Disciplining our Fear

In an interview just after Nelson Mandela’s death, Trevor Manuel said something beautiful of his experience of this great statesman. He said “Madiba disciplined his anger.”

For me, it is a profound statement. Its simplicity barely hides the latent power. We should all discipline our emotions, and the first point of order is disciplining our fear.

In the South African context of today, unfortunately, our politicians did not follow in the footsteps of our hero. Where Mandela focused on the improvement of all, todays politicians focus on the improvement of a selected few. The ripple effect of this, is that people act out against lifeless statues. Anger born out of the shared experienced of current injustice, is directed to historic injustices. In my mind, mostly because of denied fear.

This fear can be of many things – the fear of not being part of the select few that benefit, fear to admit that we made a mistake in voting as we did, fear that there will be discriminated against us. No matter what the fear – we need to discipline our fear.



Fear is a primary emotion. Any emotion, if not trained tend to hurt us. Just like riding an untrained horse, could end in injury, not training our emotions tend to hurt us. Contrast this to the joy and freedom that riding a trained horse brings.

Disciplining our emotions also brings freedom. Especially when we discipline our fear.

Fear wants to protect us. The survival function of fear is protect us from a threat. So when we experience fear, we should ask ourselves: “What is threatening me?”

Then, when we identify the threat, then we need to add the discipline by asking: “Is this threat real or imagined?”

Please, I invite you to pause and think about this. Most of what we fear, is imagined. Threats created by the media, other peoples insecurities or agendas, our own biases and stereotypes. Yet very few are life threatening. Sure life is full of dangers, but so what?

Again, I invite you, start believing in your own ability to overcome any obstacle, more that believing the popular gossip that was designed to enslave you. You are stronger than you think. Even if you lose everything that you hold dear – you will be able to start again. You have it in you.

Now, I challenge you. Confront your fear. This is the only way to overcome it and tame it. This is the disciplined way to act. This is courage, to proceed in the face of your fear. Be courageous.

A few month ago, I grew afraid of a certain group of people. When I realized this, I phoned a friend in that group and drank some tea with him. Now I have perspective. Like in any group, the majority are kind and friendly. the minority voice their fear in anger. I disciplined my fear.

With courageous discipline.