Today, 6.3 million American adults aged 18 to 54 have some type of specific fear. Although the most common fears tend to be public speaking, death, spiders, darkness, heights, social situations, flying, open spaces, thunder and lightening, and confined spaces—in that order. In the last decade or more, terrorism has brought additional fears to the forefront of American’s minds. Despite the improved economy, many people still fear the loss of a job, a home and of retirement income or invested money.
For this reason, it’s more important than ever to learn how to move through fear. No matter how much or how little fear you feel—or for what reason, that fear stops you from living your life fully and creating the life you desire. Fear prevents you from achieving your highest potential and immobilizes you on the path to your dreams.
A Mystical Approach to Fear
My teachings on the subject of fear stem from the words of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, a rabbi who lived form 1772 to 1820 and is credited with breathing new life into the Jewish movement known as Chasidism. One of his well-known sayings has most commonly been translated from Hebrew to English this way: “A person walks in life on a narrow bridge. The most important thing is not to be afraid.” (Learn more here.)
I believe the narrow bridge represents life. Most of life is scary. Only we don’t usually think about life in that way. We don’t see ourselves poised on a narrow, rope bridge hanging over a deep ravine. However, that’s how we exist day to day never knowing from moment to moment what could happen to us, whether we will live or die, whether the slats of the bridge will hold us when we take our next step. Most of the time, we aren’t fearful. We might, however, be afraid of a spider, or of interviewing for a new job, or of asking someone out on a date, or of not having the money to pay our mortgage this month.
When it comes to living our lives, however, we have faith that the bridge will hold our weight. And because we have faith, we don’t focus upon thoughts that “make” us afraid. In fact, Rebbe Nachman’s words are more accurately translated as, “The most important thing is not to make ourselves afraid.” What he is telling us is that fear is all about our thoughts—where we focus them. If we think about the possibility of danger or of negative outcomes or of unwanted futures we make ourselves afraid. If we focus on our faith, or on the fact that we are okay—safe and sound—in this moment, we do not make ourselves afraid. Instead, we give ourselves courage to take a step forward on the bridge called life.
Walk Across the Narrow Bridge
I admit that I have always had fears. I get through them by taking one step at a time along the narrow bridge and with a lot of faith to keep me balanced. I believe fear stops us from living our lives fully. I think it becomes our jailor if we let it. And I don’t want to be jailed. I want to move through life freely and fully. I don’t want to find that I haven’t lived up to my full potential, because I was too afraid to take steps towards my dreams and goals. I don’t want to be less than I could be because fear stopped me in my tracks.
I realized a long time ago that most things I think I am afraid of really aren’t worth worrying about. Once I have moved through my fears, I can laugh at how silly they were. I try to remember that and how amazing life is—even the scary parts. Actually, they are kind of exhilarating, especially after you move through them.
One last thing helps me move through fear, and I offer this as an additional tip to others feeling fearful. I try to always remember the miracle of life. It’s a miracle that we survive and exist on this bridge at all. It’s a miracle that we walk on the bridge and don’t even realize that we are swinging precariously over a deep ravine. This isn’t much different than us standing on Planet Earth as it hurtles through space or than us being on the fifth floor of a building that consists of particles made of nothing but space vibrating in space. Yet, we feel safe in both those situations. That’s a miracle.
Every moment, every hour, every day that we are alive represents a miracle.
How do you break out of your fear-built jail?
Photo courtesy of MariamS | Pixabay.com