Does being afraid make you a wimp?

Many folks believe that there’s something wrong with certain emotions. It might be OK to be scared and sad, but not mad–that’s mean! Or anger is acceptable, but not that wimpy stuff like fear or sadness. In some families, being happy was the only state allowed.

Trying to express only certain emotions stops the flow. As Katie Hendricks says, all emotions–mad, sad, glad, scared, sexual–come from the same hose. You can’t just turn off some of the water without slowing or shutting off  the flow of aliveness as well.

What is it about showing fear or sadness that people judge to be weak? Certainly in many families, allowing others (often siblings) to see one’s soft underbelly was an invitation for attack. The “predator/prey” response, where the aggressive predator hunts down the weakest of the herd and goes for the jugular, is certainly echoed in our mammalian bodies. It can be very challenging to shift out of the idea that expressing any of the softer emotions is just a bad idea.

So, why say, “I feel scared that you’ll leave me” instead of the much tougher-sounding, “Fine! I get it–you have a problem with trust! I’m OUT of here!!”? What advantage is there to expose one’s real emotions, knowing it leads to rank vulnerability?

Being truly connected to others requires connecting with one’s real, authentic self. Such authenticity requires tuning into all five emotions, not just those we’ve been conditioned to view as acceptable. Additionally, anger and aggression triggers others to automatically step away and give the angry person space, while fear and sadness naturally pull others in to comfort and soothe. If the truth is that I’m afraid, but I’m looking and sounding angry, it’s likely that I’ll generate responses of people moving away from me, creating even more reasons to be afraid.  And so the cycle continues.

So, does being afraid make you a wimp? One of the definitions of “wimp” includes “one who lacks courage.” My answer is no, as authenticity is clearly not for wimps. True power, real courage comes from speaking what is true at any given moment and then stepping into the unknown, the uncontrolled, of the world’s response.

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