According to general western society (aka 'everyone') feeling fear is either a sign or weakness or an indicator of hysteria. Historically, these fell into gender categories. A man who is afraid was labeled a coward, lost his right to be a man and was relentlessly shamed. If you were a woman feeling fear was a precursor to being labeled crazy, one step away from being diagnosed as hysteric and, if you were unlucky, shoved into a mental asylum.
Considering that history fear itself has it's own traumatic past and emotional baggage. It's no wonder our experience of it is uncomfortable at best and diagnosable at worst.
To put it simply: We fear, fear.
Looking at the historical consequences of showing fear - Of course we have cast it as the bad guy in our collective narrative. Of course we freak out when we feel it. We would be crazy not to.
Maybe as a way to compensate for this fear and the joy it was stealing from our collective lives personal development guru's stepped in telling us to get over our fear by doing what scared us.
Interestingly when we lean in to examine this mindset it seems particularly similar to the fear of being perceived as a coward. Again feeling afraid is the enemy. This time however we are afraid our fear is stealing our dreams.
It's the equivalent of being scared of our own shadow. Over the years I've danced many dances with fear. I've shunned it, I've given into it, I've left it at the gate it, I've pretended it away, and I've 'dealt' with it. All in a naïve attempt to be victorious against my own biology. Here is the big learning. When I shot bullets at fear I only ended up shooting myself. When I cast fear out, I tossed my empathy with it. When I stuffed it down I stuffed my joy too. Fear has a whole section of my brain that is devoted to it. Attempting to destroy it is like trying to preform brain surgery on myself.
Fear is part of being human. After I read Elizabeth Gilberts book Big Magic I considered the possibility of befriending my fear. At first I was being nice to my fear in an effort to make it go away.
Over time, I discovered that fear is the good guy.
I've learned fear was not keeping me stuck, it's wasn't stealing my dreams, it's not what makes me a coward, and it certainly doesn't make me crazy. Instead, fear is the function that keeps me alive and keeps me sane.
To put it simply;
It's not the experience of fear that kept me stuck - it was the fear of being afraid.