Fear is built into our DNA. It most likely saved lives when we were cave dwellers, when wandering out meant life or death. It was a message that urged caution. The fight or flight response is something we are all familiar with. When those two don’t work, we head into paralyzing fear.
The reaction to fear is determined by the intensity and the resulting fearful thoughts. There are four reactions: anger, anxiety, guilt and depression. The symptoms can arise from real or imagined triggers.
When we ignore or bury our fear we are building an even greater reserve of anger, anxiety, guilt and depression. It becomes more than an energy problem. It can result in physical illness. There are hundreds of symptoms and dozens of illnesses.
Once, watching National Geographic, I saw something interesting that we can learn from. A small animal when faced with a predator will run faster as its adrenaline kicks in. As the animal senses he’s losing the battle it will fall down as if dead. It’s body actually creates a smell of decay. The attacking animal walks away. When it’s safe the animal picks itself up and shakes as if shaking the experience off and walks away un-tramatized.
It’s not the same with humans, we store our experiences, our traumas and fears. We cater to them. They in turn have more power over us than we have over our self. Anyone who has a fear or phobia will tell you that it may be unfounded but it’s real to them. So how do we deal with fear?
Remember the saying “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.” What if you welcomed it the next time and faced it. Turn your attention to the sensation in the body. That in itself simplifies it. Take that deep breath and let go. Realize that fear is a learned feeling, that it’s not who we are or against us. It just is. It’s an emotion and like every emotion it is a call to action.
When you feel a familiar fear arise, remember that like all emotions, it will dissipate.
Welcome it as your friend. It has, no doubt, on occasion served you. Get away from the mental dialogue that will take you to never never land.
Notice the underlying fear that brings this emotion to the fore. In general it will be the loss of security, money, feelings of abandonment, loss of health, loss of love or meaning and purpose. Now relax. Nothing ever comes from running away. Nothing positive can happen if we deny, ignore or bury our head in the sand.
Look those monsters in the eye and see if like the predator chasing the small animal, they too don’t walk away. Shake yourself off and know that the opposite of what you fear is waiting for you to take action. Come back to life fully embracing fear, knowing your will is stronger than the emotion, experience, or pattern you have formed.
James Baldwin wrote: To defend oneself against fear is simply to ensure that one will, one day, be conquered by it; fears must be faced.” Fearlessness comes by walking through that door with loving kindness toward yourself.
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests talking to your fear: “Hello, my old friend fear, you have been with me for a long time. Now I see you again, please join me here.”