Dealing with Fear
Pestilence was on its way to Damascus and sped by a spiritual master’s caravan in the desert.
“Where are you speeding to?” asked the master.
“To Damascus. I mean to take a thousand lives.”
On its way back from Damascus, Pestilence passed by the caravan again. The master said, “It was 50,000 lives that you took, not a 1000.”
“No,” said the Pestilence. “I took a thousand. It was Fear that took the rest.
“To fear is one thing. To let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around is another.” — Katherine Paterson, Jacob Have I Loved
Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger — if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from dangerous and these fears can stop us from enjoying life and experiencing wonderful things.
There is physical fear. When we see a snake, instinctively there is fear; that is normal, healthy and natural. It is not fear, it is a normal desire to protect oneself. But the psychological protection of oneself, that is, the desire to be always certain, breeds fear. A mind that is always seeking to be certain is a dead mind, because there is no certainty in life, there is no permanency. But we try to establish permanency in our relationships, in jobs and many other things that are subject to ups and downs. That is when we have fear of a downgrade or loss.
We have fear of death, of deception due to ignorance, of dejection, of rejection, of risk, of change, of others’ opinion, of losing loved ones, of losing job, fear of boss, fear of loneliness, fear of spouse, fear of pain, fear of falling ill, fear of failure, etc.
There are various forms of fear, conscious and unconscious. If you are aware extensively, you can see the obvious fears: of losing a job and therefore playing up to your boss; being frightened of going wrong. So, we have innumerable fears and consciously we can know them quite easily. If we spend half an hour consciously, deliberately, to find out our fears, outwardly at least, we can easily stop them. But it is much more difficult to find out the unconscious fears, deep down within us, which have a greater importance and which become dreams during our sleep.
“We are more often frightened than hurt and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” — Seneca
“What would we accomplish if we weren’t afraid?” Very few people contemplate this question, yet it can have a profound impact on our lives. When we begin to confront our fears instead of running away from it, everything changes.
Fear plays a huge role in nearly everyone’s life. Unfortunately, for many, emotional pain from the past, drives these fears. Because of this, most of us do whatever it takes to avoid those situations in the future and it can have a huge impact on our actions in the present.
To identify what might be holding us back, we need to reflect on this.
Are you afraid to ask that person out through fear of rejection? Are you unhappy in your current job but you’re afraid of change? Are we letting our dreams slip through our fingers because we’re afraid of failure?
Sometimes it’s more subtle than this — but equally destructive. We may avoid uncomfortable conversations with our partner because we’re afraid of what they might say? We may avoid difficult conversations at work because of fear of confrontation?
All of these fears are perfectly understandable, especially when they’re being driven by past experiences. But imagine how life might look if pushed through these fears. By having those difficult conversations, we might save our relationship or get that promotion.
Some ways to deal with fear:
1) Analyze the nature of your fear: Is your fear based on something rational or is it based simply on “what ifs”? Fear of failure falls under the “what ifs”. Don’t let these rule your life.
“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.” — Peter T. McIntyre
2) Confront your fear. When we try to ignore our fear, it grows. When we face it, it shrinks.
3) To overcome the fear of the unknown, get the information or knowledge needed to examine the situation based on facts rather than speculation.
5) Prioritize the potential benefits. There will always be negatives to any decision. But weigh these up against the potential benefits of a decision and how your life might change for the better.
6) Learn to live with a certain level of uncertainty in life. We can never eliminate all risks in life. Making a big decision is simply choosing one of many paths through the uncertainty.
7) Stop thinking that doing nothing is an option. Fear can paralyze or freeze one into inaction or push one into hasty action, which may worsen the situation. When fear strikes analyze the options, make a wise choice and act accordingly.
8) Overcome fear of loneliness by devising ways and means to enjoy solitude.
9) Don’t be afraid of other’s opinion or criticism. Great leaders and revolutionaries never bothered about criticism. They followed their conscience and did what they felt was right.
10) Visualize worst-case scenario. Having done that, any other result that follows by working to improve the situation has to be good.
11) To overcome the fear of death, deception and dejection, we need to know our real Self, which is of the nature of existence, consciousness and bliss absolute.
The best things in life are often on the other side of fear. That’s where true freedom lies: in our challenges, our vulnerabilities and our struggles. We find true happiness, by pushing through our fears.
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind.” — Dale Carnegie