Insights: Facing Fear

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Sitting outside enjoying another beautiful day in Newport Beach, I was thinking about what I wanted to write about this week.

So many thoughts go through my mind as I reflect back on all the amazing movies I saw at the Newport Film Festival.

Many of the movies had a similar theme: how fragile life can be, and how quickly it can change, for the good or bad. Each decision in life has a consequence, nothing is isolated—from how we speak to ourselves and other people, to what we eat and how we choose to live our lives.

Here are some of the movies I watched and would recommend all of them: “Return to Mount Kennedy,” “Kifaru,” “Fine Lines,” “Finding the Line,” “Human Nature,” “Anyone of Us” and “Camino Skies.”

Each of these movies had a profound affect on me each for different and yet the same reasons. Each movie reminded me of the importance of staying present with our experiences. It is not just what happens to us, but rather how we handle what we experience. How we choose to look at what happens to us leaves us with difference experiences.

The documentary “Kifaru” is about the rangers of the last three white rhinos in Kenya and how these rangers are the only hope to keep these animals from becoming extinct. The sacrifices they make to ensure theses rhinos are safe is amazing, let alone the attachment they make with these animals. This theme of giving beyond what is expected and the courage of people and their ability to keep fighting for what they believe in shows in the results for each of these movies.

There are no guarantees in life even when we do push hard, fight, and believe in what we are doing. However, I want to leave this life knowing I did all I could even if I was not successful.

When I watched “Finding the Line,” about two Australian competitive skiers who went to Canada and France to bring back some belief in their skiing after one of them had a fall, I was reminded how fear can really freeze our ability to move forward. We can all relate to fear being a sticking point.

This place of fear we get in really limits our brain and changes the chemicals that are released, which in turn makes us even more stuck. This is what is amazing. Fear creates more fear, limits us and keeps us going around in circles.

Unless we are being chased by a bear, attacked by an alligator or nearly hit by a falling tree, fear has little benefit. By releasing fear and moving more into our frontal lobe, which is where we are able to think, connect, process, set goals and think beyond our stuck-ness, we can move forward.

Sometimes moving forward might mean a little baby step. Yet that baby step allows us to take another baby step and then another step, which leads us out of that stuck place.

While we are in the amygdala part of the brain where fear resides we cannot think through things or come up with goals. Instead we are stuck in what we believe is our life and often feel we will never get out of that feeling.

Whenever I get into a stuck mode I stop, ask myself what am I afraid of.  Then ask myself what I want and what is one step to help me move forward.

There is an acronym for FEAR: False Evidence Appearing Real. That is often the case. The fear of something is often greater than the reality of it. There is a book that has been around forever yet is still such a good one called “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers.

Do not let fear be your guide through life; let life and your inner strength be your guide. Listen to yourself. You know, we all know, how to move through fear, we just need to trust our abilities and ourselves more.

Each of these movies shows people with courage even in the face of fear and each story showed that courage paid off even if it was in small ways. The bravest people to me are the ones that are willing to do something even when they are scared.

It is not what you do, but that you do something.

Contact Dr. Shelly Zavala at or [email protected].


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