The most overwhelming of our emotions and the most debilitating, is the natural state of fear. In an environment where most of us are not continually threatened by predators and danger, the absence of sufficient food or shelter, it would be reasonable to expect fear to be an uncommon experience. Yet fear is everywhere; it is the driving force of the lives of so many people in our modern, Western world. It manifests itself in so many ways: fear that we will not be good enough, that we will not fit in, that we will not be successful, that our dreams will turn to dust. All of these really hide one great fear; the fear of rejection. We are pack animals and like all pack animals, we have a deep and burning need to belong. Our identity is shaped by our place in the pack and conformity = survival.
With the nature and existence of the pack so vastly changed by modern society, we have become confused about our identity and place. We have lost the security of knowing our place and role and are plagued with insecurity. This opens the door for fear to latch on to our every day existence and the easiest of place is within our own thought patterns. We conjure up scenarios to be feared, we transfer early fears into our present reality, we view others as having power over us, the ability to destroy us in some way. The result is immobility; we are frozen by our fears and stop being the shapers of our own destiny; we stagnate; we exist, rather than truly live.
One common response to fear is to seek to control life; to control our environment, other people, events, the world around us, this turns people inwards and results in obsession and attendent rituals, suspicion, hostility and ultimately, the very loneliness that drove the fear in the first place. In truth, we do not achieve mastery over our fear either by stupifying activity or by overpowering control. In both of these responses, we remain prisoners. The true antidote to fear are trust and hope. The best approach to the emotion itself, is to recognise it for what it is; an emotion. To bring it down to its appropriate size and deal with the circumstances in which it arose, taking away its foundation.
Fear can also become a habit, and then an excuse for not making changes, for not achieving our potential, for not living our lives. All negative emotions thrive in situations of comfortable but comfortless mediocrity. We all, to varying degrees, fear the same things; intimacy, love, our own potency, success, acceptance. It is ironic that the very things we most crave, should make us most afraid! We mistake cautiousness for safety and risk taking for danger. Yet the truth is, if we never take a risk, we never really live. The fear of something is so often far worse an experience than the event itself.
The Christian call is to face the fear and dare to believe in love, dare to believe that you are capable of co-operating with God, as verse four of John Bell and Graham Maule’s ‘The Summons’ illustrates:
Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside,
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you, and you in me.
SOURCE: A Quiet Mind by Eva McIntyre