How To Stop Being Afraid & Allow Awareness To Guide You In Challenging Times

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How To Stop Being Afraid & Allow Awareness To Guide You
Self

Fear shouldn't be ignored, but it can't be in charge, either.

It’s only natural when faced with something so unknown — which disrupts your life massively — that you're tempted to react and focus on the most primal of instincts: The need to survive.

This tendency toward self-preservation is simultaneously your greatest superpower and, if left unchecked, the most certain path to your eventual demise — because it drives you by fear.

If you want to know how to stop being afraid, then you first need to understand how to stop reacting to fear in survival mode.

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Fear is an important emotion.

You must truly understand the nature of fear and listen more to its advice and guidance. Fear is the oldest ally in your struggle to survive and exist for as long as you have, and it’s not to be dismissed or subjugated.

Instead, fear must be embraced so you can harness its wisdom and consider its perspective in your effort to move through life effectively. Without fear, you would be completely vulnerable to the dangers of the world.

Fear is your first defense; it’s the feeling that something just isn't right. Fear triggers you to be on alert, to pay closer attention, to be on the lookout for what may be wanting to do you harm.

The key isn't to stop being afraid.

That would not only be impossible, but incredibly irresponsible and dangerous. Instead, you must learn to understand what your fear is trying to tell you and how you can use it to regain control over your emotional reaction.

Fear is not to be fully trusted; it's unable to connect to any other perspective than its own. By the very fact that it’s an emotion, it can't tell you anything beyond what it’s programmed to tell you.

In other words, fear can only speak of danger and self-preservation. Fear will only ever tell you of the worst-case scenario and cannot see beyond the limits of what's already been experienced.

Fear is your body’s alarm system — it warns you of potential harm.

But if you just blindly followed fear’s leadership, would you ever stretch beyond the limits of survival? Would you ever challenge yourself to try something new or attempt something you've already failed?

Fear is pure reactivity, interested only in keeping you safe. And the safest place for you to be is what you already know.

So, while fear is paramount to your survival, if you allow fear to be the driver of choices in your life, you'll never even begin to see your true potential or what the world may have to offer you.

This is why awareness is so important.

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Awareness and the Buddhist "three states of mind."

According to the Buddhist tradition, there are three states of mind:

  • The emotional mind
  • The intellectual mind
  • The wise mind

Simply stated, if one lives only in the emotional mind, life is chaotic. If one only allows intellect to guide them, they become robotic and find relating to others to be difficult, if not impossible.

Therefore, wisdom is the integration of emotion and intellect; the ability to connect to all the information in order to make the best possible choice at that moment.

Awareness is that wisdom — the harness which keeps fear from fully taking over and causing you to react, rather than respond.

Fear suggests that you can know what the future will be and thus control it, but awareness accepts that you have no control over what will be or what has been. Awareness allows you to connect to your ability to choose your next move wisely.

Awareness helps you to see that your true power lies not in reacting, but in paying attention and preparing.

From the perspective of fear, this pandemic is the most dangerous thing that has ever happened to us. It’s so unknown and so outside of your control that it’s easy to fall into the belief that you must only focus on your own survival.

From the perspective of awareness, however, this is simply one more challenge you must face and find your way to the other side.

The process is more important than the content.

Again, this is not dismissive of the massive struggles and life-altering consequences of this crisis. It is, however, a recognition that the process is more important than the content.

If you focus only on the content, then every time you encounter something new or different, you'll immediately be plunged into a state of fear. You will instantly think the new thing is dangerous and that you should just stay where you are, paralyzed but safe.

On the other hand, if you realized that everything you encounter for the first time is by definition unknown, you would see that the process is always the same: Pay attention and learn what you can, then approach with caution to see what needs to happen to overcome that challenge.

Then, you can put what you've learned into practice, thus making the unknown, known.

The most certian thing in life is uncertainty.

It has been said the most certain thing in life is uncertainty, yet fear inherently rejects uncertainty and invites you to live under an illusion of security. This always presents a dilemma when something unexpected occurs.

The challenge is, of course, that your body’s primary defense system automatically and instantly resists this basic truth about life — that life is uncertain. With practice, however, you can cultivate the awareness to live your life free from the bonds of your automatic processes.

You can learn to create space between what's happening around you — which is out of your control — and how you choose to respond. It’s this ability to live life intentionally and with the purpose that will enable you to find your way through any challenge you face.

So, when fear tries to convince you to react and think only of survival, see if you might pause a moment to consider what awareness would say.

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Andrew Byrne, LMFT, is a mental health therapist who has helped countless people find a way through the pain and suffering that life can often offer through mindfulness and therapy. For more information about how he can help you, visit his website here.

This article was originally published at Andrew Byrne, LMFT. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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