You'd have to live under a rock not to have heard about the coronavirus!
Then again, living under a rock might be the safest place to be these days.
For weeks now, most of us have heard nothing but stories of infections, closures of schools, postponed concerts and sporting events, and even deaths.
And that's not to mention the effect it's had on the world economy.
Yes, the coronavirus is quite real and potentially deadly.
It got me thinking about one of my favorite topics: Fear. Yes, I know I'm a little strange. I mean, don't most people avoid fear when they can?
After all, fear causes us to make ill-informed decisions or snap judgements that lead us in the wrong direction.
Fear can cause us to feel suspicious and withdrawn, uncertain and isolated. In some cases, fear feeds biases and even triggers violent actions. Fear skews our ability to see things clearly and robs us of our sense of peace and well-being. Fear undermines the trust necessary to build and maintain healthy relationships.
And it holds us back from happiness and healing by telling us, "No, you can't do that. You're not smart enough. You're not good enough. Don't risk it. Bad things could happen."
Fears and worries are like weights that hang around your neck.
While it's been somewhat popular in personal development to say things like "fear isn't real," don't you believe it. Fear is very real. And it can become a real burden and a hindrance to our happiness. It overwhelms our sense of self purpose.
The Destructive Cloud of Fear
As it happens, I grew up in a constant cloud of worry, always vigilant, always on the lookout for the next big catastrophe.
For me, the world was a scary place, filled with things to be avoided. This included more than just the usual cautions.
Even the most innocuous of experiences could trigger feelings of worry and anxiety for me because my brain had become so good at imagining the worst possible outcome.
A simple social gathering meant a chance of being uncomfortable or doing or saying something to embarrass myself.
Meeting new people meant risking coming into contact with someone who would lie to me or try to take advantage of me somehow.
Flying? Plane crash. Swimming in the ocean? Shark attack. Baseball game? Foul ball to the face. Taking a walk in the park? Someone's vicious dog could attack me or I could get mugged.
You show me a chance to have a good time and I can counter it with the most dire possible scenario, no matter how unlikely.
This was more than just a negative attitude. As I grew older I noticed that it felt unnatural to feel peaceful.
My brain was conditioned to function in fear to the point where - ironically - only fear felt comfortable to me.
Thankfully, I was able to make some incredible progress in breaking down that filter of fear I had inherited, but I won't lie: it took a lot of work (and many hours of Holosync (link) listening).
I also had help and support from those who cared for me and wanted to see me happy and successful. So what happened?
How did I finally stop living in a state of constant worry?
It would be easy to say "Well I mustered up my willpower and conquered all my fears!"
That didn't happen.
Or "I overcame my fears with love and positive thoughts." Nope, that didn't happen either. In fact, I still feel fear on a regular basis.
The difference is that I know what fear is now, and I've learned to use the power of fear to help me, not hurt me.
The Opposite of Fear: Awareness
What I learned is that the opposite of fear is not safety or security. Nor is it courage, love, or control. The opposite of fear, if you can call it an opposite, is awareness.
That means that what we feel when we experience fear and worry is nothing but a lack of information about what to do or not do. To go even deeper, the opposite of fear is a kind of perspective that actually allows fear to help us grow, rather than hinder us and hold us back.
We all know that fear can cause us to fight, flee, or freeze.
And the truth is that you may encounter moments when doing one of these things can literally be a life saver. But when fear dominates our thoughts, causing us to obsess, lose sleep, and spoil our chances at happiness in life, it's a sign that we don't have all the facts. We lack information. We lack awareness.
This connection between fear and certainty might not seem obvious at first. But let's remember that fear breeds reactivity, whereas clear-minded choice–or what we would call a "response'– comes from awareness.
If you've been a part of the Centerpointe community for awhile you know that our founder, Bill Harris, was constantly reminding us that "awareness creates choice."
And, I would add to that it cancels out the negative effects of fear.
Aren't all effects from fear negative? Not at all! Earlier I mentioned that fear can help produce some incredible changes.
Fear can force us to stop and examine what we're doing in our lives, and why. It can slam on the brakes when we're careening toward disaster.
It can cause us to become very self-honest.
So this is the reason that I find fear so interesting: Fear has the power to motivate us, to make us stop what we're doing and consider doing something different, and to self-reflect.
I'm not going to tell you I have mastered fear. I doubt anyone has. But nor will I say that I avoid it.
What I try to do when I feel fear is to remember that it's a signal from the universe (or just the circumstances of the moment) that I don't have all the information, that I need to cultivate more awareness and increase my understanding.
Again, I'm not talking about the kind of fear associated with things like being chased by a bear or being inside a burning building.
The fear that comes with those experiences and says "Run!" is your survival instinct kicking in.
But for fear-based thinking, where you are caught in that cycle of worry, fret, obsess, rinse-and-repeat, the antidote is awareness.
Fear has the power to control you. But you possess a greater power over every emotion you have, including fear. You will experience fear in life, there's no getting around it.
But it need not determine how you choose to live and experience the world.
The Present Moment
As I write this, much of the world is immersed in fears over the coronavirus. Whether any given set of fears is justified is not important.
What's important is that we recognize the inherent energy within this fear and we focus our intentions on using the fuel of those fears to help us grow and adapt to the present circumstances.
Nobody wants a pandemic. Nobody wants to get sick or see others suffer. But life is unpredictable, both on the individual and global level.
When we stop fearing fear, and instead manage it with awareness, fear can actually be an ally in our development.
Fear gets us to slow down, stop, take a look, listen... it can heighten our awareness. Fear compels us to take a look at the effects of our choices.
Fear can bring us into the present moment like nothing else.
Are you feeling any fears or worries right now? I encourage you to stop, take a deep breath and centre yourself. Tune into yourself and your environment.
Use your fear as a reminder to foster a keen and expansive awareness.
And please remember, we’re not medical experts here at Centerpointe. But we are experts at personal development.
The audio products and life coaching that we’ve been providing for over three decades are designed to help you navigate through upheaval and to be a shining tower of strength in the face of fear.
You are not in this alone!
About Centerpointe Research Institute
Centerpointe Research Institute was founded by the late Bill Harris in 1989.
The Institute produces as it's flagship a product called Holosync®, an audio program formulated to recreate the brain wave patterns of experienced meditators.
If you use this program daily, you can achieve the same results in 8 times the time it takes for traditional meditation.
If you would like to get a free e-book called 'The New Science Of Super Awareness' by Bill Harris, please visit this web site.
When you sign up, you will also be able to get the audiobook version for free, as well as a free demo of Holosync®.