No....not THAT "F" word! I'm talking about something much more powerful, dangerous and crippling. F-E-A-R. Fear. It can start with a simple, innocent thought and quickly multiply like a diseased cell in a petri dish, slowly taking over your mind, your beliefs and your ability to make sound choices. Fear can be all consuming, causing you to make snap judgments, act irrationally and stop you cold in your tracks. Take scary movies for example. Say you watch a scary movie at night while you're alone in the house. (First mistake). Half way through the movie you need a snack. As you make your way through the quiet, dark house you suddenly notice every creak in the floor, the shadows look somehow menacing, the trees outside your kitchen window seem threatening and cold. (The diseased cell has entered the petri dish). As you make your snack you're trying to convince yourself that you're being ridiculous. Suddenly you hear a thud behind you as the refrigerator door slams and you jump out of your skin. You freeze momentarily as you think "wait, did I open the refrigerator? If it wasn't the refrigerator door what WAS that noise"? Looking at the cold bottled water in your hand, your mind is temporarily eased. "YES, I did open the refrigerator. Whew"! Snack and cold drink in hand, you make your way back to the living room....perhaps a bit more briskly than the walk to the kitchen a mere 5 minutes ago. Settling back into the couch, wrapped up in your favorite blanket you once again feel safe, secure and brave enough to re-start the movie. How is it possible that the movie is MORE scary now? You jump and scream your way through the next 45 minutes of terror and are relieved when it's finally over. Now it's bedtime. After turning on multiple lights, checking under your bed and in the closet to ensure you are alone in the house you attempt to get some sleep. (The fear has officially taken over and you are no longer in charge.) The noises the house makes at night are SO LOUD. You make a mental note to have the furnace looked at.....those clunky noises coming from the basement MUST mean there's a heating and cooling issue, right? The shadows play tricks on you. Tossing and turning you just can't get to sleep. Every time you close your eyes you swear you are going to be attacked by the creature from the movie. And now.....you have to pee....Great! Damn water! Trying to hold it only makes you have to go more. Eventually out of pure desperation you leave the safety of your bed and sprint to the bathroom turning on every light along the way. Of course you look behind the shower curtain and in the linen closet and make the rational decision to pee with the door open. You can't take the chance of closing the door and giving the creature a strategic advantage. Miraculously, somehow sleep finds you. You awake the next morning ready to conquer the world. YOU SURVIVED!!!! That's how easy it is for fear to enter our life and completely take over. So how do you conquer fear and remove it from your life? Well, the short answer is you don't and that's a good thing! Truth is a little bit of fear is good for you. Let fear teach you something about your inner self. Let fear motivate and empower you......but do not let it control you! YOU are in charge of how you choose to learn from and react to fear. Become aware of what happens when you are afraid. Notice the thoughts you have. What physical symptoms are occurring? Do you have a faster heart beat, sweaty palms, weak legs? Take the time to tune in to yourself and notice what's going on. A lot of times doing this will help take the edge off. Ask yourself if what you are afraid of is real or if you are afraid of the story you've made up around the real issue? Most times, we react to the story - the idea that a scary creature could be lurking under the bed - and really the only thing under your bed is dust bunnies. Don't be afraid to talk about your fears with a loved one or close friend. Getting another persons perspective on an issue is a great way to shed light on your fears. We might not like to admit it, but all of us are afraid of something at some level. Holding it in and ignoring it isn't going to make it go away. Deal with your fears as they occur. And who knows? Maybe next time you watch a scary movie you can pee with the door closed.