Listing Our Fears – October 9 2019

The fear is not real, Dil Bahadur; it is only in your mind, like all other things. Our thoughts form what we believe to be reality.

Isabel Allende, Kingdom of the Golden Dragon

So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address

When we have a fight, flight or freeze response our mind begins to list every conceivable threat in order that our system will be as prepared as possible for whatever might be coming our way.

Say we’re walking in the woods. We hear a twig snap behind us. We spin around to see what caused the snap. As our head is turning (and in our model, subjectively this is happening in extreme slow motion), our mind is naming every possible twig-snapping physiology, within certain parameters. In other words, we’re not going to be thinking, “bunny rabbit, clown, show poodle,” because there’s no payoff in increased odds of survival in being ready to face a clown. Rather, our mind will be listing something along the lines of, “lion, tiger, bear, rapist, murderer,” because our system believes that if the threat turns out to be something already in our mind, we will be more able to protect ourselves from it. 

This may, in fact, be the case if we are being attacked or about to be attacked. But again, the problem arises when our mind, triggered by stress, is making lists of all the dangerous things in our world when our chances of being attacked are something closer to zero. “No money, loss of job, loss of love, impending death of self/pet/lover/parent/child, climate change, civil war, etc.” In this scenario, the lists clearly are just causing even more stress in our system. Which causes the making of even more lists, ad infinitum.

When we find ourselves noting all the awful things of this world, all the reasons to be afraid, it is time to step out of our speculating mind and into present moment reality. Period. In the present moment, there is nothing wrong. When we can really let ourselves just be here and now, the fear diminishes and we find ourselves available to respond to whatever ‘threat’ may be coming our way. Responding in the moment is our strength. Trying to figure out what to do through speculation takes us away from our strength.

Today I will notice if I’m listing potential world evils in my mind, and I will make a point to become present to what is right in front of me, rather than to continue.

Three Women Dancing on Side of Building, San Francisco, CA

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