“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear.”
― Mark Twain
There will never be a time when fear has made its permanent exit. There will always be something new around the corner to give rise to fear and anxiety. This emotion, fear, is like any other emotion: it comes and goes on a whim and has its basis only in what you’re considering, not experiencing. Stage fright, failure, violence, pandemics … what do you fear?
While experience may develop a cause for fear, it is your thoughts, your projection into the future of what may come, that induces the fear response. And it is out of that response that you act. How you act is, of course, dependent on your habits and underlying behaviors. If panic has been your response to fear, you will panic. If shutting down is your response to fear, you will shut down. So long as you are able to think and project, fear will come as naturally as anything else, and your behavior follows. But you don’t have to operate like this forever.
So long as you are able to think and project, fear will come as naturally as anything else. The way to manage your fear response, then, is to manage your thinking. It is in learning to control the direction of your thoughts in which courage emerges. As written above, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the mastery of it. It is in coming to terms with your fear and letting it coexist alongside a rational mindset. But you have to train that rational mindset. Everything takes work, including learning to manage your fear.
Fear will always weave itself in and out of your life, and you have the capacity to gain mastery over it, every time. If you have poor coping mechanisms for dealing with fear, begin with something as simple as pausing to breathe. Extend your exhale. Let your body and mind calm down. A momentary meditation can go a long way to retraining your behavior. Here’s a favorite of mine:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
This is the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear, as taken from Frank Herbert’s Dune. The first line gives you pause. The next two lines bring awareness to impulses acted out on behalf of fear. The following two lines provide a method, and the final two lines reassurance. You can master your fear. And with that mastery, you can do anything. But it takes work.
So do the work.
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