Let’s get right to it:
Step 1: Identify your fears.
Step 2: Understand your fears.
Step 3: Diffuse your fears.
I realize this may be easier said than done. Confronting our fears can feel overwhelming and confusing. Often times, they’re so unconscious we hardly even notice them, but anytime we feel a sense of stress or anxiety we can be absolutely sure we’re being influenced by them.
Fear keeps us focused on the surface of a situation, which prevents us from diving deeper to understand the supporting structures involved. It demonizes differences, encourages self-defense and creates separation. At the root of all the negativity in the world you will find it. Anger, hatred, jealousy, shame, disappointment, sadness, grief – none of these can exist without fear.
As long as fear motivates your desire to create change in the world, any changes you do make will only convert the existing problem into a new problem.
No one can tell you the best way to understand and diffuse your fears. Each of us must figure out a process that works for us, but help is always available to those who look for it. There are many books, processes, teachers and philosophies that can help you create a belief system that works for you (I use Buddhism and a process of inquiry called The Work). Because this is a step every human being must take along their path, you’re also constantly surrounded by other people who can walk with you on your journey.
“Anger, hatred, jealousy, shame, disappointment, sadness, grief – none of these can exist without fear.”
In order for your chosen belief system to be effective, it must pass one important test. It will only help you diffuse your fears if it doesn’t reinforce them. Religions, in particular, offer us a fully formed set of beliefs and philosophies to guide our lives, but they are not immune to the influences of fear. Perspective and interpretation play an essential role in how well a religion can help us create the world we want to live in.
How can you tell if your beliefs are working for you? You can ask yourself these three questions:
- Do they demonize people who believe and act differently than me?
- Do they encourage me to defend myself?
- Do they separate me from others?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, you may want to consider shifting your perspective, opening your mind to alternative interpretations or reshaping your beliefs in some way.
Facing our fears is a process that happens again and again with each new experience life brings our way. But don’t lose heart – every time you diffuse a fear, your efforts have a cumulative effect. Their diversity and intensity will dissipate over time.
You don’t have to incorporate any of this into your existing belief system. You can continue to work toward creating the world of your dreams using fear as your guide, and you may even succeed, but it will come at a cost. You will need to be constantly vigilant, guarding against any threat that may possibly undo the progress you’ve made. This is especially true if one of the criteria for making progress toward your perfect world is getting other people to think, believe and behave the same as you.
It is not possible to create a peaceful world using fear. Only with compassion and unconditional love can we achieve and sustain this goal. If this particular idea generates stress or anxiety inside you, now you know where to begin.