As if we need yet another way to divide us, I’m going to do it anyway.
There are two types of people in the world: Those who enjoy roller coasters, and those who would rather have sharp object pierce their eyeballs. The difference between is how each rider labels what is happening in their body as they are being hurled over the amusement park’s grounds at 80 miles per hour. As each exits the ride onto the platform, those who enjoyed the experience are screaming in glee, “My God! That was amazing!” Conversely, the others too are yelling: “My God! That was terrifying!”
Upon giving thought to the reactions, the reality is they both experienced the same events, possibly even sitting next to each other. Each viewed the same sights; felt the wind racing across their skin; faced (literally) the identical ups and downs at the same precise periods. Their bodies felt equivalent forces acting on them; heart rates elevated; breathing increased and shallow; g-forces pushing on them without a difference.
The only variance was whether they labeled those sensations as “fear” or as “excitement”
In that word, lies all the difference.
Excitement is anticipatory; propelling us forward with a sense of awe and an expectation of positive results forthcoming; our senses are heightened. Excitement triggers creativity, sparking us to ask of ourselves, “What if…?” From such analysis, inspired energy explodes outward, saturating our views with the prospect of what might be. Excitement spreads outward, embraces the next; moving us eagerly, joyfully, expectantly, and fully aware into new experiences.
Fear, on the other hand, is protective; alerting us to – in reality, or perception –pending danger. Of course, that triggers the fight or – most likely – flight response. Physically and emotionally, we shrink, hunkering down, seeking shelter with a laser focus, ignoring all that surrounds us. We desperately hunt for avenues to extricate ourselves from what we perceive as a threat, our one and only objective — overpowering all else — is “make it stop.” Nothing else matters.
Neither emotion is good nor bad; they simply are.
Without the cautionary voice of fear, we would not survive. Without excitement, we do not thrive nor love nor grow; we merely exist.
You might be saying, “That’s all well and good, but I don’t care what you call it, there’s no way I’m getting into a rickety, coffin-shaped mechanism and allowing myself to be hurled at excessive speeds up and down a skinny metal track while secured only by a bar and a belt. Call it what you wish, that’s just nuts.”
Yet the implications of understanding the difference between these two twin-sibling emotions can make all the difference in the path of our lives. As I’ve said oft-times, “What we say to ourselves determines what we do to ourselves.” To that end, let’s move it into the real world of 2020.
I’ll own up to being frightened; there is much to be fearful about. I don’t want to get COVID; it strikes terror in me. I am filled with consternation about financial collapse and not being able to survive well and easily into my later years. I am deeply dismayed at the level of discourse and violence shattering our country. I shudder at the affront shown to vulnerable populations. I am anxious about our planet; I know Earth will survive – but will we? I am upset about the world in which future generations will be raised. There is much to be worried about.
I am scared. I admit it. I own it. And when I so focus, I, by default, contract, hopeless, stagnant, hunkered down, immobile; a passenger in my own life.
Yet, I also know that from pain births greatness.
I don’t understand why they have to be related but I accept that they are. While admittedly timorous, the prospect of cooperative peoples overcoming climate change, injustice, and financial inequity fills me with hope. I can imagine a world where we live in balance with our environment, where disagreement is resolved civilly and respectfully, and those elected ‑— via free and fair contests — seek only the betterment of all concerned. That prospect is exciting.
Of course, I don’t know how it will turn out. Both are formless futures. Yet, together they reside in possibility at the same time, neither path locked in. Should I paint tomorrow with the hues of “excitement,” I will move forward toward that vision. Should I brand it as “fear,” I shall remain stagnant, allowing that vision to manifest.
One day, we’ll exit this ride, one way or another. When we place our feet firmly or shakily onto the platform, what will be the conclusion of the statement: “My God, that was…”?
The choice is ours.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a professional speaker and founder of www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com, where he can be contacted for coaching, consulting, and presentations. During this social distancing period, he is conducting monthly on-line workshops on setting goals and getting past what holds you back. You can find out more at www.ThisTimeIMeanIt.com/intentions