“Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins.”
– Charles Stanley
The Downward Spiral. So many times one hears that phrase without a real understanding of what it means; the doomed person hurtling down to certain demise, the unfortunate person cast into the pit of gloom, the unwary person trapped in the hell of their own making. Charles Stanley’s quote above says something quite provocative: that fear is the chute down which we fall to our ill-fated end. And I for one could not agree more with that observation.
I have often written of how fear takes hold and shrinks our lives, of how it takes our potential and shipwrecks our future. Hell, I’m the poster boy. Without fear, our race would by now have advanced beyond recognition. Without fear we would have made such strides that our lives would be, from our current point of view, indescribable. But fear is primal. Fear is guttural, monstrous. Fear is, sad to say, sometimes sensible. But more often than not it is fear that keeps us in a self-perpetuating illusion of safety, that keeps us forever in the search for comfort and satiety rather than advancing from our collective caves out into the light.
This opinion I have expressed many times. The reason for today’s post is a little bit different from my rather standard observations and opinions of what fear is. Rather, I am looking at a specific element of fear: the fear of change.
“Minds that are ill at ease are agitated by both hope and fear.”
You’d think that a person that has worked so hard for change in their lives would want to achieve it, and that’s true, but that want comes with some hefty obstructions like anxiety and distorted thinking. Agitation comes from the constant tension between hope and fear. It comes in waves. A wave of hope, where things you want — like change — are possible and reasonable. Then, the wave of fear comes and you slide into that anxious tension and agitation and it feels like all the hope that was generated has been obliterated.
All of this would be okay for the most part if only there was a successful end to the cycle. If you worry and it works out fine, the result encourages you not to worry too much the next time you have a dilemma. But when you worry incessantly over a hope again, and again, and again, and again — well, that scenario gives fear the upper hand and the next thing you know, everything you do is either a response to your fear or a dismissal of a positive outcome. The most insidious element of this is the deterioration and elimination of courage.
“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”
– Mark Twain
Ah, The Mastery of Fear. I have in my life known a few fearless folk. I used to count myself among them. But being fearless is less being without fear than being without the ability to recognize fear and overcome that fear. Overcoming fear, well, that I was never very good at, and I have a lot of examples in my life of my astounding ignorance of what fear is and is not, of what fear does and does not. Only now that I am forced into learning to deal with my fear in the right way, in a realistic and constructive way, do I see just how far I have to go to learn how to overcome those fears that I create, those fears I allow inside. Unlike the Cowardly Lion, I don’t need a medal in recognition of courage to overcome fear. I just need to move forward into the future without the chains I place upon myself.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”
– Marianne Williamson
Wow. What a quote. I think it might be true that I fear my strength more than my fears because if I trust in my strengths, my fears will vanish. Maybe those fears have become like old habits of which I have come to believe I cannot rid myself. Maybe embracing my strengths will mean learning to live a new and somewhat more preferable life to the one I’m living now; isn’t that what I’ve been about all this time? Have I not tried hard enough? Perhaps not. I haven’t reached the goal of fostering a little more courage to overcome the fears. I haven’t been able to embrace the world in the way I thought I wanted.
Courage, abilities, overcoming fear, all intertwined. Facing the world as what it is, not the fearful thing I make of it. Oh, it’s fearful enough, but to focus solely on the fear is to negate and ignore the beauty it holds, and so when I complain that I can’t find any beauty in my life it isn’t because there’s no beauty to be had. It’s me. It’s me holding on to all the wrong things. I used to say, ‘put down the garbage so you can pick up the diamonds‘. Why I never listen to my own good advice is a mystery.
And so comes the end of this post, and here’s the punchline: I must be fearing happiness in favor of the fearful but comfortable.
Time to pick up some diamond, I guess.