Transcending Fear


By Richard Bennett – Surf Psychologist

Fear. In any situation in life – surfing, relationships, career – when you feel blocked or not performing at your optimum, the core reason will be fear. Though fear is a natural human emotion essential for survival, fear is also important to master to truly be free.

There are two types of fears. Imagined fear and real fear. Imagined fear is basically fantasy about what may or may not happen in a given situation and is often ego driven. For example, fear of what others may think of you if you surf poorly or lose a heat. Real fear is our response to real danger, such as serious injury or drowning in big waves.

There are several ironies of fear to navigate to truly master this wonderful emotion. For example, thoughts can race or the mind can go blank, the body can be highly activated or feel immovably frozen. Fear can feel so uncomfortable and yet, like all our emotions, whether real or imagined, we choose fear. Our choice is simply based on our interpretation or perspective on a situation.

Ironically too, despite an immense urge to run for the hills, the only way to transcend fear is to face it. Sometimes this involves facing the situation, such as having that hard conversation with a friend or partner. Every time transcending fear involves facing yourself and the inner source of your fears. Here you may find anything from pure survival instinct that is important to honor, to an old scar in the form of a core belief that is now time to let go.

Another irony. The known and the unknown can both be a trigger for fear, though at the same time be the basis for facing and transcending fear. For example, we may fear the known, such as the real dangers of surfing big, heavy waves. Though we may also draw much confidence from the known, such as knowing we have done the best physical training, we have the right equipment, we know the wave well and we have the proven ability to surf big, heavy waves as we have done so before.

Fear also loves to play in the great unknown, and we are so magically drawn to enter the game. Wanting to know the unknown is often the great drive to push the limits and have a go, to expand our comfort zone, to fulfill our highest potential. You don’t know what’s going to happen, what it will be like or even if you will get there, though the unknown is so intriguing you’re prepared to face your fear and take the risk just to “know”.

The basic process to master and transcend fear involves recognising the type of fear, practicing self enquiry to identify the inner source and clarify perspective, doing as much as you can to build and consolidate the known and having a simple, doable plan to enter and succeed in the unknown. Tuning in to your natural desire to evolve and the rich contentment of performing to your highest potential is also key to drive that first step into the unknown and cultivate new freedoms in life.

Thanks to Carve Surfing Magazine for first publishing this article in December 2011