Frank Herbert, author of Dune, has an oft-quoted section about fear.
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”Frank Herbert, DUNE
In the last few weeks and months, I’ve come to see much of my own emotional response to the world is driven by fear. Anger. Anxiety. Depression.
Good old Yoda from Empire Strikes Back, had something to say about fear as well…
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”Yoda
It all comes down to the same thing, right? Much of the fear we face is the root of irrational thought, which leads to poor decision making. Poor decisions lead to consequences we may not want to face.
But what if you’re afraid of what else life is going to throw at you in some arbitrary time period? The last 6 months have been throwing personal challenges at me left and right, but I’m left wondering if that’s truly the case.
Through it all, I’m left asking what it is I truly afraid of? Lack of control probably. None of the things that happened really happened to me, they happened around me to other people. Crises of mind, body, and emotion.
Turns out that I don’t have much agency in those crises. In one case, I was able to help a bit, but all the rest have largely been completely out of my control. Couldn’t or can’t change any of them. Eventually I came to realize that, but it took a lot of mental anguish to get there.
All I truly have control over is my reaction. Reaction to events directly affecting myself or others. But still it comes back to fear. I’m afraid for other people and the challenges they are facing. I feel for them, which means I feel their fear and possibly project it onto myself. Empathy is a double-edged sword. I fall on it both ways.
But all I can do is let those people know I’m thinking of them and help in some small way if they request it. I can’t force my help upon them. I can’t force them to see the world differently than they do. We all have our own way of seeing and interpreting our lives.
So I’m left pondering how to accept that sometimes the fear I feel isn’t my own, but a mirror I’m projecting back at myself from the people I care about. Can I change my own thinking to wrap my mind around those emotions and modify them to avoid falling into the traps of anger or anxiety or depression?
Good question. Definitely a good question.