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About the Author
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A Healthy Emotion If Well Managed
By J. Ibeh Agbanyim
iUniverse LLCCopyright © 2013 J. Ibeh Agbanyim
All rights reserved.
Fear: A Figment of Our Imagination?
The first process to living a life full of hope, success, faith, and spiritual growth is to admit that fear is real—be it fear of failure in a relationship, workplace, or academic pursuits or facing our biggest breakthrough in a relationship, promotion in the workplace, or winning the Best Researcher of the Year Award. Our success in life is birthed from fear of failing—be it fear of living alone, becoming homeless, ending up an object of mockery, and so forth. When we understand that, instead of running away from the very thing that handicaps our success, we learn to face it constructively by actually defining what makes us fear that thing, why we cannot face it, and how to face it. Overcoming our internal prison walls is easy. In other words, if we can allow our fears to push us into life breakthroughs, we can live a life of fulfillment. Therefore, we should embrace fear with confidence and boldness because, as corporate bodies, we cannot conquer what we cannot confront. And the only way to conquer our fears is to shift our thought process in the direction of learning and investigating the unknown I call ignorance, a quest to know.
Dr. Stuart Firestein, a neuroscientist and chairman of the Department of Biology at Columbia University, who has published over one hundred papers in scientific and scholarly journals, profoundly noted that knowledge is a big subject, but ignorance is a larger one. Therefore, the ability to position ourselves to learn what we don't know will minimize, if not eliminate, fear of avoiding our life challenges, especially learning from a position of ignorance for a good cause. We perceived from childhood that fear is real and has negative connotations, but we lack the understanding of how fear can equip us into achieving greatness. Evidently, fear has presence, one that could distort self-awareness, sense of purposefulness, and social norms. On the other hand, the understanding of how fear can compel a person to see beyond the obvious and ordinary is what this book is all about.
This book is not a substitute to counseling or legal advice. It serves as additional information that can help us better understand the efficacy of fear and the ways we can use it to achieve positive results. This book does not advise readers to undermine emergency situations that life occasionally offers. Rather, we should handle emergency situations with clarity and a sense of urgency by calling the appropriate individuals or authorities for assistance. Emergency situations occur regularly, but responding to them requires clarity and focus.
The incidences of shootings at US schools (Newtown, Virginia Tech, and Columbine), shopping malls (Clackamas Mall, Oregon), and movie theaters (Aurora) reveal it is appropriate to be concerned in certain places where the shootings might happen. Recently, a man discussed his experience at a movie theater on Christmas Day. While the movie was playing, the lights were dimmed, and the audio was loud. A man of average height sitting three rows in front of him got up and leaned against a handrail on the walk path inside the movie theater. A few minutes later, he walked up all the way to the last row and sat, resting his legs in front of his seat. His erratic behavior raised suspicion and fear, especially after reading and watching the Aurora movie theater shooting in the news.
Based on this illustration, what would you do if you were in that movie theater? Evidently, one or two things will happen. You either move to a different row (away from the erratic man) or leave the movie theater entirely out of fear. This illustration demonstrates how powerful fear can be to our consciousness, and while this is not the focus of this book, it is worth mentioning because fear is real.
In this chapter, we examine how fear operates in the minds of people in workplaces and relationships. We will introduce two terms, destructive and constructive fear, our operational words to distinguish between good and bad fear. In other words, good fear is when the outcome is mutual and progressive. For example, during economic downturns, some employers reduced employee workweeks to four days on a ten-hour shift, as opposed to five days on an eight-hour shift.
This departmental restructuring saves both companies and employees some operational cost. The price of running production for an extra day, lighting bills, building maintenance, and miscellaneous risks associated with operating a business could be avoided by working longer hours during a shorter workweek. Employees, on the other hand, would enjoy three days of rest per week, prevent wear and tear of their cars, and spend time with their loved ones. Employers take this approach (four-day workweeks) to avoid downsizing, fearing that not acting will save workers' jobs.
Conversely, bad fear is simply when the result creates a retrogressive effect. For example, a manager fears losing his or her job. Instead of finding an effective way to increase productivity through collaboration, he or she instead increases disciplinary action, intending to terminate employees and whereby pleasing his or her boss and crushing employee morale.
Presence of Fear in the Workplace
In the workplace, managers and employees ought to acknowledge that destructive fear impairs learning, improvement, and relationships. In other words, a manager who uses destructive fear tactics to manage employees is simply creating an environment that will affect employees' ability to effectively perform their job tasks.
When destructive fear cripples the ability to learn, improvement in the workplace becomes an illusion. The employer-employee relationship is also affected when the work environment is unfriendly. That is, when managers are more interested in productivity and less concerned about employees' welfare, they become more critical of each other. Therefore, managing employees from a position of destructive fear tactics can essentially backfire.
For example, some of the subtle ways of using fear tactics in managing employees are micromanagement and microaggressive behaviors. Micromanagement focuses on managers who oversee workers too closely and spend an excessive amount of time supervising a specific job task by instructing employees precisely what to do and how to do it. Such closeness is considered compulsive monitoring.
John, a middle-aged employee, worked customer service at a local hotel in town for three years. Tim, his new supervisor, was transferred from the East Coast to replace a retiring service supervisor with thirty-two years of experience. Tim had never worked or lived on the West Coast before. He was a bit tense, anxious, and nervous about this shift in culture. Instead of sharing his genuine fear with his employee John and getting to know his employee, he decided to pretend that everything was fine.
On one occasion, while John was greeting a guest who walked to the front counter for a room inquiry, Tim stood behind John, whispering to him how he should greet a guest. John accepted his advice and pleasantly asked the guest how he could help. Tim jumped in again and asked John to smile more pleasantly. John accepted and did what Tim suggested.
As the guest was inquiring for room rates, Tim whispered to John, "Show the guest the least expensive rooms first and then the most expensive next."
John could not concentrate because Tim kept interrupting. As John was pointing out different rooms and bed sizes, Tim whispered to John to ask the guest how many days he was staying. After completing the transaction with the guest, John handed the guest keys to his room and motioned directions to the elevator. Immediately, Tim asked John if he could have offered the guest a bigger room for convenience and at a higher rate. John felt unappreciated and underestimated. Tim never praised John for his pleasantness to the guest. Instead, he expected more out of John.
If you were John, how would you feel? If we really think about John and Tim's situation, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar circumstance on a daily basis. We tend to pretend and respond defensively. Therefore, nobody is immune to Tim and John's experiences; the approach method makes a world of difference, especially the way Tim handled his fear, which was destructive and unproductive.
Constructive Fear Approach
Oftentimes, individuals in the workplace fear one issue or another—for example, low productivity, poor performance, safety, job loss, and so forth. But what makes such fear destructive is when we focus too much on negative results. Now let's flip the same issues to be constructive. When productivity is low, instead of fearing losing one's job, we fear for the company closing down and affecting more than just the employees or management. The families of employees and managers are equally impacted. Thinking of the bigger impact would drive away negative fear and encourage both employer and employees to find a corporate solution rather than seek out an individual solution. Because of a fear that the entire organization will go out of business, everybody benefits from finding a way to rescue the company from collapsing. This is an example of constructive fear, solving individual problems as corporate rather than individual problems. In other words, we have the mind-set of "what affects one affects all." Therefore, think globally and act locally. Fear constructively by thinking how to turn your fears into an opportunity.
The way we handle fear determines the outcome. Fear can encourage a manager to promote, demote, or fire an employee. If a manager promotes an employee, that means the employee's economic, social, and relationship status and organizational growth will improve.
1. The employee will have a sense of meaningfulness.
2. The employee will gain more confidence.
3. Personal and family quality of life will increase as a result of one single act from a manager.
On the other hand, firing a worker affects employee morale, self-worth, confidence, economic status, and relationships. Unless an employee violates company policy and proper disciplinary action is followed, then the company does not commit any fault.
Based on this brief analysis, if you are a manager, which side of the fence would you prefer: to discharge employees out of fear or to retain employees out of fear? Whatever answer you choose, ask yourself, Am I acting out of constructive or destructive fear? Am I acting to protect my selfish interest, or is it based on selfless motives? When we base our judgment on selfless motives, we tend to make sound decisions and ignore self-biases and prejudices. Self-biases often are rooted in our life experiences, especially when such encounters are negative and fill us with regret.
For example, some people who grew up poor in terms of economic deprivations tend to carry that mentality along, and as a result of their experiences, they find it difficult to help another person financially, fearing they may bankrupt themselves if they help others. Such thoughts bring about poverty mentality, one that subjects people to focus on what they do not have as opposed to concentrating on what they do have.
The next chapter discusses what poverty mentality really means and how behaviors are directly related to people's background and experiences. As we read chapter 2, ask, How do our experiences contribute to our actions in a particular situation? Are we allowing our family backgrounds and financial struggles to dictate our decisions and interactions with others?
Hopefully, chapter 2 will shed some light on how to overcome poverty mentality.CHAPTER 2
The poverty mentality attitude of thinking remains a human struggle because it robs us of the opportunity of focusing on what we have as opposed to what we do not. This mentality causes us to hold on to the familiar and never let go even when it is uncomfortable and destructive to our future. Let's use an illustration to describe what poverty mentality really means. Zig Ziglar pointed out that, by focusing on what is missing in our lives rather than focusing on what is there, this can lead to further poverty.
Tim Cestnick, author of 101 Tax Secrets for Canadians, narrated his experience during his estate planning conference that took place on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. On the third day of the cruise, the ship stopped by St. Thomas. While Tim and his family were eating lunch, Tim noticed about twenty parrots of different sizes and colors sitting on their perches. Not one was in a cage, which made it awkward and interesting why they didn't just fly away.
Out of curiosity, Tim asked the parrot keeper, "Why do none of these parrots want to fly away?"
The parrot keeper answered, "I trained them all to think that their perches are where they will be safe and secure. Once they believe this, they tightly wrap their claws around the perch, and they don't want to let go. They keep themselves confined. It's almost as though they have forgotten how to fly, although I know they could if they tried."
This anecdote applies to us. We hold on to our past experiences to the point that we never want to change, and when we fail to adapt, we cling onto our limited dogmas. For example, we may eat only once a day because food and money were scarce during adolescence. But now that we have made it better than ever, we still hold on to the past that could rob us of our future. When we hold on to what we have without thinking about other possibilities of expanding, we remain stagnant and stingy. It is the "glass half-full versus glass half-empty" syndrome. As long as we think our glass is half-empty, we will always be struggling, but if we see life as a glass half-full, we start to shift our thinking in a positive direction. Shifting our thoughts to be hopeful and grateful paves the way for more opportunities to come to us. Seeing our past as a promise rather than a curse would encourage us to turn our ashes into beautiful, our disgrace into grace, and our lamentation into laughter. All these things can occur if we liberate ourselves from the grip of poverty mentality, which is nothing but a distorted perception.
Jennifer Kunst, PhD, a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst, noted in her recent 2012 article in Psychology Today that perspective is everything. When we concentrate our future so much on our past, we tend to repeat what we have always known. For example, consider a student who failed a second-grade math class and tried again in fourth grade and failed. The most dangerous thing to do is to assume that he or she is bad at math. To perceive failure in math establishes an evidence of math phobia. As a result, we fail to learn math. Such action indicates poverty mentality—that is, focusing on what we don't have rather than focusing on what we do have. A student who wants to overcome the fear of failing math is to focus on thirty-nine other courses he or she performs exceptionally well in (based on undergrad program).
Past experiences are simply that. If retrieving from the past does not improve the present, then there is no need to entertain such thoughts. In other words, when you remember what happened to you when you were nine years old, for example, and become angry, bitter, resentful, aloof, withdrawn, and revengeful, then you basically harm yourself even more. Such toxic emotions cripple human potentials and rob us from living a life full of promise.
Evidently, we cannot change the past, but we can definitely choose the course of action in remodeling our present and future. Therefore, to not fear ever living a life of lack, emptiness, and spiritual paralyses would essentially force us to do the opposite of what could land us in awkward positions.
An elderly, wealthy (spiritually and financially) man once told me, "If you want to be successful in whatever you do, do the opposite of what poor people do."
In this context, poverty is not limited to financial lack in any sense, but it extends to our pattern of thinking (poverty mentality). By implication, the worse poverty mentality pattern is the inability to think creatively, critically, and constructively. When our thinking lacks any of these constructs (creative, critical, and constructive), it sets a stage for thought breakdown.
Let's use the above example of a student who struggles in math. Failing math class is not the problem. Instead, idolizing and entertaining such thoughts is more damaging than failing itself. Instead of fearing math from a perspective of failing it again, fear math from a viewpoint of doing whatever it takes not to fail math. When we allow our thought pattern to fear math so much so that we stay away from it, we remain a slave to math. But when we fear it so much that we master math, we triumph. In this scenario, one is destructive fear (fear of failing math), and the other is constructive fear (fear to a point of mastering math).
Excerpted from FEAR by J. Ibeh Agbanyim. Copyright © 2013 J. Ibeh Agbanyim. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Fear: A Figment of Our Imagination?, 1,
Chapter 2. Poverty Mentality, 9,
Chapter 3. Believe in Fear, 15,
Chapter 4. Constructive Fear of Failure, 22,
Chapter 5. Can You Sing a Song When You Are in the Valley of Tears?, 30,
Chapter 6. Why We Fear to Forgive Some People, 39,
Chapter 7. The Good Samaritan, 45,
Chapter 8. The Quality of Fear, 53,
Chapter 9. Fear of Rejection, 63,
Chapter 10. The Inconvenient Truth, 76,
Chapter 11. Maladjusted, 89,
Chapter 12. Jesus Feared, 98,
Closing Thoughts, 105,
About the Author, 117,