Are You Afraid of Being Afraid?

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Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. It is an emotion spurred by belief. That belief can be legitimate, or bogus; nevertheless, the emotion it evokes is undeniably powerful.

Are You Afraid of Being Afraid?

In his first inaugural address on March 4, 1933, newly-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt used these lines in one of his opening paragraphs:

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”   Watch the video here: https://youtu.be/6EuAZsz_z_U 

I’ve often read those words without giving them much thought. Truly, President Roosevelt was a wordsmith, a master at molding, leading, and at times following public opinion; in essence, he was a master politician. And politicians seek to move us with words. So, perhaps a closer examination of Roosevelt’s words regarding fear would be a profitable exercise.

Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. It is an emotion spurred by belief. That belief can be legitimate, or bogus; nevertheless, the emotion it evokes is undeniably powerful.

President Roosevelt called fear ‘nameless’. When we cannot put a name to our fears it’s like being afraid of being afraid. During the Great Depression, the population had concrete and justified fears, and many saw what they feared come to pass. But what caused many to ‘be afraid of being afraid?’  

Roosevelt called this fear ‘unreasoning.’ It goes beyond reason to ‘be afraid of being afraid.’ Fearing imminent danger, pain, or an obvious threat is reasonable. But to fear the act of being fearful simply doesn’t make sense.

He went on to brand this fear ‘unjustified.’ There was no just cause for fearing fear. Yes, there was much of which to be afraid; but fear was not one of those justifiable things. There was simply no just cause to ‘be afraid of being afraid.’

Roosevelt’s reasoning is explained in the remaining portion of his famous sentence, the portion that is tragically omitted when sharing this great quote. ‘Being afraid of being afraid’ … “paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” When we are afraid of the emotion of fear, we are paralyzed. Completely incapable of action; or completely capable of inaction. Useless. Rather than using fear to motivate ourselves to action, we let the fear of being afraid render us hors de combat without engaging in combat against that which caused our fear.

Conversely, when we allow fear to motivate us to constructive action, our fear is leveraged for good. This was the intent behind President Roosevelt’s words. His sweeping message was essentially “Don’t be paralyzed by the fear of being afraid; realize your fear of negative outcomes, and allow that to become the trigger that blasts you into action!

Are you afraid of being afraid?

 

For more musings about my random thoughts, writing and editorial projects, or if you're just nosy, visit my blog at http://michaeldstover70.wix.com/michaeldstover 

 

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