The Opposite* of Fear is Presence

The opposite* of fear is not a lack of fear. The opposite* of fear is presence in the present.

Are you present to the person you are with?

Are you present to the intentions that you set?

The goal you are pursuing?

Are you present to the opportunity of now?

How would you know?

Well, if you ARE present in the present then there is something you can DO.

There is a way to concretely impact “the situation.” You can start to write, or smile at the person in front of you, or take a break and read a novel, or hop on zoom with a potential client and deliver value however you can.

When you’re fully in the present, “the situation” you’re thinking about is yours to work on and it’s grounded in the real world.

If you are, instead, present to FEAR then you feel like you are wandering.

  • Wandering in the past or the future, worrying about what was or could be.
  • Wandering through the cultural milieu, engaging with a deluge of opinions, feeling like you’re pushing your ideological stone uphill or joining in a growing chorus of the same idea over and over. You KNOW this feeling. When I wake up and I’m swimming with or against the cultural riptide, I know I’m either seeking a mob of my own or looking for a mob to fight. In both cases, I’ve been carried away by fear.
  • Wandering through the land of “what if” looking for ways to self-sabotage whatever peace you’ve created or excuses to keep you stuck in fear.

When you find yourself carried away by fear and absorbed by the tides of panic, your goal is to bring yourself back to presence in the present.

  • How can you connect with someone real? Give a hug, say thank you, send a funny gif. Remember that in the present moment you can always be a force for good by seeing and appreciate someone else. That’s the fear-erasing power of love.
  • How can you advance your intentions? What goal are you hoping to get closer to?
    /TANGENT/ I know that it can be tiring to hear that you need a goal when you are exhausted simply by surviving. It can feel like a lot of pressure or even “victim shamey.”
    But that’s a big, hairy misunderstanding.
    Now is not the time to write a book (or whatever) not because you SHOULD write a book. Now is the time to write a book (or whatever) because you’ve always wanted to write a book! Your goals are FOR YOU. And if you are scraping by on the fumes of your resilience right now then your goal needs to be something like “to have more joy, rest, and ease in my day to rebuild my resilience and be the mother/wife/roommate/friend I always intend to be.”
  • How can you give yourself a little bit of luxury, grace, relief, and relaxation? Remember that when you are in the present moment you can always be e force for good by seeing and appreciating yourself in a concrete way.

Finally, I want to set some clear expectations: there’s a very good chance (like 99.9%) that you WILL BE carried away by fear; I get carried away at least once a day.

  • It’s like I snap out of a trance and I’m knee-deep in the comment thread of an internet fight where therapists are slamming each other over “ethics”…
  • or researching how many cases there are in Missouri (where, I do not, in any way, live)…
  • or shopping in a panicked, Super Market Sweeps way on Amazon for the pens and powder and books and air conditioner filters that I MIGHT NEED.

It’s going to happen and then happen again.

Fear isn’t an artifact of this moment. As I said yesterday, there is nothing more ALIVE than feeling fear. We’ve been afraid since the day we were born and our last day on earth will be marked by fear as well. And that’s a good thing- fear is an important, life-saving part of life.

But that doesn’t mean that we have to be held hostage by fear against our will, our intentions, and our goals.

Every day, as many times as it happens, we can recognize where we are (wandering in the fields of fear), and then ground back down into the present through expressing love, pursuing an intention in a concrete way, and indulging in some self-care.

… If those feel a bit hard to access in the throes of the coronavirus press conference (note: stop watching those), then go primitive and forcibly push yourself back into your body. The fastest way out of the fields of fear is to experience your body in the now: do some jumping jacks, dance, run in place, shake it off, watch a Zumba video, do some yoga, walk the dog, try to do a single push up, see how long you can plank, ride your bike or “JUMP JUMP.”

… If that doesn’t feel accessible, SHUT YOUR SHIT DOWN. Meditation, hypnosis or a good old fashioned nap is in order, immediately.

… If that doesn’t feel accessible then you’ve probably pushed yourself a bit too far: take a hot shower, put on the sad movie, make some popcorn, have a good cry, and fall asleep in your middle of the day pajamas.

(PS- All of this applies to you mamas and poppas out there, no one needs to be better resourced than the parents, so take care of yourself).

My point is this: you can always find a path out of the fields of fear.

But you have to choose it.

PS- *Opposite is not the right word… counterweight is better… or opposing force.

About the Author Amanda

Amanda Crowell, PhD is a cognitive psychologist obsessed with how people make change. She is best known for translating cutting edge research into practical strategies that can be used right away.

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