I didn’t realize until I began my journey of self-discovery what a major effect fear had on my life and how much of it was all around me. One dictionary definition of fear says: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” The interesting part of this definition is that the emotion of fear comes up whether the threat is real or imagined. The fear that I would like to talk about is the one where the threat is imagined, for I believe that that is how fear comes up the most in our daily lives. Don’t get me wrong, I believe fear has its place in stimulating the adrenaline we need in real danger to propel us to action, but my belief is that fear has gone way beyond its useful purpose and has become debilitating to our sense of empowerment which is needed if we are to find true happiness in our lives.
It is possible that fear was used as a tool by earlier civilizations to control the masses through various institutions that wanted to keep the majority of people under control. You must admit that fear is a pretty good tool for controlling others. However, we have all experienced the crippling effects of fear and witnessed how overpowering it can become. I don’t know about you, but as I was growing up I was taught to be afraid of a lot of things in life, which I eventually realized were holding me back from achieving my full potential. I was taught to be concerned about what others thought of me. I was taught to always be the best and strive for perfection. I was afraid I would never be good enough or have enough and if I did it might run out or I would lose it. I was afraid of becoming sick. These are only a few of the fears that I had growing up and they prevented me from feeling good about myself.
It was only when I began to think about fear and the effect it had on my life that I began to realize that in most cases the fears that made me the most uncomfortable were simply illusions of what might happen in the future. One of the great insights that helped me conquer many of my fears came as I was studying the work of Eckhart Tolle. As many of you know, Tolle, in his well-known book “The Power of Now,” pointed out that the only thing that is truly real is the present moment or now. The past is gone and the future has not yet arrived.
As I continued to think about fear I came to realize that in most cases the fear in my life was about the future, in other words, the “imagined” threat of what was to come. I began to think about why I had so many fears and I realized that most had been “taught” to me was by parents, siblings, religion and the education system. I was amazed at how many times in a day my thoughts were about fears; in all cases, they were about what may happen in the future. At one point in my journey when I was away on vacation I decided to say “fear” out loud, anytime I realized I was having a fear thought. It was amazing in a two-day period how many times I said the word “fear” — and that was while I was on vacation. Can you imagine how many times I would have had to say it if I were at home or at work? It simply proved to me how deeply engrained my fear beliefs were within me. One of the great insights that my first coach taught me was that awareness can lead to choice. The more aware I became of my fears the more I realized I had a choice as to whether to accept the fear thought or change it and let it go.
But, let’s face it, no matter how much Eckhart Tolle tells us that we should only be focusing on the now, the reality is that most of us will always allow our minds to wander off into the future. So, when I realized that if I were going to change or let go of my fear thoughts, I would need something to replace them with. What I discovered was the power of faith. By simply believing that things would work out well for me, no matter how challenging or difficult they appeared to be, I was able to let go of so many of my fears. Now you may say that’s pretty naive of me to be so foolish as to think that things will always work out well. You may be right, but then again I would rather be naive in believing things will work out well for me than be petrified and afraid that disaster will continually strike. What I realized is that if I am incapable of predicting accurately, on a consistent basis, how the future will unfold then what difference does it make if I choose to believe that all will work out well or if I decide that calamity will forever be my nemesis. Is my true outcome going to be adversely affected by having a positive view of how things will turn out, even if my view is based solely on faith and trust? Will my reality turn out any different if my thoughts about the future are full of fear or full of faith?
There are people, like me, who do believe that thoughts create reality —but even if you don’t, why not choose thoughts that make you feel good rather than ones that make you feel bad. It’s really that simple. I believe that fear thoughts are sticky and dark and don’t feel very good. On the other hand, thoughts of faith and hope are fluffy, light and enjoyable. So even if, unlike me, you don’t think your thoughts have any influence on your outcome, why would you ever choose a fearful thought that, as the dictionary definition I quoted at the beginning says, brings up a “distressing emotion.” Why would you choose to punish yourself with thoughts of fear that are often based only on a supposition about the future, which most of us are incapable of predicting anyway? Why not choose thoughts of faith and trust that at least make you feel more hopeful about a future situation. Now, if you do believe that your thoughts create your reality, then you will definitely want to replace fearful thoughts with ones of faith and trust because those very thoughts will create that reality you are looking for. If you want to be a happier more relaxed person then consider replacing your thoughts of fear with thoughts of faith.
Since many of our thoughts come to us unconsciously from our many conditioned beliefs, and since fear thoughts are always about the future, maybe it’s time to consciously rethink the choice we have about fear, especially the fear that comes from “imagined danger.” The more we become aware of the fears we all tend to have in our lives, the more we will be able to choose if those thoughts of fear serve us well or if we would be better served by thoughts of faith. Remember the choice is yours – fear or faith? As I have come to choose thoughts of faith over thoughts of fear I have not only felt better but amazing things have come into my life.
Exercise: Try replacing every “fear thought” that comes up with a “faith thought” Here are some examples to get you going.
Fear Thought Faith Thought
I’m never going to meet this deadline. It may seem rushed but I’ve never been late yet.
What if I’m really sick? I’m a healthy person and I can deal with anything.
My boss will never let me get this raise. I deserve a raise and I’ll ask for one with confidence.
I’ll never get that job I want. There are lots of great jobs out there and I know I will get one.
I’ll never meet the right person to marry. The world is full of wonderful people that I could fall in love with.
I’ll never be rich. I am intelligent and resourceful and I will always have enough money.