THE FEAR PARADOX

Harnessing A New Power

Let me kick start this article with one of the most meaningful quotes from the Dark Knight Trilogy- “To conquer fear, you must first become fear”.

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More often than not, we are constantly being taught to be BRAVE- bold, front footed, fearless. From the first nursery rhyme, to the depths of history lessons; from the colorful pages of comic books to the most philosophical pieces of literature, Bravery has been the poster boy as one of the foremost human emotions.  Contrary to this, fear has always been frowned upon. The party spoiler, the buzz kill, the precursor to FAILURE. We have always associated being fearful to all the negative emotions and feelings. As a society of individuals, we have accepted that fear pulls us down and sets us up for failure. This however can’t be any farther away from the truth- FEAR IS GOOD. There, I said it! And what if I told you that this very fear is an abundant supplier of performance boosting characteristics?

BRAVERY VS STUPIDITY

Being brave and fearless is great, don’t get me wrong. However, it also paves way for the possibility of recklessness and over-confidence to creep in. There is a fine line between being brave and being stupid, and most of the time we see majority of the crowd failing to distinguish between the two.  That’s the main problem at hand. Think about it, when it comes to training and lifting, so many lifters have the “be BRAVE” mindset that they often seem to miss out on details like technique, form, fatigue, science blah blah blah! You see that, it’s all a BLAH for them. All that matters to them, is executing the lift, no matter what the consequences. and why so? Because they are “brave”.  With the advent of  “1 RM” style of training becoming popular with new crop of lifters, this attitude is wrecking more joints than ever.  You see jerky singles being thrown around with form that looks worse than a than a wobbly horse falling down a flight of stairs. This is especially seen with the recreational lifter who is just starting out her/his training journey.  The reason? because they’re being brave in a waging war against the weights? Seems more detrimental than anything else.

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Even with experienced and veteran athletes, chronic injuries and fall outs from training happen due to ignorance towards the minuscule details. The genetic elite might be capable of handling the trauma of intense training with lose technique, at least for a considerable amount of time. But slowly their bodies will give away to the undue mechanical stress.

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Not all of us belong to the league of of super heroes with amazing abilities. We aren’t born with super strength, fortified physical structure, enhanced regenerative healing or any special power to begin with. We must realize that we are mere mortals who must focus on the details if we wish to develop even the slightest hint of super human capability. There is only so much our bodies can handle. Being reckless and stupid paves way for greater loss than gain. Recklessness will end up blinding you to the details of technique and perfection. Those are the details you fail to care about when you simply want to rip that weight straight off the floor, when you fail to distinguish between bravery and stupidity.

THE CASE FOR FEAR

FEAR, on the other hand, is an extremely potent emotion.  It can either plummet you to failure and drown you in despair OR it can enable you to destroy self created barriers and reach pinnacles of success. If harnessed correctly, that is. It also ensures that safety is kept in check while you climb your ladder to success. With fear comes the adrenaline rush, the desperation to survive, the anxiety, the nervousness to perform well. All these characteristics that are induced by fear can be channeled with precision to give you a HEIGHTENED sense of FOCUS; which in turn can uplift performance tremendously. How does this trickle down into the weight-room?

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Every time I execute an exercise,  I am afraid that it can ‘make’ or ‘break’ me. Not so long ago, I was bed ridden with a back injury (the kind where you have a couple of prolapsed discs and some broken vertebrae). This magnifies the scare-factor of a dead lift/squat for me manifold. Staring down at a 500 lb dead-lift, fear grips me tight. I fear faulty technique, I fear recurrence of an injury, I fear the brutality of the heavy weight itself. Knowing that so much is at stake,  knowing what the consequences of a bad execution could do to me, I let the fear of failure take over my mind. But in no way does this imply a failed attempt at the lift. In fact the fear makes me more aware of all the pointers I need to keep in mind while performing the lift, it gives me that surge of adrenaline, it ensures zero error in execution. It makes me respect the sheer power of the iron even more. Something a lot of lifters fail to understand today. Fear literally sets me up for success.  It’s a tad complex to comprehend. But fear puts the kind of performance pressure on you, wherein you give a 110% to the mammoth task at hand without compromising on safety and still inching towards victory.  So yes, i am ready to accept that I am scared and that I am fearful. But there is nothing wrong with being scared. By being in that state of mind, all forms of reckless errors are counteracted.

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This is not just restricted to performance in the gym. Harnessing fear as a tool for success can be carried forward to any strata of life. Many a times, people are afraid of being judged on the basis of their performance or how they look. With changing times, people’s mindset has certainly evolved. But there are those who still struggle and succumb to the fear. Another fact to consider here is that there will always be those select douche-bags who have a special talent for making anyone and everyone feel out of place (I’ve faced this too). Rather than being fearful, you should use that anxiety to release adrenaline and make efforts towards improving yourself (on whatever parameters that are linking you to fear). Be inquisitive, ask around, read from good sources, apply what you know. And that very fear which held you back will guide you to a happier place.

THE CONCLUSION

As paradoxical as it may seem- to conquer fear, you must first let it consume you. The idea is to BE AFRAID, and yet conquer that fear, by utilizing all the biochemical and psychological changes that follow. Gradually you move up to the next level on the ladder whilst still keeping every ounce of safety intact. Like with any exercise module, this too will have a certain progression. You wont become skilled at converting fear into a focus boosting weapon overnight!

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Batman wasn’t gifted with any super powers unlike most other super heroes, and yet he rose to the status of being a super human. He did this simply by learning how to harness his own damn fear. He mastered the art of turning his fear into his biggest weapon in the fight against crime; it took him years to train for attaining that elite level. Similarly, it takes a considerable amount of practice to make the shift from being anxious and negative to channeling the fear for boosting performance. Every rep, every set, every exercise, you must practice channeling your fear into focus. You have to apply it beyond the gym too. And with time, the mastery will come. Think of it as your own natural pre workout drink, and with the abundance of fear in our lives, you’ll never fall short of it! Conquering fear will most definitely help you forge a strong, iron clad mindset. This makes me want to conclude by quoting Bear Grylls –

“Being Brave isn’t the absence of fear. Being brave is HAVING that fear but finding a way through it.” 

-Yug Verma

 

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