Is fear a prison?

This image is making its way around facebook, and on first look, I can see why most people feel like it makes sense. But I have been doing a lot of personal work around fear lately, and I have a different perspective.

I think that fear is a good thing. At its core, fear is a set of physiological, psychological, and emotional responses to external threats. It evolved to basically save our lives in the face of lions, tigers and bears (oh, my!) It is, in a sense, a protective adaptation. If we didn't feel fear, and respond to it, we would be in danger of not being careful enough.

I've been thinking of fear as my friend and protector, lately. I've been having virtual beers with my fear. Listening to it, and hearing what it has to tell me. I have deep gratefulness for the ways in which fear has protected me from harm over the years.

The origin of the sentiment in the picture though, is what happens when we actually don't listen to the fear, but follow it blindly, without question, observation or curiosity as to why it is present. Of course, if you are driving down the street, and some person runs a red light in front of you, following your fear blindly will likely save your life. But if you're standing in the kitchen with a loved one, for instance, following your fear blindly will likely lead to suffering.

We need to observe the fear, notice its presence, notice how it feels to us, notice what instincts it brings up in us. We need to acknowledge the fear, and work to listen to what it is trying to tell us. But we don't always need to follow it blindly, or let it take over. That's when we get imprisoned by it.

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