The Courage to Embrace Fear

We can almost get whiplash from watching the news these days! We each have issues that concern us more than others.  But most of us DO have those concerns.  Things are changing so fast that the only thing that feels certain, is that most everything feels uncertain.  I personally have really been emotionally down as I listen to so many of the accusations of sexual assault, harassment and even possible pedophilia by men of power.  At one level it’s a very positive twist to the norm we’ve been used to; at least things are more open and women and men who have been victims are hopefully a little less fearful to speak out.  But there are other issues that bring me down as well; things that appear to take more power away from those who don’t have much to start with. Even those of us who don’t mind changing things up a little occasionally don’t like too much change at once; and change that is as big as examining our cultural values, huge tax changes that have not been fully explained, and people we are supposed to trust to help run our country being arrested – ALL  bring a lot of emotional turmoil. Not knowing what it will all bring is kind of scary.

I think it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but we must be careful not to let our minds overtake our hearts.  When I allow myself to focus on it, I am overwhelmed with sadness and compassion for those who have  been affected by all the violence, ignorance, selfishness and unwillingness to explore and learn more about things and people that are foreign to us.  By the hands of active shooters, sexual abusers, politicians who espouse hate and those who applaud them, or even those who sit by quietly and do nothing – others have lost loved ones, homes, their security, their way of life and their own lives. I also feel anger that so many people purposely set out to hurt others, that terrorists are capable of committing atrocities without being traced until it’s too late and that some men have been allowed to exert their power over others in a way that damages their victims’ lives forever.  And fear.  We all feel the fear of the what if’s.  What will happen next?  Will we end up in war? And will we be able to stop them (whoever “they” are)?

What I’m about to propose may not be popular. I come from the belief that all humans originate from the same source – a source of Love and Light.  We may call it by different names and worship or understand it in very different ways, depending on our individual needs, but God (or whatever you call it)  is not religious. We are each an extension of that Light. So we have no choice, but to be like what we came from. Even the terrorists and other people who have perpetrated harm on others.  (That’s not to say we should stand by & allow them to continue to victimize others.  All behavior has consequences, and we need not accept unacceptable behavior).  But we need to realize that buried deep down inside, they’re just like you & me; and given similar circumstances, any one of us could have ended up in their place.

So since we come from the same place, whether we are Christian, Muslim, White, Black, Republican, Democrat, gay, straight or transgender, it’s the ego, the human side, as opposed to the spiritual “Light” side that brings us down to these lower levels of energy.  And terrorists are not that different from some politicians, or many of the men who have been accused of sexual harassment in our daily news. They are addicted to power.  People who need to feel power to feel OK about themselves will do whatever it takes. It’s a narcissistic, fear-based, isolationist mindset, and they need more and more power to continue to feel OK.

Fear is at the base of all prejudice, covered by hate and anger that expresses itself in extreme radicalism, homophobia and racism. Although they would have us see it differently, the anger and aggression (or the emotional disconnect) we see in the terrorists, and hear from some in the political field is NOT the same as courage. Anger and emotional numbness are both like a bullet-proof vest we all occasionally put on to protect ourselves in order to feel a little more powerful.  They are covering what we’re really feeling deep down – our vulnerability.

Courage & fear are  also intricately interconnected.  Sometimes our fear is very rational (as in the case of severe illness or real harm being perpetrated upon us); but often, it comes from an irrational belief about our situation.  While there may be an aspect of interpreting doctrine or situations differently; I believe the primary issue is that the perpetrators and the politicians (and those who follow and applaud them) are terrified of feeling vulnerable. They don’t understand that’s the very element that connects them to the rest of humanity! And that connection is what would eventually give them the strength they so desperately want.

The people with real courage are those who have experienced the fear –  and then moved forward,  because they knew the odds of staying in their comfort zone are far outweighed by the risks involved in changing their lives and the world.  People who have risked everything (and sometimes lost it all) to be able to live their lives in a way they choose – refugees; victims who have spoken up; those in the military, police and first responders; people with fatal illnesses, who choose to enjoy their lives and live in the moment, rather than shrivel up and die; minorities, who have to fight for equal rights because racism and prejudice has not been eradicated; people like my LGBTQ friends and clients, who have risked not only ridicule, jobs and abandonment by their family and friends, but often their lives to come out and publicly be who they really are instead of shriveling up as they hide.  We can name any number of people in many threatening situations who take risks and allow themselves to be vulnerable in order to find their courage.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to combat all the fear and pain that saturates our world.  But I do know that, if handled appropriately, fear is the door to growth.  It’s going to take each of us to individually conquer our own fears and feelings of inadequacy in order to move society forward. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel the fear.  Sit with it for a few minutes at a time, feeling it in your body & shutting out the intellectual violence in your head.  Use it as a motivator to change. After the few minutes, put the fear away, take the focus off the negatives and visualize the life you want! Look for a more positive way to look at any given situation.  Your perspective is what feeds your attitude.
  2. Educate yourself about the situation or people involved.  When you see someone who looks different than you, start a conversation.  Get to know the PERSON.  Learn more about their values.  I’ve listened to interviews with Muslims who are very faith and abundance-oriented.  I’m currently listening to an audio book about the Muslim faith that challenges and explains both of the sides we hear about in the news.
  3. Look for ways to give. Volunteer where there has been a disaster – sponsor a family or child in need for the holidays, or to help provide food or clothing for the homeless or families who don’t have enough. Get involved in the issues that matter to you by calling or writing your representatives and voting.  (Nobody has all the answers, but listen for those who actually have specific plans and are not just spouting off everything that’s wrong with the world).  Action can give us a sense of accomplishment, personal power – and HOPE.
  4. Go inside and find your center.  Meditation, prayer, or just sitting in silence on a consistent basis will reconnect you to your higher self – that part of you that is the extension of the Light I mentioned earlier.
  5. Send Love to others – those with whom you agree, and those you do not understand.  I sometimes silently repeat the word “Love” or “I am Love” to myself throughout the day.  It helps me feel love towards myself and others.  The Course in Miracles says the only two emotions are Love and Fear, and whatever is not love is fear.  So the best way to combat fear is to love.

Namaste (The Light in me recognizes and honors the Light in you.)

Courage is only courage when we’re afraid.