Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fear: Friend or Foe

Fear is an emotion with which we're all familiar. It's part of the human condition. We know what it feels like. But, like anger, it can work for us or against us. Fear is a primitive, instinctual response to potential danger, and can mobilize us to positive action. Or, if it's an irrational response, it can immobilize us to exhaustion. We deal with both as we move along our unpredictable day-to-day path, and I think it's helpful to understand what it is we're dealing with.

Sometimes we conjure up an idea in our mind about something we think might happen. Of course, we have no evidence of a threat, but playing "what if" will get us there in a hurry. In my attempt to quit smoking, I'm exploring what there is inside of me that might be hindering my progress. And I realize I'm afraid to quit. If I quit, what will I do when I get stressed out and need to calm down? What will I do in the morning when I need a pickup? How can I drink a cup of coffee without the cigarette to go with it? How can I possibly get through a day without this familiar part of my life? What if I never had another cigarette to depend on? Fear! Fear! This is irrational thinking because, in truth, I don't really need this crutch. I just think I do, so I get scared at the thought of letting it go.

At times, this scenario goes on in all of us. What if I don't get the job? What will I do if this person is no longer in my life? How can I give up foods that make me feel good? What if my plans don't turn out? We create our own irrational fear, and then suffer when it needlessly consumes us. Sound crazy? Well, maybe. But it's what we do.

A degree of rational fear causes us to take right action, and it can actually save our life. Nothing wrong with that. But those irrational fear creations in our mind are something we need to look at and find ways to change our thinking. Over time, fear takes its toll, and there's enough suffering in the world without our creating more of it for ourselves. We're too special for that.

Next time I'll explore ways to change our fear to faith.

Fear not. Have fun.


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