What is FEAR?

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It’s time for a new definition of FEAR.

False Expectation of Assumed Reality.

I’ve seen the acronym defining FEAR a lot of different ways.  Most of the time it’s related to self-defense.  In working on this article I wanted a definition of fear to work from. If we look at the dictionary defition, it’s: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

I stepped back, looking at the definition. There had to be something better.

Then I looked at the ol’ self-defence acronym: False Events Appearing Real.


Now, admittedly, things become meme’s…someone says it somewhere, someone with authority writes it somewhere, people pick up on it – repeat it.

But, this made little sense to me: False Events? I have been in a lot of events, none of which were false. Appearing Real? Pretty sure reality is real, it can’t appear to be real. I relate a situation as a reserve police officer when I had to approach a vehicle who had pulled up behind our patrol vehicle when we made a traffic stop. We were mid-stop, exposed at the vehicle – I was the secondary (guy at the passenger window for you non-law enforcement folks). If the person in the car behind us decided to do something, we were blinded and everything we did was exposed to the drivers as headlights were lighting myself and another officer like beacons. We were so far away that anything we yelled the driver wouldn’t hear – we started to, but there was no response from the person in the car. So I went to the side, into a ditch, outside of the headlights, and ran back toward the vehicle. I appeared from out of the ditch and approached the vehicle. His roof-light was on. In the vehicle was a guy with an AR-15 in the driver’s seat. I began giving verbal commands as I aimed my firearm at him…’HANDS ON THE CEILING, DRIVER HANDS ON THE CEILING, DO NOT TOUCH THAT RIFLE, HANDS ON THE CEILING, IF YOU REACH FOR THE RIFLE I WILL SHOOT, HANDS ON THE CEILING.’

He did it.

I commanded him from the car and talked to him. Turns out he had been out shooting earlier, had met his girlfriend (who we had pulled over) after work to follow her home. When she ran the stop sign – he didn’t and we got in between them. So, he just pulled over to wait – not knowing what was going to happen.

I had a lot of fear, a LOT of fear, that kind of fear that without a lot of training you make a mistake. There was no False Event Appearing Real. It was real.

Would I have been victim to real fear, a False Expectation of Assumed Reality, things would have been different. If I had a false expectation of the assumed reality, I would have assumed coming out of the ditch as my Surefire hit the car, ‘man in car, behind us exposing us, non-responsive, rifle in passenger seat within reach, not responding to verbal commands.’ In that moment my life, and his, could have changed. I would have acted on a false expectation, about him, about that rifle.  The situations would have ended different due to my assumed reality. In that moment I had to Stop Being Right, and see the situation as it was in front of me.

Your assumptions about the reality in which you exist are based on years, decades even, of previous interactions. This is the nature of the brain – the unconscious brain stores the information on the past, it categorizes it – and when you confront any situation, be it your boss or girlfriend, your conscious brain asks it for an assumption about the event developing in front of you. This assumption is based on the past. If you have had enough bad similar situations in the past your unconscious brain will relay these bad experience to the conscious brain. This is why we always think things are ‘bad’ or ‘good’.

We base every encounter, unconsciously, on the past.

That is fear. The False Expectation of an Assumed Reality. You develop a false expectation about the current situation based on the assumed reality due to your past. Let’s roll through a few:
Dog bit you in the past, assume that’s reality of all dogs, false expectation you will be bit…you act scared and the dog smells it on you, you run from the dog you have never met and it chases you.
Boss is always upset on Monday’s, that’s the reality of the boss, false expectation the boss will be difficult…you act defensively toward the boss, boss is having a good Monday, boss thinks you are being difficult and acts defensively.

False expectations are based on the past, not the situation as it is before you. The past, to your brain, is assumed reality – it’s the way things will be because it was in the past.

This is not to say the brain is ‘wrong’, because many times it isn’t.  But, it’s the ability to wage an internal struggle against the mind, especially in a combative situation, to see the situation clearly…to not see your assumed reality.  To not make a false expectation of how things will turn out.  When you do this you hold the key to the situation, as your stop reacting and start acting to shape the situation.  When you recognize FEAR you are able to see it for what it is, because you may not be in a false event, but in a real event, where you need to judge it based off it’s reality – not what you assume that reality to be.  Your training is there for a reason, to give you an autonomic response to a threat…it’s not there to guide you before your brain can interact with the situation if you have time.

I will be addressing this concept more and more, and I hope you’ll check back to the blog (which has been dormant) to see how to address FEAR.  This is where Pramek moves beyond the methods and application of mechanics and moves to the reality of ensuring you use your skills to the best of your ability.  And, to write run on sentences.

Next up I’ll break down the FE of fear a little more, then the AR, then how you can address these through various exercises.

– Matt