noun – an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.
verb – be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.
Fear. Everyone has fears. There is no denying the presence of this undesirable emotion in every single one of us. We all have things that trigger our fears. I always feared the feeling of taking off in an aircraft. The second it starts to move you are placing your life in the hands of another human, actually many, and the fate of the universe. I believe this fear inside of me stems from the lack of control of the moment. I am not fearing crashing or dying, but that I am no longer in control of those possibilities. As you ascend into the heavens those fears generally fade. They may still be there inside of you, in the pit of your stomach, or in the form of your heart beating faster, but more often than not, after a few minutes, the initial thought process of the fear changes. As you look out and take in the beauty of such a surreal view of earth your mind is distracted from the initial fear response, and that tends to let us relax into our surroundings.
I still do not like flying, and am still not sure I will ever fly again, but I am glad I felt that fear, and conquered it because the memories I have are still, to this day, some of the most memorable and picturesque things my eyes have ever rested upon. As humans most of us travel the same paths, and go about our lives in what ultimately amounts to a tiny fraction of this beautiful planet we live on everyday. As you take off, and climb into the sky, the first realization you get, is how huge this place actually is. The landscape changes from the tops of buildings into a checkerboard of almost unrecognizable places in just a few short minutes. As you rise, even the most grandiose buildings disappear into the vastness of the land. If it is a cloudy day, what an unbelievable sight it is to burst out above the clouds, and weather to see the sun!
Of course this is only one of many fears we all have, and we all have different ways of dealing with our fears. I think about my fears, and try to liken them to that plane ride. Most times the initial feeling of fear is magnified, sweaty palms, racing heart, that feeling in the pit of your stomach. These are all indicators. Recognizing those indicators is a very important aspect to reacting to fear, the same as any other emotion such as anger, anxiety, or sadness. Many times just recognizing those physical reactions in your body will allow you to put in perspective the moment. This can help to fade that feeling, in order to help our mind control our body’s physical reaction. These indicators, when recognized, are much like the distraction from the beauty of the surroundings when climbing to the sky in a plane. When we as people can control our thoughts about a situation this way, our reactions will almost always be more in line with the situation because we know that initial fear (anger, anxiety, or sadness) will fade quickly. Instead of an initial fear response like fight or flight, many times we can just surrender to the moment, and realize that even in fear, the beauty of the moment may be just on the other side of the clouds.
There is a priest in my hometown whose home was invaded, and for upwards of an hour was held at knife point. He was ordered to open a safe before being tied up by the burglars, and forced to the ground. He simply told the robbers he would pray for them. He had locks that did not help. Had he had a gun, that probably wouldn’t have mattered either, because it was such a quick and brazen crime. He simply accepted that god was watching over him, and surrendered to the moment. I am sure that he was very afraid, as anyone would be. I’m sure his heart was beating probably much like that of a passenger on a plane ascending to the sky for the first time. I’m sure he thought about fighting back, or how to escape. Many times we are given no choice but to resort to one of these instincts, and no one would be wrong to do either in a situation of possible imminent harm. This brave man chose to surrender and trust fate. It takes a very brave person in a situation like this to surrender to the moment. This man did that, and probably saved himself harm by doing so.
Hopefully none of us ever has to make a choice like this. Most of the fears we feel everyday are nowhere near the magnitude of something like this. I try to use these tools, and remember the story of this priest, and surrender to many different emotions, and it helps me to react more in line with the moment, and communicate my feelings better, rather than play to my fear or anger reactions. Many times when I notice these physical indicators, a single deep breath can help me surrender, and burst through those clouds to find the sun.