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Living Life Without Fear

“When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”

– Winston Churchill

What if you lived your life without fear?  How different would your life be? Is it even possible?

Fear is an unfortunate contradiction. We need fear as an emotional response essential to our survival, yet it has taken on a maladaptive role in our everyday life. With regard to survival, fear is experienced in the present as a way to protect us from threatening situations. However, most of us experience fear at a much larger degree in response to thoughts related to either past or future events. That’s where the maladaptive stronghold lies.

The past two years of my life have been a personal experiment in letting go of as much fear as possible. What I have found, to my continued surprise, is that fear is self-indulgent and rarely necessary.  I have also found an incredible freedom and serenity in the present with my new-found active dismissal of fear. In retrospect, allowing my past fears to guide my decisions had me living below my potential. When making important decisions now I remember the words of General Colin Powell, “Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.”

We fear the repercussions of past events, or we live in fear experienced in the past. Fear stemming from the past is so intense that very often we are reluctant to let it go, as if holding on to it will protect us in some way. As Thich Nhat Hanhn describes it, “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.”

If you are able to accept past life events as part of your personal evolution without regret or fear, then you allow for inevitable wisdom.  This wisdom leads to better decision making in the future. Accepting the past as being perfect, even in all its imperfection, is the first step toward giving fear the boot. I look back on difficulties I’ve experienced, and less than stellar decisions I’ve made, with the acceptance. Despite some unpleasant repercussions, my past decisions have provided me with invaluable insight and personal depth.

Now future-fear, the real monster, is a little more difficult to tame. Future fear stems from our desire to control outcomes. It feeds off the notion that if things don’t happen the way they are supposed to, the way we want them to, then pain, suffering, and distress are inevitable. We allow fear of economic insecurity, fear of being unloved or unwanted, fear of making the wrong decisions for our children, fear of not being heard, fear for our or other’s health and fear of death to slowly embezzle our joy. The tragic reality about future fear is that it’s just borrowing worry. Rarely do things go exactly as planned, and in the long run, we end up having to live with whatever the outcome. The moral of the story is — you will be fine no matter what.

If the outcome does lead to pain, you will overcome the pain. Look at your track record. Have any of the outcomes resulting from failed relationships, poor financial decisions or struggles with your children ruined your life? Or, have you learned what you were supposed to learn…dusted yourself off and moved on? If that’s the case, why do we spend days, years, and dare I say a lifetime, living in fear of the future? If I can’t control the future for the most part, and I am not guaranteed of the future…If I’m likely to survive it, then why do I let fear paralyze my present? Why do I give away my serenity so easily?

 So, this is my challenge for you; look at all your lingering past fears and ask yourself if it’s time to let go. Then, look at all your fears rooted in future events and ask yourself if you have any real control over the process or outcome. If not, then let the fear go. Once you have done this, do it again tomorrow. The moment is right here and is begging for your attention. Serenity is just around the corner and can’t wait to meet you.

 

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