Pity those who fear what they shouldn’t and fear not what they should

How sad it is to see people spend their lives haunted by fear. The joy of life is squeezed out of them by fear of failure, criticism, betrayal, change, rejection, loneliness, poverty, growing old, getting sick, losing one’s job, and saying what is on their mind. They are afraid of death. But what is the point? The fear of death doesn’t prevent them from dying; it merely prevents them from living.

Fear is like a mutating virus, always causing havoc. It transforms itself into suspicion, mistrust, anger, hostility, aggression, anxiety, worry, hopelessness, and a host of other negative emotions. In fact, most of humanity’s problems stem from this primal emotion. Fear paralyzes us and builds an impenetrable wall that blocks our progress. We all will die, but how sad it is to die without having had the chance to meet the person we could have become, were it not for fear.

Our gravest problems are not losses and misfortune, for losses can be regained and ill fortune can be changed to good fortune, but our greatest problems are our fears. To a person of courage, problems and difficulties are mere obstacles that will be trampled on the march forward. On the other hand, even the smallest barrier forever blocks the way of the timid.

All our emotions are helpful tools meant to guide us. It is how we use them that make them positive or negative. For example, enthusiasm is generally helpful, but if I’m so enthusiastic that I act rashly, I may experience negative consequences. Fear is harmful when it is a product of my imagination and false beliefs and prevents me from doing what I wish. But when fear is based on rational thought, it issues a warning, which when followed, will protect me.

An example of the positive use of fear was given by Phyllis Schlafly, who was named one of the 100 most important women of the 20th century by the “Ladies’ Home Journal.” She wrote, “It’s very healthy for a young girl to be deterred from promiscuity by fear of contracting a painful, incurable disease, or cervical cancer, or sterility, or the likelihood of giving birth to a dead, blind, or brain-damaged baby.”

Yes, fear can lead us to making the right choices, but it is the debilitating effects of unjustified or irrational fear that is of concern here. How can we eliminate the fear that prevents us from reaching our potential? It starts with awareness. Although we may have no control over the events or circumstances that we fear, our anxiety is not part of those events. Our fear is merely our interpretation of the events. Our fear is composed of OUR thoughts. Once we accept this fact and take responsibility for our thoughts, we can begin to make progress.

Sometimes we cleverly hide our fears by disguising them. If we want to root them out, we need to be mindful of our thoughts and carefully analyze them. For example, when I say that I would prefer to remain in my present job because I am a cautious person, it may really mean that I am AFRAID to change jobs. Similarly, when I say that I’m not interested in computers, I may really be saying that I’m AFRAID of computers. Don’t allow these or any other self-limiting beliefs hold you back

The cure for fear is action. You need to do what you fear. But you don’t have to take giant steps. In fact, if you were to try to do so, you may fail and grow even less confident in your abilities. So, take small, baby steps. As you do so, each success will encourage and motivate you to continue. The rewards are well worth it. For as Henry Ford (1863 ~ 1947) said, “One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.”

Another weapon in our arsenal against fear is curiosity. Get involved with life. Learn as much as you can. Develop curiosity. Men and women risk their lives by boarding space vehicles not because they are reckless or fearless, but because they are curious. They are explorers yearning to go where few have ever been. You, too, can become an explorer. Your can explore your vast universe of inner space. You can plunge into the depths of your being and discover the courage to chart a new life, a new beginning. This year, resolve to live the life of your dreams. Kick down the barriers of fear and venture into the unknown. Dare to discover your hidden powers.

Yet another tool to fight fear is acceptance of what is. To experience the fullness and richness of life I should set goals and strive for growth. However, the goals I set are preferences. I don’t cling to them and demand that they be fulfilled, for I cannot predict the future. Neither can I know how changing events may make my personal goals unattainable. But by being willing to adapt and change when necessary, I will eliminate fear of not reaching my goals. Instead of having a thwarted goal end in frustration and disappointment, it blooms into a valuable lesson and another step on the road to success.

Your imagination is like a powerful magnet that draws to it whatever you are anticipating. If you are expecting a bright and sunny life, lo and behold, that’s exactly what you get. But if all you expect from life are dark clouds and gloom, prepare for storms, for they will surely come. Anticipation of fear can lead to explosive tension. Or, as Alfred Hitchcock (1899 ~ 1980) said, “There is no terror in a bang, only in the anticipation of it.” When we use our imagination to focus on the positive, it is empowering and liberating. Yet, when we use it to focus on the negative, it is paralyzing and crippling. Consider the words of Epictetus (50 ~ 120), “It is not death or hardship that is a fearful thing, but the fear of death and hardship.”

Become sensitive to your feelings. When you are aware of them, you can control them rather than have them control you. When you feel afraid of doing something you should be doing, stare fear in the face. Say, “I’m not afraid of you. I welcome and embrace you. But it is I, and not you, that will decide what I am afraid of. I welcome fear. I welcome being afraid of losing my potential. I have decided to be afraid of living with regrets. I’m fed up with becoming a puny person that is startled by the sound of my own footsteps. So, I have decided to act and do what I fear. I welcome you, fear, as a friend, for you always point the way I can experience more growth. From now on, whenever I feel fear, I will pause to discover whether the lesson you bring is to avoid danger or accept a new challenge. By fearing what I should, I avoid suffering, and by not fearing what I should not, I achieve success.”

Discovering the joy of life can be as simple as being willing to accept discomfort. Barbara Streisand explains, “I can say, I am terribly frightened and fear is terrible and awful and it makes me uncomfortable, so I won’t do that because it makes me uncomfortable. Or I could say get used to being uncomfortable. It is uncomfortable doing something that’s risky. But so what? Do you want to stagnate and just be comfortable?” Well, what do you think? Do you want to stagnate and just be comfortable?