The Only Thing We Have to Fear
The relationship between real fear and worry is analogous to the relationship between pain and suffering. Pain and fear are necessary and valuable components of life. Suffering and worry are destructive and unnecessary components of life.
Gavin de Becker, The Gift of Fear
Real fear, like pain, is a gift.
If we lost our ability to feel pain, the world would become a much more dangerous place.
However, severe pain or chronic pain can be debilitating.
Real fear warns us that potential danger lies ahead.
However, overwhelming fear or constant fear can paralyze us.
Our goal should not be to eliminate fear altogether from our lives. In the right situations, it can be useful.
We should identify our fears so we can determine if those fears are produced by real threats.
Sometimes our intuition senses danger that our conscious mind is unaware of.
In those cases, we want to identify the source of the fear.
Fear is a powerful motivator.
The fear of losing something we already have is twice as powerful as the promise of getting something we don’t have yet.
This is used often in advertising.
But the worst abuser of fear-mongering is the news industry.
“Something in your kitchen could be killing you. Details tonight at 10:00.”
We now have entire channels devoted to news, and these channels are pummeling us with fear-producing narratives.
They make up new threats, magnify minor risks, and create a sense of constant danger.
Fear causes our bodies to make stress hormones.
In an emergency, this is useful.
But a constant state of fear is harmful. It damages us physically, mentally, and emotionally.
It also motivates us in harmful ways, harmful to us and to others.
Politicians also use fear.
They use fear to get us to vote for them: “If my opponent gets elected, they will ruin our country.”
They use fear to influence us: “If you don’t follow this policy, people will die.”
They use fear to divide us: “Those people want to take away your rights.”
All this fear is ruining us — individually and collectively.
So what can we do?
We can be more aware of the ways people try to make us afraid.
We can use prayer, meditation, or relaxation techniques to let go of the worries that are damaging us.
We can refuse to see our friends, neighbors, and relatives as the enemy just because they have different ideas than we do.
If we allow fear to divide us, we all lose.
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