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Coping With An Uncertain Future: Fear
by Cate Russell-Cole
10/19/2015 / Self Help
I have really struggled to write about fear. Fear is an emotion I have so many battles with in my own life. Over the last few weeks particularly, I have been through family circumstances which have landed me into unknown territory, scared of the future, and still feeling the wounds of the past. The overwhelming insecurity I have been grappling with has been hard to conquer, and I don't think I've come anywhere near winning yet. I am not an emotional wonder woman. I guess it proves that I am merely human.
Fear has been pulled apart and analysed by so many different professionals, to me, there are too many opinions on how to overcome it to make sense of it all. Some say fear is bad, some say it is good as it protects us. We experience fear when faced with a situation we don't know if we can cope with or not. Our lives may be threatened, or we may be scared of losing something important to us, whether that is a person, our job, or a valued possession. We can fear anything you can think of, whether it is logical or not. The more we feel we cannot exist and be happy without that thing or person, the more intense the fear will be. You can also become preoccupied with what you are afraid of, and some people develop panic attacks or phobias.
The origin of the word 'fear,' can be traced back to the Saxon word 'var, meaning 'to ambush.' Few of us live under the pressures of our culture and the media input of gloom, doom and disaster without feeling ambushed. We often feel overwhelmed, left with no way to cope with our anxieties. You can't buy your way out of a car crash you can't foresee. You can't buy a vaccine against AIDS or cancer or heartbreak. Fear is more than hating spiders or mice. It is a sense of powerlessness and hopelessness, an uncertainty or dread of the future, or entrapment in your past. It is knowing that there may be harder times ahead, and where are the solutions? Where do you run and find peace? Fear produces tunnel vision. We see disaster, pain, pandemonium and only in a certain way. We can suffer analysis paralysis as we struggle to find solutions.
Fear is compounded if we're also experiencing grief. Not only are you hurting as you have lost someone dear, but you are also scared for your own safety. We don't know what the future holds. In a world in chaos, tomorrow is pretty scary. Grief has stages you go through: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and finally acceptance. We all move up and down through the stages at different speeds. If you get stuck in one stage, you can't move on. Some people get stuck in denial: it hasn't happened, or it won't happen to me. Some are trapped in anger and want revenge. Other people stay locked into depression wondering why, and their lives seem meaningless for a long time as they endlessly grieve. Everyone moves through the stages at their own pace, depending on what they believe. If you think the world is a savage place, you will take longer to heal than if you believe that despite the hurts, life has good points, and is worth living. Positive people heal faster. That is one piece of study that everyone seems to agree on.
A great deal of advice on dealing with fear was handed out through the media after September 11, 2001. One professional said, try and get back to normal. There is comfort in routine. Another agreed, and said don't make big decisions or big changes now. Others said this is a time to re-evaluate your life for the better. Then worried citizens armed themselves with antibiotics against anthrax and wouldn't touch their mail without rubber gloves. The FBI gave warnings of more trouble. The President urged everyone to remain calm. Who were we supposed to listen to?
I don't know if there is a blanket answer that will comfort and work for everyone. I know myself, when I am hurting the most, what others say doesn't always help. Sometimes you get some wishy washy advice like "be positive" or "have faith." How do you even start to do that? I wish sometimes people would just say, "ok, step one is this..." and it would be something I could DO that would WORK! Life isn't that easy. I wish it was. I wish I could say, "I had a bad week last week, but the answer to making it better was..."
A few weeks after the World Trade Centre attacks, I was watching someone on TV today, who made more sense than any of the articles I had read on fear. She said that you learn from your experience with God. When He has gotten you through one bad time, the next time things are all wrong, you know you made it once. Then you make it again with His help, and you know you can make it a third time. It goes on and on, and each time you get stronger, because you know He will never leave you alone to be scared. So many times in the Bible God has said, "Trust me, I will take care of you." That is a rock solid promise.
I can tell you about the times when I was totally alone. My family was abusive, and my friends didn't think I was really all that upset and left me by myself. I would feel God's Presence beside my bed in the early hours of the morning. He never spoke to me, but He knew I was there. Someone bothered to be with me. He listened when no one would. You may think I was imagining things, but when you are totally devastated and in agony and all of a sudden there is a peace you can't manufacture out of nowhere, you know you're not crazy, He really was there.
All I know is when I am fearful, I talk to God. He has heard me before and protected me, I know He will again. I can chant, meditate, stop watching the news, go to bed and never get up all day, or burn lavender incense and I still feel rotten. I can watch TV and try and escape mentally, and the problems are still there. Only God has the resources to watch out for me. Only He can bring me peace when no one and nothing else can. He has never let me down through anything.
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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