How to Walk Beside Fear
Most of the suffering in the world has its roots in fear.
Eckhart Tolle tells us that “most fear is created through leaving the present moment mentally and projecting into the future.”
He explains that fear is created when our imagined future is negative. Hope is created when it is positive. The presence of hope can quickly become the fear that we will be denied that positive future.
Fear can look and feel like other emotions such as anger, jealousy or resentment. It arises at the point where we perceive that we may lose something that is important to us.
This is projection.
When we allow ourselves to come into the present moment, we have not lost anything at all.
When we feel fear, our brain chemistry changes. Levels of cortisol and adrenalin rise. Our ancestors made good use of these chemical changes, acting on the stimulus of fear, by running away or fighting whatever was threatening them.
In modern society human fear continues to exist, however, it is stimulated by much wider, more varied sources. Sources which are very different than those of primitive man.
We find ourselves moved into states of fear when we listen to the news or social media but when our brain chemistry changes, we are much less able to metabolise our stress hormones in a way that is useful.
In the modern world, when we are stimulated to feel fear in this way, we are often moved into thinking rather than physical action.
In a fearful situation, it is common to imagine the worst outcome in order to prepare for it. This type of negative thinking can, in turn, perpetuate fearful emotions and alter the brain chemistry even further until a state of anxiety is reached.
We become accustomed to certain levels of brain chemicals when they occur repetitively. It could be argued that modern human beings have become so used to chronic levels of anxiety that we have become uncomfortable with being in a state of peace.
This has been described as “a feeling that the bubble is going to burst” or
“a feeling that something terrible will happen to take away my happiness.’
There in always an undercurrent, even when we feel safe or happy.
But what if we consider the purpose of fear?
It is the part of the psyche that strives to keep us safe. It aims to exert some control in a situation where we feel that something of importance to us is at risk. It can do this by paralysing us. By compelling us to engage in old destructive patterns which stop us from moving forward.
This can feel very frustrating but it is useful to remember that we cannot live without fear. That would be terribly dangerous.
Remember that fear exists fundamentally, for all the right reasons.
What if knowing that invoked gratitude?
We can train ourselves to notice these patterns, to become conscious of them.
In acknowledging fear responses and the behaviour that results from them, we can make them conscious.
Sometimes merely bearing witness to our own triggers and behaviours is enough to effect positive change.
When we are conscious, we have the power to choose.
We can pause.
We can reframe our thoughts.
The next time you feel a fear response rising within you, rather than resisting, sit with it.
How and where do you feel it in your body?
Press pause on any automatic thoughts, knee jerk thoughts which follow those feelings.
Instead, become fully present and conscious.
To help you to do this, breathe deeply and slowly, following the air right to the bottom of your lungs.
Thank that protective part of your psyche for rising to the challenge you are facing.
Gently let it know that you are listening.
Come right into the present moment. Do not concern yourself with any past or future concerns.
Remember that those things cannot be addressed right now.
Ask yourself “is there any immediate threat?”
“Am I projecting myself into a future which is not determined yet?”
Now you can explore what it was that created those feelings of fear.
You can decide whether they were well founded. You can decide what is needed.
You can choose whether to act or whether to accept uncertainty and be present.
You can consciously decide what it is that you need in this moment.
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