The Paradox of Fear


What are you afraid of?  This is a perennial question, and nearly everyone has a laundry list for an answer.  Here’s an interesting exercise – make a quick list of things you’re afraid of.  Now make a list of things you’re thankful for.  Which list is longer, which list was easier to produce?

The thing we forget is that fear actually comes in two flavors.  The rare case is where danger is imminent in the current moment – something is happening right now that is instilling fear – like a fire in the house, or an earthquake, or you’re being pursued by someone.  Then there is the other kind of fear that is by far the biggest kind of fear in the world – the imagined situation, that is not real, is creating fear.  For example, fearing the loss of money, or getting into an accident in the future, or being afraid of a coming confrontation.  In other words, being afraid of a circumstance that is not reality now.

We can look at these cases separately.  In the first case, the fear of an imminent danger has to be transformed into appropriate and spontaneous action.  Otherwise it will grow into panic and paralysis.  For this, professionals train.  That is why fire fighters train, the military trains, medical professionals train – so that sudden danger sparks instinctual action instead of fear, because they are prepared.  This is how one can be calm and collected in the face of a threat.

The second case is perhaps more interesting because it’s purely imagined fear.  Whatever one worries about is not actually happening, but we imagine what if it came to happen and we fear that outcome!  If we can just zoom out a little and look at this situation from a distance, we can see how ridiculous it seems after all.  We create something that does not exist and then we fear our own creation!  It all happens in our own mind after all.

Have you perhaps noticed that for worriers, that which they worry about seems to actually happen?  This is just life unfolding to our energies.  By trying to avoid everything we fear in life, we enliven it in our lives.  The focus is on what you don’t want, and it feeds it energy.  Life listens to what we pay attention to, it doesn’t discern between whether we like it or not, want it or not.  It simply responds with where our energies are focused.  This is the paradox of fear.

To paraphrase Les Brown, live you dreams, not your fears.

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