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.


Trusting Emotional Memory

People often do no remember what you say to them, but they seldom forget how you make them feel.

Emotions are contagious. Just look how a crowd can be swept up during one of the 2010 soccer world cup games. Or think about how an angry client ignites your own anger. Or when your child is sad, you also feel down.

The reason for this is because we have a built-in survival mechanism that pick up the emotional vibrations of those around us. Animals like horses and dogs also have this ability. Unfortunately in humans this ability has weakened. Some individuals have kept more of this ability than others. It is part of the gift they have (like someone has a gift to play the piano), but every one of us can develop the ability.

The ability to sense the emotion of someone else poses a challenge. Most of us are not skilled enough in distinguishing between our own emotion and that of someone else. We therefore interpret the emotion we feel as our own. Which is not always fair. Not to us or the other person. The implication of this is that we need to come to know ourselves in order to developing this skill.

This ability to sense others emotions is also the foundation of our ability to have empathy with someone else. But to be truly  add value we need to be true to ourselves. Take responsibility for our own emotions and be empathetic towards others emotions.

What happens when we do this? When we own our own emotions, we become authentic. Authentic people accept themselves totally, with the good and the bad. Authentic people are at ease with their strengths and their areas of growth. They do not judge – not even themselves. They know that there is room for diversity and in diversity (and the paradoxes that come with it) lies the true beauty of life.

Because authentic people have no judgment, they create a presence of acceptance around themselves.This in turn allows other people to  feel comfortable around them and they tend to trust them.

Trust opens up a whole new conversation. Trust is, in my mind, one of the most fundamental emotions we can have. It is the opposite of fear. To trust is the most natural tendency of people and at the same time the most difficult.

I think, it is because we have not learned how to trust intelligently. Stephan Covey jr. on his book “The Speed of Trust” suggest that trust consists out of good character (like trustworthiness etc.) and competence. For example: If someone has a good work ethic but not the competency to do a project. Do not trust him/her with the project.

So start to trust intelligently. First of all – trust yourself. Make sure you stay true to yourself (character) and keep on developing your ability (competence) to be a good Father or business man or husband etc. When you have trust in yourself, you will find it easy to be authentic. When you are authentic, people will feel comfortable around you and will remember you. Not for what you said or did, but for how you made them feel.

With trust