ASK ABDI: HOW TO DEAL WITH FEAR IN LIFE?
QUESTION: Fear has been a theme that has been coming up a lot for me lately. I have fear of my job situation, my job duties and title will change in July, not sure what that will look like, but it can be unsettling for me if I spend too much time thinking about it. Also, I am a graduate student, and I have fear of the future after graduation. Most of the time, I am busy with school, work, and my personal life - I do not have time to think much about the fear of the future. However, lately I have felt this in my spirit, and I am not sure what to do with it. I find peace with it when I meditate and pray, but then when I come back into the real world, unconsciously I find myself fearful within myself. Any suggestions or ideas on what to do with it?
ANSWER: Fear is an evolutionary tool that has kept us alive. Unfortunately, it can run our lives on so many conscious and unconscious levels. It is helpful to remember that the more conscious one becomes (and the less one numbs with mindless activity) these already preexisting conditions further reveal themselves.
A helpful practice is to do one’s best to stay in the moment. Fear is usually a projection of what can happen in the future based on something that has happened in the past. Neither one of these is about the moment. As you have found out, one can not be in the fear space when one is present. That is why you find peace in your meditation and prayer - both practices that keep one in the moment.
Lastly, like any other addiction, one has to make a concentrated effort not to pick up the offending substance, in this case: fear. It is useful to see what specific issues or topics trigger the fear. Let’s take the example of your graduation. When a thought pops up in your head regarding it that triggers fear, examine it. More likely than not, it will be a rehash of thoughts you have had in the past (paying off student loans, starting a life, etc.). Unless there is new information in that thought, quickly assess and release it, knowing that it is a rehash and it is of no value to you. If there is new information in it (you read something that scared you about the future), examine it; see what action you can take, and then release the thought. Keep this exercise going until it becomes reflexive. This discipline is not easy, but it pays off if you keep at it.
Remember that many times we are more comfortable with a known misery (fear) that we can repeat through thinking than being in the unknown. Yes, we are always at the brink of possible abyss, that is the human condition. But we are also surrounded by amazing possibility, grace, and beauty, not only in spite of that possibility, but more so because life is so fragile.