Your Fears Will Never Go Away, And That’s Ok.
Recently, I found myself thinking about fear. What it is, where it comes from, and how to make it go away.
This led to me to a simple, but poignant revelation. Consider the position that all emotions emerge from one of two ends of a spectrum, Fear and Love. Everything you think, feel, and do is based on one of these sensations, and in some occasions a mixture of them both. In every moment, we are either acting out of fear or out of love. Emotions like anger, jealousy, dishonesty, all emerge from experiencing fear.
But where does fear come from? Why are we sometimes seemingly paralyzed by this experience, and how do we conquer it once and for all?
Fear is necessary, and in some capacities life saving. We feel fear when the mind begins to imagine danger. There are two types of fear, and both stem from imagination.
Fear based on surrounding danger: Walking along a weak, wooden bridge 100 feet above a river induces fear because the mind naturally begins to notice the possibilities of death. This type of fear is perfectly logical, and arises with reason. We are currently in a dangerous environment, and any slight mistake can put our lives at risk. This is perfectly normal.
Fear based solely on mental projections: Alternatively, we can notice that we sometimes fear things that have not yet happened. There’s a big job opportunity coming up, we’ve been waiting years for this. What If I don’t get it? Where will I go from there? What will my family think? Will I be able to find another job? How will I support myself?
Notice that all of these questions are about the future. At this point we have left our present moment and being, and are imagining a circumstance that has not happened and in fact, we have little to no reason to believe that it will happen. The solution is twofold.
First, the question has to change from “How do I get rid of fear?”, to “How can I stop thinking and worrying about the future?”
You have to learn to be present, in every moment, in every situation. I think this is extremely difficult, and probably takes quite a while to see any progress. The mind naturally may wander into the past and future, but it takes a system of self-discpline to learn to regain focus on the present moment. Asking yourself questions like “What am I doing right now?”, “How do I feel right now?”, seems to help bring the mind back on the now.
Different forms of mindfulness meditation, such as Vipassana, helps in this effort tremendously. Just being able to sit down and notice yourself breathing, for even just a few minutes, helps quiet the mind significantly.
The second, is understanding courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but continuing in spite of it. It is moving in the direction of the very thing you are afraid of, instead of allowing yourself to be paralyzed by it. The brain is incredibly malleable to forming habits, and being courageous is a habit. The more you do the things you’re afraid of, the more courage you develop. Your fear of that thing may or may not go away, and that’s not our concern. Our concern is developing courage. It is our only focus.
Do the thing you fear the most, and the death of fear is certain
Now the first type of fear never goes away, that is simply our brain’s biological response to our surroundings. We need that type of fear. The second type of fear may very well never go away either, but certainly can be lessened and controlled with practice. You cannot control every single moment of your life, but you certainly can control the way you see every single moment in your life, and that is your key to freedom.
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.