As I was coming into manhood, a clothing brand began and was almost instantly popular; the brand is easily recognizable and states two words, “No Fear!” Launched in 1989 by twin brothers Mark and Brian Simo, No Fear quickly became one of the most popular sportswear companies globally—and the most popular sportswear company staunchly against being scared. I will not claim I have “No Fear,” but I choose to live without fear. When fears arise, my answer is to learn all I can, mentally prepare for times when those fears will rise again, and then move forward living like those fears will not repeat, for I am mentally prepared.
Case in point, I was on a destroyer in the US Navy. I had been on the ship for more than two years; I was in charge of Repair 5, the Engine Room damage control locker, and in the middle of the 0000–0400-watch, the bells and alarms go off, “Major Fuel Oil Spill in Main 1.” Because I had practiced, I had personally trained my fire team. I was exceedingly knowledgeable about the space, the equipment, and the watchstanders; I proceeded into an actual casualty with confidence, not fear. More, my team could trust the training I had given them, and they moved from sleep to firefighting with confidence. While no fire erupted that night, the casualty was quickly contained by the watchstanders. My fire team was prepared to assist; the experience looked upon is not one of embarrassment from fear but confidence and appreciation for preparation, drills, and knowledge.
My first time going through the CS Gas Chamber happened with my National Guard unit. I was scared, not fearful, just frightened. I had no confidence in the equipment, I had not been to basic training yet, and here I was going into a gas chamber. This experience provided me with confidence that my fellow soldiers in basic training did not have as we went into the gas chamber in basic training when I experienced the gas chamber in the US Army Basic Training, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I had no fear, no trepidation, and no reason to doubt.
During Basic Training, I remember only one time being truly scared, not fearful, just scared! I had failed to pass on the shooting ranges and was facing being kicked out of the US Army because I could not shoot what I was aiming at. I had been shooting since I was 14, I knew how to handle rifles, but still, I could not qualify with the M-16. The problem, I could not relax, and this inability to relax was jerking the trigger and making my rounds go astray. Worse, I did not know why I could not relax. Thus, arrives the point of this article, do you know the why in your emotions, decisions, and desires?
You possess beliefs, and some might even be firmly held beliefs; this is great. I am not writing to dissuade you from your beliefs, to decide differently, or even to emote in a manner foreign to you. My intent is to aid you in introspection, a path of self-knowledge where you know why you know, why you believe, and why you act as you do. Do you know why; in knowing why you begin to understand, and understanding brings knowledge and acceptance.
I have a friend who had an abusive childhood. Her childhood was fraught with danger, all types of abuse, and this childhood prepared her to be in two abusive marriages and consider those abusive marriages as normal. She is now remarried to a good guy, not abusive at all. Except she has a lot of health problems, and she seeks out medical opinions for everything, seeking to find domineering in a relationship as a by-product of her childhood. She refuses to believe that childhood events drive her doctor fixation and not health problems. I will not attempt to dissuade her of this opinion. I support the good she does, the good she and her husband do, and I will continue to choose to be her friend. But fear and refusing to know why has all but crippled my friend, and this is painful to see!
Do you know why? Are you willing to investigate to know why? What will you choose to do when the why is revealed? Knowing why requires mental preparation, mental preparation requires mental strength, agility, and flexibility, all skills that require practice, time, and development through experiences willingly sought. Therein lay the most challenging part of building mental skills, being willing to seek out these opportunities, and remaining fixed upon learning, no matter the cost.
I have met some amazing people who refused to accept what the truth was going to cost them. Learning comes with a price; that price is in the choice to apply or deny what has been taught. The price is the consequence that follows the decision to accept or reject that which was learned. My brother’s wife discovered he was cheating on her and had been cheating on her almost from the moment they married. She stayed in the marriage for seven kids and nearly 20-years. Hoping he would change. I honor her willingness and sacrifice; I respect her devotion to my brother, I understand her position and her reasoning. Still, I wonder, should she have left him immediately upon learning of his infidelity? She knows the why now, but she refused to accept the why, and the consequences were painful in the extreme for many years. She is better now, remarried, and the kids are recovering, but did they have to suffer? Did she have to suffer? Choice and consequence after learning is mentally difficult.
As stated and repeated only for emphasis, you may choose how you will, believe, feel, and act the way you think is best for you and yours. My aim and intent are not to dissuade but to help you more fully appreciate the why and lose the fear. As a teenager, a friend of mine, a shepherd, asked me to help him on the ranch. My first day coincided with shearing day, and with 400-head of sheep to shear, this was not going to be an easy day. Herding the sheep into the corral was not difficult and was accomplished without incident. Getting the sheep into the run and into the trailer to be sheared was incredibly difficult, but getting the sheep out of the shearing van was easier than falling off the porch. Why; because of fear. The sheep wanted to be sheared, but the confinement of the run and the noise the shears produced increased fear so much that the animals could hardly think straight, and they became more fearful the closer they got to the van where the shearing stations were. Animals confined in tight quarters in the run turned themselves about and tried to flee backward in the run. Fear made them do incredible things I had never imagined an animal could do.
As I experienced life, surviving the US Army and the US Navy, I learned what fear does to humans; worse, the consequences of fear leave an indelible impression upon the minds of those who chose to succumb to fear. The movies never show this side of fear; books and magazines never discuss the aspects of what fear does to harm the mind and body of the person involved. Worse, society has come up with terms and names to soften the repercussions of a moment’s fear. As a kid, I watched a lot of M*A*S*H 4077; in one of those shows, Sigmund, the psychiatrist, talks about how a moment’s fear on the battlefield becomes a lifetime of regret, shame, and the potential of an eternal soul is lost. All because, for one moment, fear overcame, and the body responded, while the mind lost control.
Do you know why? Are you willing to discover the why and teach others what you have learned? The final step in introspection is not acceptance but being willing to teach. Through teaching, you learn more perfectly; this is a pattern that I have seen replicated in too many classrooms to ignore. I met an amazing woman in a long-term care facility in Geneva, Ohio. She was my mothers-in-law’s roommate. She was a teacher and began her career in a one-room schoolhouse at sixteen. She retired just after the school’s consolidated. She had been blind for a long time. I never met a more grateful person, and I have not met a more learned person! She said every day she taught, she learned something new, which taught her to be grateful, and in gratitude, she taught and learned for her entire career and every day thereafter.
Thus, I ask again, do you know the why? Are you willing to learn the why? How you choose does determine your destiny. I close with a final thought, are you willing to ever choose the harder right instead of, the easier wrong? I am not perfect, I struggle to choose the harder right, but I also know the invaluable worth of being prepared mentally and not fearing. I know the power that comes with choosing to know the why and allowing that choice, with its inherent and natural consequences, to lead towards making better decisions and learning. There is power in knowing why there is power in failure, there is hope in failure, and great peace in knowing the why.
Search out the why. Choose to learn. After learning, accept the price of consequences and see how those consequences can change you!
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
All Rights Reserved
The images used herein were obtained in the public domain; this author holds no copyright to the images displayed.