F: Fear & Focus: Capacity for Change

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Mr. Nelson Mandela

Mr. Nelson Mandela Why am I putting Fear and Focus together? Fear can sometimes help us focus on what needs to be confronted, if we make that bold step. When I am assailed by fearful feelings, I realise they are often the sharp spur needed to shake me out of my langour and torpor. I feel a slight shift, a slight change, a slightly heightened awareness; and I include in that my feelings about aging and what confronts me in the mirror. Sometimes I like, sometimes I don’t –

Paradoxically, fear can promote fulfilment. It could be another sharp nudge to re-member what we lost, want and need. It can motivate us to make those changes we may feel helpless about. We can re-think e.g. our attitude to our health and illness or those of loved ones or ones not so well loved. We may feel fear towards our economic situation, fear about aging bones, fear of loss of youth and all that that stands for. Yet, if we sit with the feeling and go into it we might find something very different emerging from what we initially fearfully anticipated. It is hard to do this –

Of course, fear can also paralyse and we become frozen. We forget that life is in flux and that in the ebb and flow that this time, whether of aging or just where we are now, is a time to look deep inside and to acknowledge what it is that keeps us bound and imprisoned. Name it – and be free from the illusions that have bound us to fantasies of how things ‘should’ be – and feel a sense of marching towards real freedom.

Focus – and be in the moment –

‘We would rather be ruined than changed,

We would rather die in our dread

Than climb the cross of the present

And let our illusions die.’

W.H. Auden, The Age of Anxiety

57 Comments on F: Fear and Focus: Capacity for Change

  1. Wonderful, Susan. A great poem to end a great topic. Such a beautiful photo of Nelson Mandela, too. Fear and focus come together in my experience, so I’m glad you paired them and made me think about how it works in me. When I feel anxiety or dread in my belly, I know I have to focus of the issues or project at hand. Like other “shadow” energies such as anger, fear can be a great teacher as long as we don’t have too much of it.

    • Thanks so much Elaine. Anxiety also gets me in my belly, in my guts – an awful feeling but it does help me focus. Great that you named it a shadow energy – all of them are useful even if they are draining.

  2. Am seriously loving the short poetry lines you include in your posts Susan! I’m with Jacqui, those are five stunning lines, that say it all so well! Fear and focus make for a great read … I remember the day I came across the book ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ … I deeply relate to this maxim. Thank you for another wonderful read! Loving the ‘Change’ theme, so inspirational … would make for a great little motivating book you know. Blessings, Deborah.

    • Thanks Deborah! I agree about Auden’s lines – they do knock one down as in the meaning of stun! I’ve heard of that book, Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway.

      Thank you for your encouraging words, as always. Deep gratitude, Susan

  3. Hi Susan – fear can close us down .. yet it could be a great opening and opportunity … the challenge is the time limit – that’s why Nelson Mandela’s 27 years is an inspiration for many … we need to work towards our goal of a simple, real life lived with love and compassion …

    We can always learn from everyone and every hiccup .. take care and cheers Hilary

    • Thank you Hilary – ‘fear can close one down’ – what a great image albeit a scary one. As is your image of a simple real life lived with love and compassion.

      You too take care Hilary, Susan

  4. Inspirational post, especially if one lets the fear create stress that fosters ill health – as with my disability. But then I have to focus on the abilities that keep me going, striving against the MonSter that wants to torment me. We are more than our fears.

    • Thanks Roland for coming by – it’s good to focus on what works and let go of what doesn’t .. what a great saying ‘we are more than our fears’.

  5. As a consequence of his poor choices, a lot of bad energy got bottled up inside of him and it propelled him into action once more.,

  6. About the 15 year boy, I was thinking of a composite. 1959 to 1964, I worked at the Forensic Clinic at Toronto Psychiatric Hospital. I did diagnostic testing, therapy, & research.

  7. Oh, how I’ve missed your poetic musings! And I couldn’t agree more! We’re on the same page today, as Fear, the narrator of my story, EOS, took over my blog and gave us his viewpoint.

    The AtoZ of EOS

    • Thank you for coming by Sam in spite of the hecticness of it all. Been wanting to pop over to yours, and this weekend I will!

  8. I love the Nelson Mandela quote. Your mention of the fear of aging resonated with me. I look in the mirror every day and see the signs that youth was a long time ago! But it scares me sometimes but yet it makes me excited for what is to come.

    Great post.

    Michele at Angels Bark

    • Thanks Michele – funny/strange how we get caught in those opposites sometimes, between two apparent polarities! Scary yet a tingling anticipation!

  9. I love the introductory thoughts about fear, and the heart-felt and inspirational comments!

    I stop to wonder about the 15 year old boy who would steal a bike, would have 4 older guys chase after him with knives and clubs, and the boy might race across a railway track & nearly get cut to pieces by an oncoming locomotive. Despite all of this, he would most likely be doing this again in the near-future. I wonder how the energy of his fear get converted, or bypassed into something to make him forget, maybe excessively drinking alcohol? His form of loving is infantile and self-indulgent.

    • Thank you Joseph. Were you thinking of a particular person in narrating this story? I guess the lad could have gone in many different directions. Maybe he got addicted to that kind of excitement … who knows.

  10. This is a FABULOUS post Susan, as we Do have to focus when there is fear… trust me, I’m learning the hard way! Slowly we manage to work through our problems. Thanks!!!

    • Thank you dear Gwynn. I don’t think we learn about fear in any way other than the hard way! (Unless ingrained in us from an early age I suppose). It comes on so many guises as I’m learning re my brother, e.g. fear of the phone call –

  11. Love the W.H. Auden quote, Susan, and that again you cite Nelson Mandela as an example of working through fear. He was a master.

    Always good to be reminded of how to think about fear, how to think and work through it.

    Thank you.

  12. For the living history museum at school, my son was Nelson Mandela. This was one of the quotes he told me about. So fun when our kids discover “new” wisdom.

    • That’s a great role model to play! A real embodiment. How lovely when our children at whatever age come across the greats. Thanks for coming by Kristin.

  13. Fear can also be a drug we get addicted to. Especially those who grew in chaos – they desire to be uncertain – that is the chemistry their body craves. It is so hard as it is under every other addiction – this one. Fear in the now is helpful but the fear that haunts our future and our past – yikes! So glad to read you again this year – makes the A
    to Zed for me!
    Jan Morrison, this crazy writing life

    • So pleased you brought that up Jan thank you! From early childhood as you say especially if chaotic, it becomes a desire the body craves – an addiction to fear. And maybe a fear that if they didn’t have that addiction, the alternative is too impossible to even think about. Yikes, yes … scary ..

      Thank you for your kind words! I was telling some girlfriends tonight (we met for a birthday dinner) about the lovely authors and people you wrote about in your posts.

  14. Great insights. I’m always doing things that scare me, sometimes in spite of myself.

    I’ll be on that crazy boat trip from hell in Lombok or about to enter the ring and think, “Why am I doing this again?” But I never regret it.

    Come to think of it, this challenge is pretty damn scary.

    • Ha ha! This challenge is something else again J.H.! But, we do it – and don’t regret it.

      I enjoy your scary stories in a vicarious way as they highlight the perversity of human nature or the corruption of a soul gone wrong in some unbelievable yet real way – which scares me even further. Thanks for coming by!

  15. Fantastic post, Susan.
    I think you really captured the–dichotomy maybe?–of fear. It can both help us focus, if we stop to do so, or it can makes us freeze.

    I love both the Mandela quote and the lines from Auden. I just read a bit about the poem to find that it may be one of the first English language poems to deal with the genocide of WWII. Auden was in Germany after the war with the US military.

    • Thanks Merril for filling us in with some extra information about the origins of the poem. Who was the other one – T.S Eliot – four quartets – my brain is on the blink at this late hour. I would have thought there were earlier poets?

      The dichotomy? Maybe a paradox?

  16. hi Susan thats my favourite quote of nelson mandala, I loved the way you evolved this post.. focus and be in the moment 🙂 and the last words have a solid punch.. I love the way you put it “we would rather be ruined than changed… ”
    ” to be brave is to conquer fear ” thanks susan for this lovely post, appreciate you !!

    • Thanks Genevive ..it’s a powerful quote by Auden that is so apt for our human condition. Much appreciate your coming by!

  17. I love this quote by Nelson Mandela because I have learned to do things even if I am afraid. Every time I get up on stage my knees shake. When they stop shaking, I don’t know but during the concert I’ll notice that my knees are shaking any more. I heard another speaker some years ago say, do it afraid. Courage grows when we admit that we are scared but do whatever we need to do anyway.
    Love this post, Susan.
    Visiting from the A to Z Blog Challenge.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

    • Thanks Pat – feel the fear but do it anyway – what a wonderful way to be truly brave and courageous. Thank you for sharing your fear when you step up on stage ..

  18. Amazing how fear can affect us in so many ways. We do certain things out of fear, run away from other things for the same reason. Resolve to never have to return to moments of fear by taking certain actions. Fear is a great self-defense mechanism, yet is paralyzing.
    Wonderful post, Susan, and such telling quotes.

    • Thanks Silvia for your lovely comment. It’s a paradox in its way – the same dynamic is at work with different manifestations depending how we ‘use’ it …

  19. Brilliant post, including the comments. I especially enjoyed Mary’s reference to Psalm 139. I would also add “Perfect love casts out fear, for fear has torment.”

    When I feel fear, I know I must run past it.

  20. This is the power of poetry. No novel or story could say that so eloquently as those five lines of poetry.

  21. Fear is important and it definitely gets our attention. My experience of fear has been intense throughout my life and it became a driving force for me. Sure, it motivated me to be focused and do a PhD and other important things in life. AND I’m starting to do things out of love, not out fear. There’s a tangible shift, softness and slowness to acting out of love. I’m good at focusing when I need to, so I just need to release the excess of fear. Thought provoking post, thank you Susan.

    • Thank you Gulara and how wonderful that you do things out of love not fear. That’s such an enormous shift! May any excess be fully released and may many or all of us learn to love and experience that shift no matter how slowly it begins.

  22. I wrote a message to myself on my bedroom mirror, You are beautifully and wonderfully made. – God
    It helps. Sometimes, all we can see are our flaws. God sees our beauty. People love us for who we are, not our pants size.
    Mary at Play off the Page

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