Fear waits for nobody

Fear is a many-headed hydra. The hydra in mythology was a many-headed serpent or monster in Greek mythology that was slain by Hercules and each head of which when cut off was replaced by two others. Fear can do this. Fear waits for nobody. You think you can fix one issue in your thoughts, and then along, almost in parallel, come two more and it multiplies. It whirs around in the head, often in the guise of its offspring, anxiety and worry, taking you off where you don’t want to go.

Fear is on the rise

I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like there’s been a downturn on people’s level of optimism and hope in the last couple of years at least, coming out of the pandemic.

When you look ahead, I wonder if you are feeling optimistic about the future. People might not say it out loud, but, for example, there’s climate change anxiety, with high levels of concern in many countries. Peace is looking fragile: 53% of UK people think there will be World War 3 in 5-10 years. It can seem like there’s a succession of bad news. In fact I wonder how many of you don’t look at the news so much. There’s also difficulties closer to home, such as a cost of living crisis. Often, for people, other issues can come in train, like personal health challenges.

Fear is a bottom-line emotion. It’s like it’s the opposite of love. The Ego is about survival, taking care of us, which it can do well, and dealing with the threats to us that may come along.

The trouble is that we can get wrapped up with “what if’s”. What if this happened? Then that might happen”, and away we go, catastrophising. It’s like it’s a doom loop of anxiety, feeding on itself, going round and round, getting massive all by itself.

The stress hijack

If we look at the stress response, what some call the amygdala hijack, the mind perceives a threat, and the fear stimulus bypasses the rational part of the mind, going straight to the amygdala, generating stress hormones, and the “flight/fight/freeze” reaction. Such stress can save us but at another level it gets inbuilt in our behaviour, to the detriment of our health.

Awakened people, by contrast, are often unaffected by fear: they can see it and drop it. For example, the fear of death is often a powerful component in underlying anxiety but these people aren’t afraid of death. For them, death is only to physical form, to which they are unattached. Their life goes on.

Fear interrupts our pursuit of wellbeing and spiritual upliftment. Whatever sense of inner contentment we have built up, it can go in an instant with powerful emotions like fear. This is why we need to deal with these responses and have strategies available.

Have strategies available to manage fear

We can, for example, use the power of awareness to see that we are caught up in it. When awareness kicks in, we can step back and notice what’s going on. We can use the breath too. Some deeper breaths can calm us and help restore equilibrium, and the breath helps us let go.

Another approach is to shift from thinking, since our over-busy or racing mind is often what’s driving it, to the feeling itself, to feeling the feeling, so to speak, and allow the feeling to discharge itself. Emotions come and emotions go by themselves. It’s our thinking selves that hangs on to it.

By personal work, we can become more and more aware of our own inner core of strength, wellbeing, love and connectedness. Then we can be better equipped to meet our challenges, and help others to do so too.