Fear. It’s a strong emotion. It’s one that not only attacks us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but also physically. It comes in the form of panic attacks, hot flashes, nightmares, upset stomachs, headaches, and a whole book of things, and it’s so hard to fight, it’s so difficult to overcome. But it can be done. How? By breaking down what you’re afraid of, and changing your perspective of it.
For example, I used to be frightened of storms. Terrified, petrified, spitlessly afraid. I live in the Midwest, tornadoes are common in my state, and not only do they destroy a lot, they tend to claim lives, and I began to associate storms, even a lightening-less, thunder-less storm, with them. Every time it rained, I would cower in the basement, certain a tornado was coming and I was going to die. I’d either be buried under the rubble of my demolished home, or my twisted body would be found miles away, in a tree or a field.
It got to the point where I had nightmares about this, and my life was centered around a fear. But was I really frightened of storms?Or was I frightened of dying? I had a struggle that went far deeper than being afraid of two fronts meeting. I was afraid of the possible outcome.
Another example is my dog. A few years ago, we had a house fire, and but for the grace of God, we would have lost everything. To this day, my dog associates anything that beeps ( bc of the smoke alarm) with fire, and she freaks out anytime I use the toaster oven, or do anything else that results in beeping. But she’s not afraid of those things; she’s afraid of the possible outcome.
Digging down and discovering what it is that you are truly afraid of is the first step in conquering it. Many say they are afraid of the future, but if you ask why, they can only say it’s because things might not turn out. Keep digging and you’ll find that most people are afraid their future will be a repeat of the past. Just like with the fact that not all storms mean tornadoes, and not all tornados mean death, or that not all beeps mean fire, they are afraid of a possible outcome. Possible means it could happen, but it doesn’t mean it will. It’s possible that if I roll a die, it will land on a 2, but it’s also possible that it will land on a 3,4,5,6, or 1.
Possible does not mean a positive. Living a life without fear is finding what you’re truly afraid of, then realizing that just because your fear is a possible outcome, doesn’t mean it’s the only outcome. The next step is understanding that you are only human. There are forces in this world you can’t change, circumstances you can’t control, and outcomes you won’t like. But you don’t have to be afraid of them. You can choose to accept the odds and keep going, or you can cower in your closet, wondering ‘what if,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘but.’
I might get cancer. It’s a possible outcome. But am I going to worry about it? No. I’m going to do what I can to prevent it, but I refuse to let my life become obsessed with it. I could die in a traffic accident, but I’m not going to let that stop me from driving. I might get mugged, but that’s not going to stop me from moving to L.A. My life could go through some pretty hard times, but I’m not going to stop living.
We are living in the past, we’re letting it dictate what we do next, giving it the paintbrush and allowing it to paint our future. I understand that, I really do, but as long as you keep doing that, you’ll never go anywhere. Just because you were in an abusive relationship doesn’t mean all relationship are abusive. Just because one college or one business didn’t want you doesn’t mean another won’t.
We look at life and only see one outcome, the bad one, so we do everything we can to protect ourselves, often preventing good things from happening. We bubble wrap ourselves so tightly, we won’t even consider ALL the possible outcomes, all the good ones. You keep doing that, you’re going to look back on life and see all the beautiful opportunities you missed, the chances to do amazing things, all because you focused on one outcome, instead of all of them.
We all know the phrase, ‘accept the things we can’t change…’ Accept. Accept means to understand that it might happen, but to not worry about it. It’s a hard thing to do, but its benefits are well worth the struggle. I accept I might get cancer, but I refuse to worry about it. I can’t change it, so why spend valuable time on it when I could be focusing on what I CAN change?
Life is like a giant puzzle. Some times, you can see ahead, you can see pieces you don’t yet have a place for. You see a piece that has the face of someone you know crying, and you think the worst, and you stop putting the puzzle together, you stop living. But if you kept putting the puzzle together, you might find that person was crying for joy, not sorrow. But you don’t know. Crying for sorrow is a possible outcome, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only outcome.
So, acknowledge your fear, discover what it is you’re truly afraid of, then see if it’s something you can change. If not, let it go, and let life. And when you break it down, when you change your perspective, you realize it’s really not anything to be afraid of, anyway. You wonder what you were so afraid of. You get on that plane for the first time and wonder what the big deal was. And when you do this, when you shut the door on fear, you are opening up dozens more that lead to opportunities and happiness.
A life lived in fear isn’t a life at all. I understand this can be hard, but it’s worth it. Stop living in fear and start living in faith, in hope, in courage. Start LIVING!
What are you so afraid of?