Brave or Foolish?


Sometimes we ask ourselves when we are about to embark on something dangerous or risky, are we being brave or are we being foolish?  Or at least I find this phrase often pops up.

At these times we are also confronted with another dynamic – Fear!

Fear can save our lives, after all that’s what it was for in the long gone days of hunting our food.  Fear can also cripple us from living our lives, hence the whole industry these days around aiding people to both face and concur their fears.  The most notable of them all perhaps the well coined phrase and book “Feel the Fear and do it Anyway”; by  Susan Jeffers.

While this is all very important, sometimes I do step back from our somewhat frenetic world and ask are we as a society just a little over Adrenalized?  When you soak up media, news, social media, the message is all about get out there, goal set, achieve or loose, strive or skive, be fast, be loud, be seen, be heard, be big.

So when do we listen or need to listen to fear?  Ever or never?  Is the fear that rises up within us only about our un-concurred selves or is it of some purpose?  Does it actually hold some very valuable information for us?

Ok in our urban life we are generally not pitched against the elements as we were in our cave hunting days, so most of the time the fear we feel is seen to be “blocking” our progress in life, socially and professionally and is much about our character building as it is about keeping us safe or alive.  So I want to make it clear I am in no way mocking or belittling the great job the “Concur your Fear” industry is doing to help liberate people in their lives.  It is doing an important job of relieving many from the fears which often tragically have been caused by the foot stomps of previous trauma and abuse. (Also see blog January 2013 – “How Can Courage and Compassion overcome our Fear and Stress?”).

My question and story really relates to the other end of the scale, the adrenaline fuelled let’s just go do it ‘cos it’s there, ‘cos we are go getters……

As I write this, I can’t help thinking of the tragic story of Michael Schumacher and his “Off-Piste” Skiing accident.  A man who so far had very successfully lived by adrenaline fuelled reactions.

So when are we Brave and when do we cross the boundary into Foolish?

A short and personal story brought this into better focus, where that line sits, at least for me, last autumn when I was on holiday with my husband.  Our summer holiday was delayed due to work commitments, our late summer biking in France holiday turned into a catch up with family and friends walking holiday in the west country in late October, early November.  We were by this stage keen to get out into the wilds of the countryside and make the most of the rugged landscape of Cornwall.  It’s a part of the world we have visited frequently over the years and love.  On this particular day, in early November, we decided to revisit part of the northern coast of the Cornish Penwith Peninsula.  On this day we had already been walking an hour or so through fields and styles which were sodden with mud as we turned down onto the Cornish coastal path.  As we headed out onto the coastal head the path turned into a narrow mud and rock trail.  Some of which was not always very clear.  We had been going about half an hour along this trail, when we reached a rock pool and waterfall.  The coastal path went straight through this.  There was no other way than to do a rock hop through this and on to a stone style the other side.  The difficulty was that one wrong hop or miss-footing and you were down the side of the cliff face into the slightly choppy waters below.  We made it across.  By this stage I took a rest at the style, having found that my own walking abilities and stamina were being tested.  Now for many seasoned coastal walker, they probably would have thought little of it, I have done quite  a lot of coastal walks over the years, but personally I really do not enjoy the rock clambering variety, where you are pitching your wits between a rock outcrop and the waters below.  Just not something I get particular pleasure from.

My husband for some reason on this day was particularly  intent on completing this walk.  So I decided to see if this was about me concurring my fears (of falling off a cliff face) or really about being sensible.  A short time before we had reached the rock waterfall, I had already felt “Bear Power” (See Shamanic Power Animals), come all round me, aiding me to stay calm, breathe deeply, focus on each step and not become either angry or panicked.  As we paused at the stone style, I looked at both the walking pamphlet we had and the OS map.  In the pamphlet the writer had made no reference to the difficulty of the walk and the map suggested we would be back within 40 minutes.  Looking at the OS and the terrain that we had been on, the terrain we were about have to continue on, plus the time it had taken to cover the previous sections of the walk, it was clear we were going be on the rest of this path for at least another 2 hours.

We continued a short way, not wanting to be defeated and wanting to complete a walk we had planned to do for sometime.  However, on the next part, the path descended sharply turning a twisted corner round a small headland outcrop, we could not see the path, all that was in front of us was sea and a very large black cloud about 5 miles away.  At this point I returned back up the path to sit by the style.  We considered 3 options, go-on; go over the fields on unmarked, untrodden territory; or return the way we came.  None of which at this stage were very appealing.  Still centred in not panicking, facing fears and being safe – mode.  We weighed up the options.  Going forward we were unlikely to return before dark, the time being now 2.15 pm on a November afternoon.  We had no flares, no phone signal, no torch, no-one knew where we were walking and we had passed no other walkers on the coastal path.  Going over the fields, my gut screamed NO!  later looking at the map I saw there were many old tin mine shafts (so well done gut!), so we returned the way we came, having to re-jump the rock water fall, and clamber the boulders we had previously struggled over.

When we got back onto terra-firma, the relief washed through us.  In came the question;  Had we been cowards or wise?

We had been somewhat lulled into a false sense of security because of it being a well known and National Trust marked path.  However, it was for us to realise when out about we were dealing with very real elements and our own physical limitations.

What this experience taught me was that it is always important to face your fears, bravely and as calmly as possible, but there are some days when they can be concurred and there are other days when other factors may mean it would only cause more damage and injury to steam ahead!

Fear does have a purpose.  Our daily quest is to discern what that purpose is and when it can and should be concurred; or when it is actually a healthy response and is keeping us safe or has valuable information for us.