When I was a young child I was petrified of thunderstorms. Whenever a storm approached I would find a place to hide, plug my ears and pretend there was no storm. In fear I needed to stop reality. I was told by my parents that thunder couldn’t hurt me, but it sure sounded like it could. I was also told by my parents that the sound of the thunder was only the angels bowling in heaven, and although that conjured a comforting image, the next lightning bolt immediately stole away what little comfort I had. I am told, although I do not remember this happening, that I was nearly struck by lightning when I was quite young. The story goes that I opened our old metal refrigerator door just as a bolt of lightning entered the house. I was saved, but probably mentally scarred from the event. Was that experience the cause of my fear?
Fear is a normal reaction built deep within our brains to aid in survival. When we feel threatened we will either flee or fight. As a young child experiencing storms, I chose to flee. As I grew into my teen years, still afraid of storms, I eventually made the decision to respond to my fear by fighting, no longer fleeing. My weapon? Study. I chose to study the weather to understand the dynamics of storms. I felt that if I understood storms they would no longer frighten me, and to this day meteorology remains a hobby of mine. Now I enjoy watching, chasing, and forecasting storms. I long to see a lightning storm at night to watch the beauty of the bolts streak through the air. What has changed in me wherein I no longer fear storms? Studying that which scared me gave me knowledge enough to no longer allow storms to scare me. The key concept is that I no longer allow the storms to scare me. I am making a conscious decision based on my knowledge of the situation in the moment.
How often along our life’s journey do we allow fear to overcome us? How often do we become so afraid we feel as if we are sinking? Many of us, myself included, fear the unknown. Change, even if for the better, is not always chosen as change implies something which is unknown. It is the not knowing which scares us. Once we step out of our comfort zone to take a risk, then the unknown becomes known, and we once again feel at peace in our new moment.
The challenge is to stay in the moment and to learn how best to overcome the unknown; how to challenge ourselves to enter into life when we may (and usually are) at a loss of control. Fear, and the sense of a loss of control, work together. We tend to believe that we are in control of our lives, yet the reality is that we have very little control over our lives. The belief that we are in control keeps us calm, while the opposite is true; the less control I feel that I have the more fear and anxiety I will experience, the greater my impulse to either flee or fight. Becoming comfortable with my reality in the present moment, which is mostly out of our control, lessens our fear providing us a sense of peace through acceptance.
On our journey through life, to overcome our fear to live peacefully, I suggest we reflect on these questions:
- How can I challenge myself to face the unknown?
- From where does my strength come?
- How can I learn to live in the moment?
- What does “acceptance” mean to me?
The less mysterious I am to myself, the less fearful I will be. The more I know of myself and all that frightens me, the greater strength I have to fight my fears.
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