Do you ever come to an understanding of why a really difficult thing happened?
I think we all want to know the reason for suffering… Right? Maybe?
People really do want to know though. At least the Meaning of what would’ve been if it could help us to understand the reasons to murder and hate, to reject and discriminate, exclude and segregate. All these horrible inconceivable actions are rooted in fear.
At the core of this question of suffering, I think his fear.
What do you think? What is at the core of it for you?
Fear is one of the most universal experiences. Fear of the other, fear of the loss of power, fear of knowing what is true, fear of losing a part of who we are, and so many other grappling foundational aspects of life.
Fear of spiders, fear of heights, and fear of the dark, fear of intimacy. These are the common ones that we often hear about.
Fear is not as universal as pain because I cannot say fear is fear like I can say pain is pain. There is a universal characteristic of fear that allows us to all understand it in a very similar way. There something really unique about fear; fear is connected to our unique individual experience, our interactions with the world around us and what we believe about ourselves. This is what makes up our reality or at least what we believe our reality is. Often times there are false interpretations in this reality and we believe them as if they are truth. This is where fear plants its roots.
When people ask me if I am afraid of anything I tell them the only thing I am afraid of is the unknown. This is kind of funny because it is the easy way out. Answering I am afraid of the unknown is like saying I am afraid of everything.
Have you heard the acronym for fear? It stands for false evidence appearing real. This essentially means fear is the possibility of something happening that we may not be able to conceive or imagine through the lens of our reality.
So If I were to answer the question more honestly I would say yes I am afraid of spiders, yes, I am afraid of heights, and yes I am afraid of intimacy.
So the question should not be what are we fearful of or what are we afraid of but how do you act with fear, interact with fear and how do you embrace fear. This is the transformational question that can be deeply empowering. It makes us our own agents of change. It says you have the choice to act in the face of fear and you have the choice to run or embrace.
The reason we often run from what we are fearful of is because it is scary to imagine what will happen, what the reality is and what it could be. We get so caught in what could happen that we forget to attach a feeling to the fear.
We think fear is the feeling.
Fear is not a feeling. Fear is an experience, a way to view reality; it’s a perspective, it’s a perceived interaction with what could happen.
What if we attached a feeling to our fears?
Like, I am worried that I will be rejected again.
I am scared that the airplanes engine will stop working
I am anxious because I am not sure if they will say yes
I feel sad because I do not want to go back to the place where I was hurt
I feel frustrated because I can not know whether this person accepts me or not.
I am concerned I will not be able to advocate for myself because the other person is a bully
I feel stuck because the other person will not listen
I feel unworthy because somebody treated me unfairly.
The more we are able to attach feelings to our fears the more we will be able to see that they are not based in the reality of what our possibility could be in the future. If we are honest our feelings attached to fear are based in our desire to control what happens in the future. What often happens is the feelings wrap us up in the fear and they give us a false reality. These fears are real, they are a part of our experience, but they are not reality.
What is reality?
Our reality is that we are smarter and more superior over the spider
The airplane flew just fine on its last flight and has proven itself billions of times
You can not change other people, but you can improve or change your approach
You can ask the question and learn from it and enjoy the experience
You can embrace the pain and redeem the hurt
You can have strength and the power to take the next step
Fear holds us back but fear doesn’t have to hold us back if we see it for what it is. Fear tells us what it. What is this, what is that, maybe this’ll happen. But Instead of asking what if maybe we should be saying “you can”, or better yet, “what if you did blank blank blank”.
This is not a change of behavior change, but a change in the way we perceive ourselves, the world and how we interact with both of those. I understand how hard this is. I am writing this because I am in the middle of the fight; the fight to fight fear, the fight to fight anger, the fight to fight resentment, the fight against the voice that says you can’t. I am beginning to wonder if we should continue to fight fighting fear, fighting anger, fighting resentment.
Maybe we should connect with it, see what it is teaching us and put a feeling to it. I think when we put feeling to it then we are able to increase its value and see it as part of our experience. When we experience something that we come to believe is true then there is power to take action, whether it is a positive or negative turn, it will be up to us.
Each time we make this decision there is an opportunity to change and transform.
So what does it look like to get over fears?
Step 1: We need to embrace it.
If we do not embrace fear then we will not be open to the feedback. We need to listen to the spider that is up in the corner of your room, just as we need to listen to the person that has discriminated and rejected us. This is part of loving our enemies. The reality is that our enemies will not even know this is happening because it is transforming ourselves first, which will allow us to love our neighbor because we will have loved our self. Part of embracing fear is embracing our self.
When we are loved then we can take the next step. Steps can be taken other ways, but it will carry resentment and anger. overcoming fear can and will take us to the core of who we are because it will reveal many layers at one time and bring up so many past experiences. Our goal after embracing our fear though is to tell it how it makes us feel.
Step 2: the conversation
Seriously as silly as it sounds have a nice conversation with it. Ask it where it comes from and what you would really like done about it.
If there is a spider on your wall and you are freaking out
Say ok I see you fear of spiders; I am worried that the spider is going to attack me and bite me with its poisonous venom. Spider fear where do you come from, when was the first time you were in my life and why did you show up. Spider fear when you showed up, what was it about you that actually scared me?
This is an example of the conversation with fear. This conversation happens already, but takes place in a much different way. Conclusions usually come before questions are able to be asked and an action takes place before we can realize we reacted to fear.
Step 3: step into it
To interact with the fear we need to take a step into it. I do not want to talk about conquering fears just yet. No need to get high and mighty just slow and steady. If it is spiders then find a spider and just look at it from a far and take a step closer to it. If it is the dark then step into it and do something fun in the dark. I do not like taking the trash out when it is dark because I fear a critter like a raccoon or skunk will attack me, but if I take the step to open the door to take a step outside and then go get the trash after seeing the coast is clear, and then it becomes much easier to take it to the big trash can outside.
We just need to be able to put one foot in front of another. This is how we interact with the fear. If we put one foot in front of the other then the fear does not hold us back. Conquering fears is not about erasing them, but not allowing them to hold us back. We can never get rid of fear, but we can know and learn how to take action in spite of them. Even if I were to conquer the fear of a raccoon or skunk attacking me then I would fear an attack of the boogie man. Fear is a constant, but the way that we respond to it does not have to remain a constant.
If you want to have some fun with fear then create a 30 day fear breaker. Make a list of 30 things that you are scared of, anxious about, worry about, become timid when faced with, or even just scared to initiate. Then take smalls steps into them and make it fun. The only way to get past a fear is to interact with it.
If you have a fear of spiders then get a toy spider and put it on your friend’s keyboard.
If you are afraid of heights then have a stair race to the top with a friend or hike a hill.
Fears are attached to our core and can often be quite deep issues to deal with, but I believe we can answer the difficult questions in life like what to do with suffering if we take one step at a time.
Here are good resources on going farther
Rejection therapy Jia Jiang
The war of art
a great counselor, Jennifer Schatz at hope counseling center