The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
H. P. Lovecraft
Fear is the most common four-letter word I have heard this week. The advice varies, some say avoid fear, some say face it, some say being afraid is a weakness, some say fear is the enemy. What we all know is that fear itself is real inside of each of us, and how to manage it is a challenge.
Fear comes from the ego, it is meant to keep us alive. Being afraid in a dangerous situation kicks our survival instincts into overdrive. We may run, fight or freeze, but whatever we do, we do it to survive. Fear is an ancient emotion, the fear of annihilation literally kept our species alive. In the past tt was pretty straightforward, we knew who the enemy was, immediate action could lend immediate results
The problem with fear in the modern age is that the enemy is generally unknown. We fear all kinds of “what if” situations, most that will never actually happen.
It is hard to identify the enemy, for example, at work. You may fear losing your job, but your fight or flight instincts are useless in that situation. In fact, they have the opposite effect. You can’t fight your boss and win to keep your job. You also can’t run away and keep your job.
Our lives are filled with subtle threats, online bullies, politics, religion, loss of all kinds, potentials that may or may not happen.
How do we face this constant threat, and find peace? The answer may be different for each of us but here are a few thoughts.
-Living in the now is a great way to avoid “what if” thinking. Practice keeping your mind focused in the moment, what you can actually manage right now. Too much future thinking amplifies the fear of the unknown.
-We are not in control of a lot of what happens to us. We want to believe we are, but is just isn’t the case. This is hard to see for ourselves, but we can see it in others. Think of someone you know who has experienced a recent loss. Did they have any control over what happened, could they have changed the outcome? Most of the time the answer is no.
-Accepting impermanence helps to release fear. When I know that I can’t control everything that happens to me and I accept that my job is to keep moving forward and constantly adjusting to change, I feel much more peaceful about the future.
-Not everything is a lesson.
-Fear is an emotion, and just like all emotions, it needs to be expressed. Find ways to release fear by expressing it through discourse, art, music, writing, dancing, yoga, meditation, praying, or anything else that has meaning for you.
-Everyone has fear, you cannot become spiritually enlightened and overcome fear. You live with it, express it, understand it, but you never lose it.
-Sometimes fear is your friend. Listen to your fears, find the message.
I went deeper on this topic on my radio show, Kindred Spirits, this week on 12radio.com.
Watch the show here!