“The biological value of fear is that it alerts us to the proximity of danger and the need to be prepared to take action. Instinct provides us with two courses of action – fight or flight. In a strategic nonviolent conflict, your objective is to use rational thought rather than relying on instincts.”
CANVAS Core Curriculum (2007: 154-161)
Many activists frequently assume that actions that require great courage, risk, and publicity will be the most powerful and effective actions that they can take. However, this is not always true. Sometimes, low-risk, low-profile, dispersed actions can be more effective. For example, sometimes a consumer boycott can be more effective than a protest, or a stay-at-home strike can be more effective than a public strike.
Managing fear in your movement is important, but one of the best ways to do so is to avoid high-risk actions (which can cause fear) unless people are prepared and the actions are necessary.
Once you accept that fear is a natural state of your body and mind, and you understand how it is physically and mentally expressed, you do not need to judge others about it or feel ashamed of yourself. However if your movement intends to succeed, you must understand the methods and techniques used to overcome the adverse effects of fear. Removing or reducing fearful stimuli and anticipating surprises, through improved understanding and developed skills and discipline, have proven to be effective.
Trust and confidence in the movement’s leadership (which are present when a movement has built up a record of success) and goals also help to reduce fear among people taking part in nonviolent actions. So is the strong belief that one’s own best interests are on the same side as the nonviolent movement’s.
Thoughts to Consider: If members of your movement are too afraid to take directly confrontational or high-risk actions, it is worth considering if there is a lower-risk alternative action that they could do. It does not help a movement to put its members into situations that they are not prepared for. If your activists are too afraid of one action, it is important to find other actions that they can do.