Lately, I’ve thought a lot about fear. Fear prevented me from writing this blog for a while. I let it convince me that I had nothing to share or say. Luckily, I overcame it. I want to share how I did it, but it’s probably not the way you think.
We are not born with fear. As a child, you walk around touching and exploring things with no real sense of danger. As you rush to reach for the hot stove to explore, usually an adult, screams and then instills the fear in you. There is nothing wrong with it. A healthy amount of fear prevents you from getting hurt. But, too much fear can paralyze you and prevent you from living.
I used to be fearless. I used to think there were no limits to what I could do. I still have it in doses. If I go to an amusement park, I want to ride the highest, fastest and most fearful looking roller-coaster. I have to conquer it. It feels like a challenge to me. I used to live my life that way. Somewhere along the line, with more and more people telling me what I couldn’t do, I adopted fear. As I faced more disappointments in my life, I started to believe them and that fear morphed into anxiety. I learned not to touch the stove.
How can someone who views the tallest, fastest, scariest looking roller-coaster as an exhilarating thrill, also be the same person who cowers in the corner at the thought of potential rejection from life? It seems odd. Once I thought about it, I realized that a roller-coaster at least offered the illusion of safety.When I sit in the seat with the heavy weight of the bar against my chest and my legs, I am lulled into a false belief that I am protected. Life offers a ride in a similar seat with no straps, no bars and no restraints. There is no illusion of safety.
However, if you allow fear to dictate your life, you won’t live at all. Fear is seductive. It convinces you that it knows best and that courage is wrong. It tells you comfort and security is the way to avoid problems in your life. The reality is there is no guarantee of comfort and no such thing as security. Life runs in cycles. It’s ever-changing and there are ups and downs, just like that roller-coaster. You are riding it whether you want to or not.
So, how you overcome your fears?
I read a passage from the book “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. It talks about a young warrior who is told that she has to do battle with fear. She doesn’t want to, but she is commanded to and instructed how to beat fear. They both arrive for their fight with weapons drawn.
“The young warrior roused herself and went toward fear, prostrated three times, and asked, “May I have permission to go into battle with you?” Fear said, “Thank you for showing me so much respect that you ask permission.” Then the young warrior said, “How can I defeat you?” Fear replied, “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very close to your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever I say. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You can listen to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even be convinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have no power.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeat fear. ”- Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
The way to overcome fear is to realize it is a friend. It’s not here to harm you. It might be misguided and overblown, but, sometimes, it does have good information. The best thing to do is listen to it. Give it an audience. Sit with it. Then, you have to figure out if it is rational or irrational. If it’s rational, heed the information. If it’s irrational, thank it (as you would anyone who gives you bad advice) and discard it.
You can’t fight fear. It’s apart of life and it will always be there. You have to be able to walk with it if you want to conquer it. It’s just like that roller-coaster. Faith is holding you with invisible straps and bars. The ride is crazy, but it’s not as terrifying as you think it will be. And most of all, enjoy the ride.