– Summary of Ted Talk by novelist Karen Thompson Walker
– An intimate confession of my own fear
Near death experiences, roller-coasters, horror movies, snakes, or disease, these are examples of traumatic experiences turned fears that we never forget. They haunt us. They are our scars. We are chained to our fears, we are victims, we dare not to confront, and we avoid what we cannot control.
But Walker suggests that we can control our fears. We can look at fear in the form of stories. With our highly imaginative minds, instead of avoiding our fears, we can read into our fears. Because fears can be seen as our stories, we have the power to be the authors and the readers. We can choose to be rational instead of emotional about our scary thoughts. Fear can be used as a tool. Walker introduces the phenomenon, “productive paranoia”, whereby fear is used as a motivator for preventing unfavorable outcomes. Studies show that A-type personalities often uphold this “productive paranoia” and use it to their advantage. The paranoia of being unsuccessful, losing, failing, feeling weak, fearing the worst of outcomes, motivate a surge of productivity towards succeeding, winning, gaining, feeling strong and fighting fears.
Fear can be an everyday clairvoyance.
Fear can be wisdom, insight, and truth.
I am sharing with you my thoughts on fear because I fight with an incurable disease. I was born with it, it is genetic, I have had it all my life, and most likely will have it for the rest of my life. It is not life-threatening and not contagious. It is called Atopic Dermatitis.
I am open to my disease, but not public about it. Until now…
I fear the feel of it. I fear how it weakens my morale and spirit. I fear the look of it. I fear the perception of others of it. I fear the hassle of it. I fear the never-ending struggle. I fear its incurability.
Walker talks about fear as something we struggle with, something we fight and try to overcome. I think a fear is also something you hide, something you are ashamed of, something you dismiss, something you don’t want anyone to know about. Either way, on the other positive hand, fear is something that brings out the natural optimist in all of us.
The continual battle with fear drains our will power and puts us in a state of stress. I am always in constant battle with my skin because it is largely affected by lifestyle. I live and breathe fitness. My body works for me; I sweat it, I strain it, I stress it, I put it through the worst conditions possible, I kick its ass. Furthermore, I am a food enthusiast, a wine connoisseur, and restauranteur, and I pay for my indulgences, not through my weight (like many), but through my skin disease. If I eat or drink poorly, my skin flares up, it itches, it reddens, it aches, it cracks, it rips, it dries, and it terrorizes.
But as a born optimist, I have learned to work with it, and I continually learn from it. My indulging habits force me to adopt and practice the healthiest of habits. My disease is my devil and angel, my offense and defense, but ultimately, it is my blessing in disguise. I am an A-type, so I use it to my advantage. I practice productive paranoia because I fear the feeling of a flare-up. Thus I am very clean and hygienic. I understand how much the benefits of exercise and nutrition truly benefit my skin, that I have made the study of exercise and nutrition my career and passion.
So there it is. My secret is out. My motivation to do well in this world stems from my fear of my skin disease. This concept of fear is something I have been working with lifelong. I have grown from it. I have learned from it. I am intimate with it. I am perceptive of it. I choose to see it as a tool. I choose to see it as a blessing. And I am choosing now to not disguise it. I am confronting it. I am unveiling it. I am sharing it.
Most people in this world do not discuss their fears because it is extremely difficult. Opening deep scars, exposing wounds, and shining light on dark experiences can be a fear in itself. I am not telling people to openly share their fears; it is a personal choice to be open about it. I am just trying to lead by example.
It is only when an individual recognizes their fear, takes the time to understand it and work with it that they can consistently manage it, and optimistically thinking, they can overcome it. I wish you the best on your journey of bravery and fearlessness.
“The only way to experience fearlessness is to know the nature of fear”
“Smile at fear”
What fear can teach us by Karen Thompson Walker
Fear & Fearlessness by Pema Chodron