Fear, Pain and How to Honor Your Death Instinct

by Michael Saad
Fear, Pain and How to Honor Your Death Instinct

Yeah, I think that title’s pretty metal.

Why do people skydive out of airplanes? Why do they beat each other senseless in MMA combat? Why do they push themselves to do incredible things that threaten to wipe them out – and sometimes even do?

I’m not about to get all Freudian on you, but there is a paradox in the kind of balls-to-the-wall, all-out, gut-wrenching training I do. The paradox is that someone can stand in front of you, two black eyes and aching muscles, heaving and sweating and looking like they’re about to fall over, and tell you that they have never felt more alive.

The paradox is that in fully engaging with the things that make you frightened, you feel braver than ever; in embracing the unknown you get to know yourself more deeply than before, and in moving further into pain you can find the most immense pleasure.

Change happens at the edge of what you know, of what’s comfortable. Change is messy, scary and sometimes ugly. Growth happens outward, into scary and unknown territories, and sometimes, the birth of an awesome new self only happens when the old self breathes its last breath and kicks the bucket.

How do you honor this paradox?

  • Don’t try to get rid of fear. Enjoy it. Welcome it. It’s a sign something new and exciting is happening.
  • Don’t try to avoid all pain. Go through it. It won’t kill you.
  • Speaking of death, so what? We all die one day anyway, aren’t you curious to see how far you can go right now, while you’re still alive?

We live in a comfortable world.

We shy away from ugly things, inconvenient things, uncomfortable ideas, hard work, pain. But those crazy people who look like they’re punishing themselves in the gym? They may be engaging with some deeper truth: that the best parts of living are far out there, just on the border of pain, death and fear.

What to do now?

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