As I lay in bed on Sunday night I had a front row seat to the scary movie that was playing out in my mind. And it got me thinking about fear. What exactly is fear and where does it come from?
When you know the answer to these questions, the scary movies that we all have playing in our minds at times, don’t seem quite so engaging.
What is fear?
The Cambridge English dictionary defines fear as:
The first thing that strikes me when I look at this definition is that it is full of judgements:
Which leads on to the fact that all of those are created from thought. Without the thought that something is unpleasant, dangerous, painful or bad there is just the experience.
So where does fear come from?
To me it looks as if fear comes from thought alone.
How can one experience an emotion if not through thought? How would you know an emotion without the thought that identifies it?
And isn’t it interesting to notice that we can get fear by just thinking about something that might happen. Or indeed about something that has already happened?
So lets explore this further…
When is fear helpful?
Fear is a brilliant thing. It has kept us safe for millions of years.
We get approached by a tiger; a threat is identified by the mind which sets off the ‘fight or flight’ response allowing us to escape.
The body’s resources are directed to where they are required to deal with the threat. This means that digestion is halted, growth and reproductive hormones stop being produced and tissue repair is put on hold.
However, our brain hasn’t evolved enough to know when the threat is ‘real’ or thought-created. And so we get the fear response by just thinking about something scary that may or may not (probably not – let’s face it) happen.
At this point it is helpful to know what is going on and what we can do about it…
It’s in the feeling
We all recognise the feeling of fear; our heart beats harder, our breathing gets faster, hands and feet might feel cold and clammy while the face may become flushed, pupils dilate and we feel jittery, trembly and on edge.
So what are those feelings telling us when there is no apparent threat that we need to run away from?
Put simply, they are telling us that we are having fearful thoughts.
They are not telling us that we need to do something. In fact what I have learnt is that they are telling us the absolute opposite.
The urgency we might feel is the invitation to take a step back; to wait until we are in our right mind before acting.
After all, how many times have you acted on a fearful thought and then realised it wasn’t necessary?
Or how many times have you had fearful thinking about the future that hasn’t come true?
Have you noticed that the things you fear change all the time? One day it might be work, the next it might be about illness but they change all the time?
That gives you another clue to the nature of fear; to where it’s coming from.
Thoughts are temporary
I hope by now you are beginning to see that fear is only ever coming from thought? So perhaps for a moment it would be useful to look at the nature of thought?
Have you noticed that thoughts come and go all day long? And no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to hold on to a thought (or a feeling for that matter because they are two sides of the same coin)?
That’s because thoughts are temporary.
And if you can see that fear comes from thought, then I’m hoping you’re starting to see that when you are fearful it is only ever temporary.
If you’d like to explore this further, I highly recommend signing up for my FREE 5 day online course where we explore thought in more detail.
It’s inside out; never the other way
Fear doesn’t come from where you think it does.
For me on Sunday night, it didn’t come from having a child just test positive to Covid. It looked like that; it looked like I needed to think about the possible outcomes in order to be prepared; to plan for an unknown future.
But the fear was coming from the inside; from my thinking about what might happen.
And with that knowledge, although I experienced the side effects of fearful thinking (all those ‘fight or flight’ signs), I also knew that it would pass if I didn’t buy into the thinking.
So rather than get out of bed and carry out the crazy activities my mind wanted me to do to ‘be prepared’, I watched the thoughts. I felt the feelings. I acknowledged the mind trying to do what it thinks it needs to do to keep me safe.
You have a built in guidance system
All the while I knew with certainty that should anything happen, I would be able to deal with it. Because I can see (and I encourage you to look) that everything life has thrown at me has been dealt with; that I’ve always known what to do in the moment.
Because that’s how life works. We don’t have a crystal ball and can’t predict the future. We can however see that we have all the resources we need in every moment. A perfect moment-to-moment guidance system. Some call it intuition, others call it god. Whatever you call it, deep down you know it’s there.
So next time you find yourself watching that scary movie in your mind notice what it’s made from. Allow the thought to pass by because behind that scary thought is infinite possibility, peace, love, joy and contentment.
And if that sounds like something you’d like more of why not book a free exploratory call with me.