Fear is My Friend

jf-miserable1 The topic this week in the Monday and Thursday class is “Working with Fear.” I am not teaching this week but the topic has been on my mind recently.

I’ve always been prone to anxiety. As a child I worried about everything. At about age seven or eight I decided if I imagined the worst outcome for anything that frightened me then I would not be surprised when it happened. My parents would drive off to go play pinochle for the night. I would assume something terrible would happen and they were not coming back. When I would wake up the next morning and they were there, well, good for me. This time.

Fear and anxiety are all wrapped up with the desire to be in control.

When I moved down to Washington DC a few years ago my arrival corresponded with an article I read which stated there were a number of suitcase bombs that were unaccounted for in Russia and Chechnya and were already placed in US cities. I grew up on a farm and had always lived in the country - with regular access to wilderness.  When I moved to Bethesda and had my first experiences in DC traffic, I started to freak. What would happen in an emergency - surrounded by so many people?

I started doing research on safety and disaster preparedness. I got pretty sucked in. (The web can be a terrible thing when you start looking at doom and gloom scenarios.)

I found out is important to have:

  1. A personal bag
  2. A “get out of town bag’ and
  3. A home survival kit

I could not find suitable information that summarized everything so I wrote up my research which you can view here.

As much as I may have spent a bit too much time hyperventilating and indulging in worst case scenarios, I got a really good insight out of my hours of obsessive thinking. I began to discern what I had control over and what I did not.  I do have some control over my personal safety. I don’t have much control over what could happen externally.

That distinction has made a big difference in my life. While I still habitually go to fear and anxiety, something in my awareness is just a little more quick to wake up to the conditioning. I spend less time on the hamster wheel of circular, negative thinking.

And ... My car is stocked with food, water and supplies in case I’m stuck in it for some reason. I do have a bag I can grab with supplies for a few days and our house is now stocked with enough to ensure we’ll stay warm, dry, fed and hydrated for a while.

I feel a lot happier than I did before. More relaxed.

Having sat with that fear, I have found a balance between being responsible and increasing my capacity to savor what’s right in front of me.

If you’d like to like to read a summary of my research with some links, click here.