven to write the book because I traveled around the world as part of my work, and I realized that fear was the dominant emotion that I was encountering everywhere.
Based on the research I’ve done, I believe the spread of fear is very understandable. Long–term forces reshaping our global economy and society are creating mounting performance pressure for more and more people. That pressure can take many different forms, but it includes intensifying competition on a global scale, the accelerating pace of change and extreme, disruptive events that come in out of nowhere, because of the global connectivity we have created. Who wouldn’t be afraid in such a world?
And we live in environments that increasingly focus on amplifying that fear. Look at our news media. When was the last time that you saw a news story about some positive event? Our news reports are dominated by the latest disaster or catastrophe that has occurred somewhere in the world – the message is clear: our world is falling apart.
And then we have our political environment where politicians on all sides are increasingly embracing threat-based narratives: the enemy is coming to get us, we’re all going to die, we need to mobilize now and resist or we’re going to die. These threat-based narrative feed our fear. We’re all going to die!?! Of course, we should be afraid.
Now, I get a lot of push back from many when I talk about fear as the dominant emotion among more and more people. They tell me that they haven’t heard many people say they’re afraid. My response is that there’s a reason for that. We live in cultures where expressing fear is a sign of weakness. If you’re afraid, the last thing you want to do is express weakness. And, for many of us, we don’t even want to acknowledge our feeling of fear to ourselves, much less to others. We hide from the fear.
In these cultures, we have a tendency to manifest fear through other emotions, like anger, stress or anxiety. But if we peer beneath those emotions, we’ll often find the underlying emotion of fear. In a world of fear, it’s very hard to build trust with others but I find that, when I am able to establish that trust, I find people more willing to acknowledge that fear, especially if I’m willing to share my own fear.
And that fear isn’t just among the general population. It’s among our leaders as well. I work with a lot of business leaders and they are increasingly focused on the shrinking tenure of CEO’s and other corporate leaders. They see the mounting pressure every day and realize that, if they miss their quarterly targets by a few percentage points, their jobs and reputation are at risk.
Perhaps one of the reasons that trust is eroding in all our institutions is that our leaders are unwilling to acknowledge their fear. From the outside looking in, many people lose trust in those leaders – are they clueless about the pressure that is increasing or are they so narcissistic that they over-estimate their ability to deal with the pressure?
Another push back that I get is that biologically our brains are wired to experience fear – after all, isn’t that what the amygdala is designed to do? I would certainly acknowledge that parts of our brains are wired to feel fear – after all, if we see someone coming at us with a club or a gun, we definitely need to experience fear to get away.
But I hasten to point out that none of us want to live in fear. Tell me one person you know whose aspiration is to live in fear. We all have a hunger for hope and for achieving more impact that is meaningful to us. We all realize that fear is a very limiting emotion.
That’s why I wrote my new book. We all need to acknowledge our fear and understand why that feeling is becoming so dominant among us. That’s a necessary first step in moving beyond fear. But it’s just a first step. We need to find ways to cultivate hope and excitement that will help us to move forward and achieve more impact in spite of our fear. It’s a challenging journey, but it’s one that I’ve been on now for decades and one that I believe we all need to embrace. My book provides insight into some key pillars that can help us make this journey.
I’ve scheduled some virtual (and free) launch events next week that will help to introduce some key themes in the book.
My first launch event on May 25th will be with Jean Houston and will explore how we can achieve more and more of our potential when we cultivate emotions of hope and excitement. You can register for this event here.
My second launch event on May 26th will be with Quentin Hardy and the focus of this event will be on the untapped opportunity in the business world to cultivate emotions that can lead to exponentially expanding opportunity. You can register for this event here.
My third launch event on May 26th will be with Dale Dougherty and here we will focus on how movements can significantly increase their impact by focusing on positive emotions, rather than playing to our fear. You can register for this event here.
I invite you to join me in any or all of these launch events to learn more about the ground that my book covers. I would also deeply welcome any and all help you might be able to provide in increasing awareness of this new book within your networks. I believe it’s very timely and very much needed by all as we strive to make a difference that matters.
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