“Hell is a state of mind - ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind - is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
If I could get rid of just one of my numerous faults, I would get rid of fear. I hate fear. I hate what it does to me. I hate how it closes me off from the world like a coffin. I hate how exhausting it is. I hate how it doesn’t even allow me to consider other possibilities. I hate how small it makes me feel. In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis says that Hell isn’t large; it’s small. He says,
“All Hell is smaller than one pebble of your earthly world: but it is smaller than one atom of this world, the Real World. Look at yon butterfly. If it swallowed all Hell, Hell would not be big enough to do it any harm or to have any taste.”
Maybe that’s why fear makes me feel so small, because being in fear is like being in Hell. It’s still large enough to consume me if I let it. It overwhelms me sometimes. It’s a darkness that seems as if it will never leave.
But it always does.
So what I have going is a cycle. A vicious cycle. Something triggers a fear response in me. Perhaps a rumor at work. Maybe a (misinterpreted) comment. Possibly a financial issue. It doesn’t even matter. Here are some fears I’ve struggled with:
· Fear of being broke.
· Fear of not reaching my potential.
· Fear of illness.
· Fear of not being good at my job.
· Fear of running out of writing ideas.
· Fear of suffering.
· Fear of being alone.
I think most of our fears boil down to the last two. The irony is that fear is suffering. It’s some of the worst and most intense suffering most of us will ever experience. The other irony is that when I’m trapped in fear, I’m also alone. It is only when I am not in fear that I can give of myself and love others.
The good news is twofold.
1. Fear is not real.
2. It can be overcome.
With regard to the first, I know fear feels real, especially when we’re in the midst of it, but, trust me, it’s not. It’s a phantom. Even if we experience the worst, and many of us have, we discover that life can still be good and sweet. Perhaps not immediately, but we find that we can laugh again. We discover that we don’t have to suffer forever. We can love again. We can create good out of tragedy. In some cases, we find our purpose from tragedy and setbacks.
With regard to the second, fear can be overcome. Here are some things I’ve done to take me from fear to joy:
· Doing “The Work” as described by Byron Katie in Loving What Is.
· Tapping, as described in The Promise of Energy Psychology by Feinstein, Eden and Craig.
· Taking a nap.
· Talking to the right person.
· Asking for prayer.
· Exercising or doing something physical.
· Reading something interesting or motivational.
There are probably other ways. But all of these methods have taken me from the darkness of fear to the bright light of hope and life.
Still, my goal, and perhaps it is an impossible one is to eliminate fear altogether. I never again want to suffer those debilitating moments when fear surrounds and overwhelms. To quote Lewis again, "What are we born for?" "For infinite happiness," said the Spirit. "You can step out into it at any moment...”
I can be happy at any moment. All I need to do is Get Started and Keep Going.