Fear is Useless
Here is what they are selling:
My body feels fear well before I realize what is happening. A tightness in the pit of my stomach, maybe a constriction in my chest. A random thought enters my mind: I wonder if I should buy some grain to store in cupboards… or more toilet paper. Just in case.
Before I even notice the anxiety, my imagination is bent on worry. My creativity transforms into
thoughts about safety and security… or if left long enough maybe into dystopian fantasies of dying in a large nuclear fireball.
I need an intervention.
I’m not usually one to quote scripture, but here it is: “Fear is useless, what is needed is trust.” Chaos, death and destruction happen. Fear won’t change that. Fear, in fact, makes it worse.
As FDR famously said: all we have to fear is fear itself.
There is a reason he said this. From our fear, we create more things to fear. We fear each other. Perhaps we fear ourselves. When we fear, we cannot create positive possibility. Fear constricts.
For me, fear gets bigger when I try to make it go away. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle.
Ignoring fear, saying “there is nothing to be afraid of”, judging the fear… none of this works for me. But recently, I discovered a practice that does work. It starts with paying attention—noticing when I am actually feeling fear. That is key.
(1) Notice fear in my body. Where do I feel it?
(2) Say. “So this is what fear feels like”
(3) Feel it. Notice the thoughts as they come up.
(4) Say “So this is a thought that produces fear” (or alternatively "This is a thought produced by fear)
(5) Choose a new thought. I like this one: I trust in good. (Thank you , Jesus)
(6) Choose an action, however small, in a positive direction. Am I worried about climate change? I choose to work on solar energy.
Guess what! My fear dissipates. Perhaps it doesn’t like to be noticed. Or maybe action chases it away.
Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.