“What is the opposite of fear?” the Spartan hero Dienekes asks in Steven Pressfield’s wonderful novel, Gates of Fire, about of the Spartan stand at Thermopylae.
He goes on: “To call it, aphobia, fearlessness, is without meaning. This is jut a name, thesis expressed as antithesis. To call the opposite of fear fearlessness is to say nothing. I want to know its true obverse, as day of night and heaven of earth.”
Dienekes finds his answer by the end. I’m not going to tell you what it is. You should read the book. It’s really great.
The only way to get to the opposite of fear is to endure fear.
It’s important to feel and to recognize fear. Beyond it’s obvious purpose for self-preservation, fear tells you when you are about to attempt something awesome.
I say “attempt,” because if success was guaranteed, your action would cause no fear (and therefore would likely not be too awesome).
When you’re diving into your creative work, you want feel a little anxious about it.
And no, you dont have to feel like you’re about to die in order for the endeavor to be worthwhile. Chances are you aren’t a Spartan, trained from childhood to face death in battle. But in order to grow, you do have to test the limits of your fear.
My wife, JJ Frederickson, offers an excellent model for thinking about fear. Check out her video on the stretch, risk or die concept!
Eric Edstrom is the author of The Undermountain Saga, a YA science fiction trilogy.
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