Skáldskapr: Fear, the enemy of peace.

Today, I’d like to talk about fear. Not the watered down, modern-day snowflake definition of “fear of not being accepted”, or “not being a part of the in crowd.” But fear of life and limb. Fear of having a sword enter your leg just above the kneecap, and exit your body from your arse. Fear of being trampled in close-in combat, where it’s all you can do to move your arms far enough to deliver a death blow to the adversary, before he does the same to you, kind of fear. Many people confuse the two, yet I’m here to tell you, they are very different. Most people will never know the second type of fear, although many of my breathen from combat deployments will.

Throughout the years I have counseled hundreds of people in different states of their lives. From my fellow veterans dealing with the demons that haunt their dreams from tasks that had to be done, to individuals who feel as if the demons of the bottles, or needles have them in their grasp, I’ve noticed many running themes that point to preconceived ideas that cause more trouble than their worth. This underlying idea that what we did, particularly the demons of conflict, make us “evil”, or “unable to handle everyday people” gives birth to the idea that somehow the choices we had to make create some type of new person within, whereas I can say with certainty it does not. If anything it allows us to see who we really are. In many cases it exposes our weaknesses, and strengths, placing them on display for all to see. The other side of that coin tells us that they (those who knew us before) may not recognition of the primal self released from the bounds of modern societal programming.

This is where the monotheistic practices begin to grid our intrinsic psychology to powder and undermine our self-worth. The idea that some deed completed, for whatever reason, makes one evil, or bad, in the eyes of the church, and therefore in the eyes of some imagined deity, is ridiculous, judge mental, and can destroy and individual’s self-worth. 

In most cases, the reduction of self-worth can lead to a defensive posturing that can seem counterintuitive to the actions defined by the morals of monotheistic religions throughout the world. Now, having said that, we know that inflicting control over another human, unless they are an indentured servant, or a child, is a sign of weakness for a leader and a significant display of cowardice. Nonetheless, if someone were to break into your home and attempt to hurt a family member, or take your belongings, you have every right to kill them. It’s not bad or evil, it’s how valuable your things are, and you have the moral obligation to ensure their protection. Period. By assigning some value judgement to a deed of self protection or preservation is where the wheels begin to fall off the wagon in the Christian created culture.

However, even as a former President of the United States spoke elegant words at the opening of the US’s involvement in World War 2 he said “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”. These words have just as much value today as they did in those early days of the great conflict for the United States. The understanding that fear could be an enemy within itself, and that there were tons of other factors that could distract us from the real definition of fear and the method of controlling it.

One has to ask oneself, how does one manage this fear? How can one bottle it up and use it appropriately to guide our actions? Fear itself isn’t a bad thing. By encouraging small amounts of fear, we are able to elevate our physical and mental abilities to become more accuse and reactive, better allowing us to respond to events within our dynamic zone.

Steeling one’s mind against the negative influence of fear can be incredibly challenging, however there are many different ways to circumvent known physical conditions that occur during a fearful, or terrorizing event. There are two primary ways to get around the mental paralyzation that happens;

1. Cue cards, or visual affirmations. These are cheat-sheets that provide us with basic steps forward regardless of the threat in front of us.

2. Repeated training of the mind, and body, that allows us to train our muscles to respond instinctually. This is referred to as “muscle memory” or being “without a second thought.”

Courage is defined as the ability to step forward under the influence of fear. To March forward when the body is paralyzed by fear, technically defines courage. So, considering the above methods of conquering fear, we now know how to accomplish that. Remember, small steps.

But what about the fear I mentioned at the top of the show? Most of the human population will never know that level of fear. This level of fear is a force to be considered before entering into a scenario where it may come to fruition. This level of fear imprints itself into the human mind with, quite often, vivid recall. Another facet of this level is that it attaches itself to other memories within the victim, and creates a visceral connection to the physiological body. In basic terms, it means that an improper serving of breakfast could bring out “beast mode” as the body attempts to react to the brain sending improper signaling forcing a chemical imbalance within the brain tissue. This is where individuals have difficulty controlling emotions. With the previously experienced fear connecting within the human mind to many different memories via these misconfigured neural pathways. In many cases, the originally established pathways between the fractured memories are ignored, in a visceral blast between segments. One needs to understand that these conditions are not controlled by the individual, however, effective steps can be put in place. By muscle memory we can force our bodies to react in different ways. A critical key to success is “nothing drastic”. By taking small steps, we can build up our coping mechanism to react in a socially acceptable way. Another critical key is to have patience.

We’ve talked about paralyzing fear. It’s impact to the human mind. An additional point to consider is how emotions play into an amplification of mental reaction. If you’d like I can explain it better with a mental picture. Think of the human brain as a bundle of wires interconnecting across the void of the skull. Then, consider the space between these wires. In normal mode, this space is filled with ph balanced (acid/alkaline balanced) fluid. This “balance” allows the bio electricity to move across the wires as necessary, following pre-defined pathways between references of memories stored throughout the tissues. However, drugs, alcohol, and emotions can shift this balance from a neutral condition to that of either: a retarded (slowed) response, or an hyper-accelerated response. Depending on the balance here, things can go completely sideways, and that is where we find many who have the residual effects of terror. The fancy college phrase quite often associated with this condition is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Again the key to stepping forward is to combine repeated minuscule memory muscle training steps, teaching the person to “stop and decide”. In much the same way that the Alaska Outlaw mentions how the brain is flooded with chemicals and unable to think clearly, in these cases we find that the physiological responses may create the chemicals to get things sideways.

Our teaching for today:

I once was young and the fire of war burned in my belly,

Impatient to learn the ways of a warrior.

Through the many nights of crying out to the ancestors, 

The day I waited for arrived, my clan marched off to war, and I was among the counted.

The battlefield lay below us as the swords of light pierced the darkened skies burying their tips in Mother Earth,

Their men rivaled our own in size and embodied hate.

We formed a long line along the ridge where we cast our angry stares upon them,

While inside my stomach grumbled and contorted, fear blacked out my thoughts about home and family.

My mind raced through all the motions I had been taught, 

I depended on my body to act, as my mind considered all the possibilities.

My chieftain began to scream, which I immediately felt in my feet.

More and more clansmen joined the scream, and the sound traveled through my body to my head.

The movements I knew now gone from my mind

Replaced by visions of valor and honor on the field today.

Finally, our clansmen break into a run towards their foe,

I too am with them, my sword in my hand.

My breath is fast, my heart is beating like the wings of the hummingbird.

I am terrified but I dare not show it, else I’ll be cut down from behind.

We crash into their lines, I swing with all my might.

The handles vibrates in my hand as it strikes something hard,

Although unlike my training it doesn’t bounce off.

I realize my blade is buried in another man’s shoulder, as his full weight strikes me.

As I begin to fall back under the impact, I am slammed from behind.

A clansman has rushed in behind me and reached over my head with his axe,

The body is lifeless as it crumples upon me, it’s eyes gazing to Valhalla.

As the suns settles beneath the endless ocean beyond their lines, Thousands of my clansmen are dead and thousands of theirs the same,

Their chieftain bows to ours, and loses his head.

Their survivors swear allegiance, and the day is done.

As I lay my head for a moments rest, my chieftain stops by where I am,

“I am proud of you boy, your honor you kept”,

“Tonight we drink and we feast, for the deed is done”.

From that day til now, I have not forgotten those lifeless eyes,

The gaze of the dead.

It comes in my dreams, and the picture is clear,

I know what was done can’t be undone.

Fear is one of the few things that can crush even the most powerful. But, fear can be controlled by deliberate steps that can mitigate its influence. Having small, defined, concrete steps that we can arrest the panic before it clouds our mind is how overcoming fear is done. Whether it be written, visible affirmations, or raw muscle memory, we can conquer fear, and move forward regardless.

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