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Moving Beyond the Fear Response

Posted by Becca Marcus at 13th August, 2010

by Cindi Cook, Woodhull Alumna

Originally posted to The Huffington Post on August 11th , 2010

Five months ago today I found out I’d be blogging for this website. I was thrilled, happily stunned, and felt a sudden sense of serenity upon hearing the news. Although I’d already held the top position at a regional luxury magazine, I couldn’t help but feel that this was another huge step up the editorial ladder. As a freelance writer, my days are occupied composing in front of the computer, sending out ideas and interacting with editors in the process, with nothing but the need to refill the coffee cup or run to the post office to interrupt my day. Obtaining a blog at a top news outlet is a coup for any writer. Isn’t this what I’ve always wanted? One would think so, but as it has many times, fear stepped in and took hold. Five months later I finally sent in my post. And it took me about one hour to write when I sat down to do it. It seems fear still has its iron grip held tightly around my subconscious.

I am a fast writer, I am a good writer–a colleague not long ago even called me “spectacular”. But that’s not the issue. The issue is the permanence of it all. Once one’s work is done and in print, everyone knows what I feel, how I think, my values, morals, judgments, opinions; I am laid raw, and the reader is left to take their turn–to agree, disagree, give a thumbs up to a piece or rip it to shreds. The strong, confident Cindi that people know me to be says, “So what! Who cares about the naysayers?!” But the Cindi who cowers in her apartment when things get tense, runs, headlong, into any diversion possible, answering e-mail and dusting the coffee table one too many times. Avoids. Like the plague. Until now.

Fear can hold people back more often than not, from doing what they love, from taking the risk of becoming a painter rather than a stockbroker. It can keep them from taking any risk at all. Witness multiple stories on the evening news of executives who hang up their career after 20 years to sculpt or start a nonprofit. No doubt, taking the first safe step in a good job with security and benefits speaks multitudes, but so does satisfaction. Knowing that I’ve completed a piece of writing and it’s on its way to publication-on deadline-puts my soul at ease. I’m no longer caught in the freneticism that walks hand-in-hand with fear. One follows the other, imitating, repeating, and playing at a pointless game. Fear can keep us in place dulling our ability to pay attention to what we really should: Our desire.

Since Jean-Paul Sartre is my hero, I can’t help but call up his words to demonstrate the point. In his masterpiece, Being and Nothingness, Sartre points out the necessity of action. The father of existentialism says it plain:

The paradox is not that there are “self-activated” existences but that there is no other kind. What is truly unthinkable is passive existence; that is, existence which perpetuates itself without having the force either to produce itself or preserve itself. From this point of view there is nothing more incomprehensible than the principle of inertia.”

Spoken like a truly pragmatic Gaul. But he of all men took rationality to new heights, especially with this book, which contains far too much within its covers to be discussed here, but let it be said that inertia is the first step on the road to a life ruled by reality TV and trips to the mall. Inertia is one rung above numbness and one rung below ignorance, the last ring of turmoil before one plunges into the inferno of mediocrity. Fear feeds inertia which feeds it back, in kind, a dull dance that moves one nowhere. Motivation finally comes out of desire, and only that–wanting to do something and getting it done.

My fear was ruling my decisions instead of my action; when it became incomprehensible is when I took the leap. Fear can either keep one in purgatory or propel one forward. It keeps a writer’s fingers moving across the keyboard, gets us out of bed when the alarm clock goes off, or pushes us to outrun the guy gaining on us in a Saturday morning 5K. Fear of losing a love has driven some to kill, others to get down on bended knee, and others to neglect. It’s at the root of why people smoke pot or shoot up, for fear of facing what they have to or of really connecting with others. It keeps people isolated, in debt, angry, and in denial-or socializing, prosperous, happy, and facing reality. It keeps the drunk from getting sober, the boyfriend from saying “I love you”, the father from actually hugging his son, the boss from praising his next in line. It is ever-present and will consume us if we don’t take action. It is our worst enemy–and most of us don’t even know it. Those who act, do; those who don’t, don’t. And nothing comes of it but fear itself.

Follow Cindi Cook on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cindicook

About Becca Marcus

Becca Marcus has written 46 articles on this blog.

Becca is the Program Coordinator at the Woodhull Institute. She is a graduate of Vassar College with a BA in Media Studies and a correlate in Women's Studies. Becca is interested in Remix Video, collaborative technology, and Feminist community building.

Category : Careers / Community Member Projects and Updates / Living

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