I have recently noticed how much fear and worry there is in my life and the life of many people I speak with. By this, I don’t mean terror about everyday things but a general anxiety about decisions and events that may affect our lives.
We are born as perfect babies without fear or anxiety. Soon however, the fears of our parents and the world around us starts to impact on our lives. We are told to behave and be ‘good’ children, we are taught to study hard or else we will fail, we need to get great jobs so we can buy a house.Yes the fear of failure is instilled in us from an early age. Some fears are necessary to protect us, for example, you don’t touch something hot or you will be burn’t, you don’t cross the road without looking or else you may be hit by a car. However we are fed with fear every day of our lives and it’s very difficult to not get caught up in this fear cycle.
The media is great at telling us about the latest war, disaster, murder or other gruesome crime. It’s very easy then to develop a fear of flying, going out at night, or being mugged. We learn to worry about our children and their decisions, we are scared not to be in control in case ‘something’ happens, we fear being ill, we fear failure and we fear being successful in case we become overwhelmed. As Marianne Williamson says in her book, ‘A Return to Love”, ‘We are so scared of death that we fear living.’ Along the way we have learn’t to doubt our inner wisdom and intuition.
This all sounds pretty negative but believe me, it can be changed and here are some suggestions.
1. One way is to remove the source of the fear. Watching the news every night reinforces how terrible life can be, so don’t watch it on a regular basis. I was addicted to the news and every night at 6pm, I would rush to turn the television on in case I missed out on something. Once I stopped doing this, I realised how silly it was. Firstly, my life was no longer dictated by a 6pm call up and secondly, I didn’t need to hear or see half of what I was being exposed to. I don’t mean to advise that you shut yourself off from the world, but sometimes you don’t need to know all the gory details. I do listen to the headlines or check them on the internet but I don’t need to see the full details of the horror that the media loves to report on. We may think that we become desensitised to the news, but it does deeply affect us on a subconscious level and instills a lot of fear into our lives.
2. Change your reaction to the fear. By this I mean, put the fear into context. Ask yourself if the fear is realistic e.g. am I going to crash next time I fly? Highly unlikely! Also ask yourself, what in this situation is causing my fear? Is is a fear of not being in control, worrying about someone else’s decisions that may or may not affect you? I know I often worry about my son and the decisions he makes in his life. But I have learn’t to trust him and know that he has to learn for himself and I can’t control his life or his decisions. I may not always agree with them, but I have learn’t to put my faith in him as an adult and respect the choices he makes.
3. Examine the fear and look as where it comes from. Is is based on a childhood trauma or some other trauma in your life? You won’t be able to change what disaster has happened in the past but if you are aware of the fear and where it is coming from, you lessen the power you give to it. Writing it down, often helps too. If we live our lives fearing what may or may not happen, we don’t LIVE our lives.
4. Know that you don’t need to control everything! Is your fear based on trying to control everything in your life? I know that I have always been a bit of a control freak. The house had to be cleaned by me or it wasn’t done properly. I needed to do all the shopping or the brand I wanted wasn’t purchased. Cheryl Richardson in her book “The Art of Extreme Self-Care” says that she would even re-stack the dishes in the dishwasher because she felt her husband didn’t do it properly. This made me laugh as it’s something that I have been guilty of too! Letting others do the things you think YOU need to do, allows you to let go of the fear that ‘it’s not good enough”. It allows you to trust and know that things will still happen even if it’s not your way.
5. Breathe when fear strikes. By this I don’t mean that you suddenly stop everything and sit down and meditate, but do allow yourself to breathe. If I’m anxious, worried or fearful about something, I take a few deep breaths to calm down, then I breathe out the fear and breathe in a feeling of love instead. As I breathe in the love, with each ‘out’ breath the fear diminishes a little and loses its effect. I often practise this while meditating. It may sound very simple but by letting go of your fear and replacing it with love, allows you to trust in things working out. It really is quite a powerful exercise.
Remember that fear doesn’t need to control your life. Choose to let go and trust in life’s challenges and adventures. Live the life you have, love and laugh a lot and you may find that any fears that remain, lose their effect and potency.