The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Know Fear, Fear Less ...

There are two types of fear. On the one hand, there is the involuntary response (scream or say "Oh ..." followed by favorite expletive, then fight or flight) to a very real, totally objective, external threat to life and limb. On the other hand is an anxiety mind game in which the reaction is equally strong but the threat is only in the sufferer's head. The fear of external threats is realistic and can save your life. The neurotic fear ... not so much. In fact, moderate levels of fear to real threats help us plan for the future, for how to cope with that threat. Being able to see ahead to that threat and begin planning creates what psychologists call "emotional inoculation."

However, there is no plan that will help much against that threat that remains lurking in our heads. Those shadowy, what if terrors can lead us to shut down if the level of terror rises high enough, or it can lead us to do terrible things based on fears only residing in our minds. Planning ahead against shadowy, possible threats that may never come to pass can twist and warp us until we ruin lives, our own and others when we lash out in terror. We  over-collect data on friends, we endure rainbow colored threat levels daily, we ruin lives with Communist witch hunts, we burn witches at the stake ... It's a long and scary list. Most of these begin with a real external threat ... and then spiral out of control in our minds. There have been times when enough people have been and are terrified to such an extent, they turn over their freedom and their lives to a "strong man" or "strong woman" who becomes their dictator. Not a good thing when it happens.

To keep those mind games, those neurotic fears under control, get a friend or loved one who is patient and not suffering your fear with you and together explore the actual threat you fear. Poke at it, explore it, and see what the reality of that threat may actually be. Explore the health and appropriateness of the level of fear felt to the actual threat at hand.

If you know someone who is suffering from fear far beyond real threat levels, be present for them, be understanding, provide no unrealistic assurances for this shadowy fear, and provide help to counter any real danger that might be present. Provide prayer for the sufferer. This helps if both parties are believers. Remind the sufferer of the strength and presence of God, of God's grace and mercy. Remind them they were not made for fear and that nothing and no one may separate them from God.

As a final word, a plea really, please, whatever you do, do not under any circumstances undo a decision you made when you were feeling secure while you are caught up in your fears. To put it another way, never change a decision that was made in consolation when you are in desolation. You are almost certain to be making a wrong decision. Take care and may you keep your fears under control. Hold close to the assurance of God in Isaiah 43: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

For more, see The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling, pp. 430-431

No comments: