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The Future is Not Fearful
By Karen Wright
Why would your life be better if what you're afraid of happening DID happen?
We fight against, run from, hide out, and avoid with every cell of our being those things we fear. But, what good does it do us? Have you ever once been able to outrun a fear? Like a shadow, it's always there when you turn around.
So, what if we stopped trying to escape, turned toward that which we fear...and take its hand? What if instead pretending it away, we told the truth? What then?
Before we get to the "what then," let's address the concept of fear first. I say concept because fear has no more substance than a thought, for that's all it is.
We've been conditioned to see fear as a warning against something dangerous. And we can most certainly get "feelings" that something is not right and take action to sidestep potential troubles. But, that's not the kind of fear that we struggle with 99.99% of the time. The fear that grabs us by the throat isn't usually an early warning system. No, this kind of fear is even more spectral - it's pure imagination in overdrive.
It takes some doing to redefine fear, but once you recognize the truth of it, it's pretty obvious. Fear is a factor of an imagined future. Isn't that true for you? Aren't the things you're really afraid might happen NOT happening NOW? Things that you don't want that ARE happening right now, you're taking action on - you're dealing with it. That's what we do in the Now...we take action.
The reason we can never get the upper hand with most of our fears is because you can't take action on something in the future. You can't touch it because it doesn't exist - it's only a thought.
Example: Elizabeth's company announced severe cost cutting measures recently. Each department was told to reduce expenses by 20%. In that process a few of her friends were let go. Now she lives in fear that the same thing will happen to her. It's keeping her awake at night with worry and she's become so stressed that her relationships are suffering and she has trouble concentrating at work.
I hope none of you can personally relate to this example, but I know many do. Is Elizabeth's fear real? Does she know she'll lose her job? No, she doesn't know it, but she fears it.
How does Elizabeth's state of mind right now help her? It doesn't. I know we could think that her fear could motivate her to either do more to ensure her retention or encourage her to begin looking for another job. But, that kind of motivation does not come from her kind of fear. Her kind of fear has gone from a concerned awareness to outright paralysis. Which is the only power this kind of fear has - to incapacitate.
Is Elizabeth's fear hurting her? Absolutely - and on several different levels. Her fear has her cowering. She can't even function. This definitely endangers her job - turning her fear into a diabolical self-fulfilling prophesy. She's also letting her fear affect her relationships which cuts her off from the very support she needs. She's feeling vulnerable and weak and her confidence and self-esteem are taking a beating.
Is her fear real? Her feelings are most certainly real, but the future is completely unknown. Still, she's letting her fears of the unknown control her.
What can she do differently? First, recognize that the fear she feels is unwarranted. There's nothing wrong with being more alert to what's going on at work or beginning to take more control of her Now, but buying into an imagined future as real is killing her. There are two factors to her situation; one she can influence to the best of her ability and one she can control completely...
- In her Influence
Elizabeth can recognize that her work reality is different and she can determine how to best be seen as a valuable asset. What can she do to find out more information about decisions in the works? How can she highlight her good work more visibly? Might she put her skills to use as "part of the solution" instead part of the problem? Can she offer to help the organization find effective ways to cut costs?
If she does find out that her job is in jeopardy, she can immediately begin networking her contacts to seek other job possibilities. Let friends know she's looking. She can make sure her resume is updated and recommendations are on record. She can begin curtailing her spending.
- In her Control
The only part of Elizabeth's world that is within her total control is her state of mind and choice of behavior. Yes, this takes work... and awareness... and commitment. Controlling the direction of our thoughts isn't something we learned in school. And some still don't believe it's even possible. But, it is and it's definitely a skill worth cultivating.
When Elizabeth feels herself beginning to think thoughts of dread and fright, she can learn to spot their physical symptoms. Churning stomach, scattered thoughts, inability to concentrate, racing heartbeat. Thoughts, emotions and body responses are all tied together tightly. Thoughts can cause emotions; emotions can trigger physical symptoms. If you spot the body's response to your thoughts you can sooth your troubled emotions by calming the body.
Breathe more deeply and slowly and the heart slows. When the heart slows, less adrenalin pumps through your body reducing jittery feelings. She can get more physically active: take a walk, exercise. This expends the built up adrenalin and relieves stress.
She can question her thoughts outright. When a fear presents itself, she can ask, "Is this true? Do I absolutely know this to be true?" Just because we have a thought doesn't mean it's true. This is a valuable lesson to learn. Questioning our thoughts puts us back in control and keeps us from being emotionally hijacked.
Okay, now that we've discussed fear, let's talk about the meaning of the first sentence of this article: Why would your life be better if what you're afraid of happening DID happen?
We've already established that we're most afraid of the unknown. But, the unknown can hold as many wonderful gifts as it does horrible tragedies...probably more, much more.
Life is impossible without change. Life without change is death! And it seems that often our biggest personal fears are the bearers of our most meaningful lessons. Lessons that not only liberate us from those fears, but in the process, show us our remarkable strength and power.
When we release a fear and open ourselves to that event, person or circumstance - a truth is revealed. We have nothing to fear. All of life is a process of experience, recognition, and growth. Experience of new things - recognition of truth - and growth of understanding.
Do this exercise considering something you've been afraid would happen in your life. Write down all the benefits to having that thing happen. What will you know that you don't know now? What strength will you acquire that you don't have now? What opportunities will be revealed that are cloaked now? What will you learn about yourself that you're uncertain of now? What new, and possibly wondrous, reality will be revealed that is unavailable to you now?
You have nothing to fear... especially of the unknown. Don't let fear create the picture of your future - it will spoil your Now. Believe in YOU more than you believe in your fears. Life has many wonderful things in store for you. Beauty and peace and fulfillment. A fearful person could not see these gifts if they were beat over the head with them! A fearful person is blind. That's not you!