Fear’s purpose isn’t to defeat reason, but to assist it

One or more thieves tried to break into the house of one of our readers. They had already removed two windowpanes and were about to enter the house; however, when our reader, a young wife and mother, went to investigate the noise, they fled.

This is the first attempted break-in she experienced. Understandably, the discovery of her own vulnerability shocked her. The knowledge that women and children are especially vulnerable only intensifies her anxiety. She writes, “How do you deal with fears of this nature? How do I get over this fear and anxiety fast, any ideas?”

Anyone who has been physically wounded knows that it takes time for the wounds to heal, but they certainly will heal. It is no different with psychological wounds. So, my first suggestion is don’t expect to overcome your fears overnight, but do expect to overcome them.

Fear is nothing to fear. It can be a gift, a valuable tool. Its purpose isn’t to defeat reason, but to assist it. If you make your home burglarproof after discovering it is vulnerable to break-ins, this would be an example of fear assisting reason. That is, the fear of future break-ins causes us to take prudent and suitable actions, which improve our overall security.

However, if we become recluses because of fear, afraid to leave our homes, and live in the clutches of paranoia and stress, this would be an example of fear defeating reason. It is an attack against reason because fear that immobilizes us and diminishes our enjoyment of life is useless and counterproductive.

Our imagination can be our best friend or our worst enemy. Whatever we repeatedly think about sinks into our subconscious. And once there, our subconscious assumes we want what we think about. So, it does everything in its power to realize or bring about what we focus on. This is good news when all we think about is what we wish to achieve and become, for our subconscious will then help us to reach our goals. But it is bad news if all we think about is misery because our subconscious will see to it that we experience exactly what we think about.

So, be sure your reason rules over your imagination and not vice versa. Because the media reports on negative events, rather than positive events, the threats we face appear exaggerated. Don’t allow the negative stories that flood the news to set your imagination on fire. If you use your reason to study the crime statistics for your area, you will quickly realize there is little chance that you will become the victim of a serious crime. Therefore, there is little to fear.

On the other hand, crime has always been with us and may be impossible to eradicate entirely. So, do not demand or expect to experience a life free from loss, pain, and sacrifice. Such a demand is unrealistic and guaranteed to end in frustration. Instead, agree to accept whatever you cannot change. The unpleasantries we have to deal with are our admission tickets to life. If we keep a positive attitude, we will discover that it is well worth the price we have to pay to receive the joy and richness offered by life.

It is also helpful to compare your situation with others. What would an Iraqi, Palestinian, or Israeli do to exchange their turbulent life with the relative peace that you enjoy? Where would you rather be? Guess what? You are already where you would rather be, so be thankful and enjoy what you have. As Hannah More (1745 ~ 1833) wrote, “When thou hast truly thanked the Lord for every blessing sent, but little time will then remain for murmur or lament.”

Use your experience as a valuable lesson to improve your home security. Do whatever you can and be comfortable knowing you now have added security. And look at the bright side: you learned this lesson WITHOUT loss. Also use your experience as a practice ground to develop your character by embracing acceptance and patience. Also take advantage of this opportunity to develop courage by moving on with life, despite your fear.

Your experience is also an opportunity to grow spiritually. For example, consider these words of The Dhammapada (1st century BC Buddhist scriptures): “‘He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,’ -in those who harbor such thoughts hatred will never cease. ‘He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,’ -in those who do not harbor such thoughts hatred will cease. For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.”

Love is the opposite of fear. If you love your brothers and sisters, including those who would rob you, you have nothing to fear. This is a very difficult teaching for many. It is akin to Christ’s teaching to “turn the other cheek.” When abused, the first thought that comes to mind is revenge, not forgiveness and compassion. Yet, our salvation and our path to peace and happiness lie in following the precepts of Christ, Buddha, and other great teachers.

When we bloom spiritually, our attitude changes from that of victim to that of one who is convinced that nothing happens to us that isn’t for our own good. The spiritually awakened stand straight in the midst of turmoil because of their faith. What is faith? William Sloan Coffin (b. 1924) explains: “Faith is not believing without proof, it is trusting without reservation.” Faith, then, is the ability to surrender to the will of God. And it is in that surrender that our freedom lies.

Simon Patrick (1626 ~ 1707) points out what a lack of faith indicates: “It is distrust of God, to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God, to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God, to be troubled for what is past.” So, if we are experiencing fear, it signals an opportunity to reflect and work on our faith.

Fear is perfectly acceptable when it is used in a positive manner, for as Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 ~ 1968) said, “Our problem is not to be rid of fear but rather to harness and master it.” For example, a crime victim may channel and transmute fear by becoming an activist. He or she may establish a Neighborhood Watch program in which the members of the community work with law enforcement to reduce crime. We can begin to reduce crime when we cause those who are not victims to become as outraged as those who are.

The experience of being a crime victim can lead one to interesting and surprising directions. For instance, interest in the causes of crime may lead one to become an advocate of criminal rights. Such a turn of direction is not surprising among victims who are trying to follow the teachings of Buddha and Christ. Other interesting paths one may explore are the fields of criminology and victimology. Victimology is the fascinating study of victims of crime, their relation to the criminal, and their role as a possible causal factor in crime. Just to give a quick example: if one lives in fear of being attacked, that fear makes one more likely to be attacked, for perpetrators are on the lookout for weak and vulnerable people to prey on.

Finally, don’t seek a life free of crime, but a life free of worry. Don’t seek a life full of comfort, but a life full of trust in your Creator. As you can see, I have no solutions to offer, just thoughts to mull over. They have helped others and I hope one or two of the ideas may help you.