The English language lexicon has 1 million words, and of which, 273,000 are headwords. Hence, as a rule of thumb, we can say that 136,500 headwords are the antonyms of the rest. You can get, for example, courage as an antonym of fear. Similarly, hope has despair, it is laziness for hard work and so on. Notwithstanding this, life throws up another set of antonyms whose meanings are not counted for them to be qualified as antonyms of words as mentioned in lexicons. Does fear have an unconventional antonym other than courage or bravery? Yes, it has. Life gives us another lexicon which has words whose meanings are not necessarily as diametrically opposite of other words as used in the languages although they are antonyms capable of meaningfully negating the other words. Finding those missing and immediate antonyms, in fact, is a way to reach the accepted-antonyms as mentioned in lexicons. So, how do we reach the state of courage from the state of fear? By finding the missing antonym that connects the two — the bridge from fear to courage.
I will say that knowledge is the immediate antonym of fear. One cannot reach the state of courage from the state of fear without obliterating the reasons of fear. Once the reasons of fear are taken out of you, YOU are you-less-fear called fearless — courageous. What can take fear out of you? Knowledge. Only does knowledge have the power to take fear out. Fear is the debilitating anxiety that pushes a person to suboptimal mode. Fear can be caused by information about something as well as ignorance. And knowledge is the panacea for both. We are used to hearing this: It happened as I feared — the person knew that something was going to happen and that she/he was fearful of it. What kind of knowledge can take such fears out of a person? In other words, how can we make the person to change the statement like this: I knew it was going to happen but was prepared. The operative word here is ‘prepared.’ Fortify yourself with as much knowledge as possible about an impending event and be ready with a prepared-mind to face the event as and when it happens — you have replaced fear with knowledge.
Fear from ignorance is a challenging hurdle to overcome. Before psychology and psychiatry were developed as science, we used to attribute mental illness to curses owing to the possession of a person by demons and devilish forces, hence, were fearful of such persons. But the science of mind brought in knowledge that took out the misunderstanding — fear— due to the lack of knowledge — ignorance — about lunacy. Knowledge lightens out the darkness of ignorance. What about handling the ubiquitous ‘fear of unknown?’ Presumptive knowledge helps one to mitigate the fear of unknown. Travelling to a new country, joining a new company, starting a new venture and similar maiden attempts can evoke the fear of unknown. Presumptive knowledge from the preparatory works is the way to minimalize the fear of unknown. So knowledge is the missing antonym, the bridge, that takes you from the state of fear to the diametrically opposite destination of courage. “Life begins where fear ends,” the words from the Malayalam movie: Mikhael as told to the protagonist played by Nivin Pauly by his father characterized by Babu Antony.
How do we move from despair to hope? What is the bridge we need to build to make this passage? The biggest invention of difficult times is self-motivation. Despair is a difficult time, so what could be the immediate self-motivating thought that would act as the platform to catapult oneself from despair to the hope for a better tomorrow? Inspiring stories! Yes, real-life stories of men and women who went through similar patches and defeated their failures. “Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life,” J.K. Rowling, the quintessential author of Harry Potter fantasy series, once said. She went through the worst patches of her life; she saw the death of her mother, birth of her first child, divorce from her first husband and poverty making her to live on the state benefits during the 7-year period preceding the publication of her first book. From there, she went on to become the first billionaire writer who mesmerized an entire generation with her ‘magical’ writing — the spirit of this inspiring story of nadir-to-sky lies in the 12-word quote from Rowling. We have many such inspiring personalities like Colonel Sanders, who pulled himself back from the brink of suicide, then, turned himself around and went on build the business empire of Kentucky Fried Chicken, or K.F.C., at the age of 65; Steve Jobs, who lost the company he once founded but worked his way back to the same company and proceeded on to develop the most iconic product — iPhone — of our times. We have many such inspiring stories before us. The bridge from despair to hope is the motivating and inspiring stories of men and women who rose like a phoenix from the ashes.
There are many other bridges that we need to build to enable our passage from debilitating states to stages of productivity. What is the bridge from negativity to positivity? Similarly, short temper to maturity. laziness to hard work, theoretical to pragmatism and so on. The distance from negative (-) to positive (+) is a straight-cut that passes through the heart of the negative. In other words, a move from a negative attitude to a mental framework of positivity can be achieved only through a deliberate attempt by the person himself/herself. This deliberate-attempt is introspection-induced self-correction that builds the bridge through the heart of the negativity and transform you to a person of positivity .
Containment is the antonym-bridge from short temper to maturity — contain the impulsive response and allow yourself to make a measured and weighed in response. Many more bridges are needed to be built to elevate ourselves to the virtues of a wholesome living. What bridges would you build to move from laziness to hard work or theoretical to pragmatism?