So far the year 2020 has been one we will never forget. From COVID to riots, these last four months have been a little crazy. In a grand fashion, the year 2020 has shown us how unpredictable life can be. This unpredictability can be scary for all of us.
The funny thing is that we never really know what the future brings, we just want to think we know. We feel a sense of losing control of our lives when we don’t know what awaits just around the corner.
As parents, we want to show our children we have things under control. Likewise, our children gravitate toward situations they can control. Experiencing a pandemic and civil unrest brings the realization that we do not know, and can’t control everything.
The one thing we can control is our response.
We can either show our children how to respond to this craziness with love and compassion or out of fear. Fear that we do not have control or know what tomorrow will bring. Fear that the future we pictured will be shattered. Fear that all we have worked for will be taken away from us.
Fear is an emotion induced by a perceived danger that creates a physiological response. Fear is a very important feeling when we are in harm’s way. It produces a fight or flight response to help save us from injury or death.
The problem with fear is how we think when we are in a state of fear.
Our minds are thinking in black or white, focusing on how to escape or how to fight our way to survival. In this state of mind, we are often thinking only about our own survival, me before we. Fear has to produce an enemy or threat to survive as an emotion. This enemy may be “in your face” real or an illusion. The perceived enemy is oftentimes expanded to anyone or thing that threatens our point of view.
Fear is the language of our ego.
Fear is a tool used to divide. Fear can spread like a virus, even to those who are not in danger. Fear can be a learned behavior. Unknowingly, we teach our children that fear is a “normal” state of mind when in reality it should not be a common emotion. The reason fear has taken over so many of us is that we are not only trying to protect ourselves from physical trauma, but also emotional trauma. Unfortunately, mental trauma is very real and destructive.
Mental trauma is fueled by not being present in this moment.
As a society, we have become trapped in our past hurts, not just as individuals but as communities that have shared the same hardship. Instead of learning from the past and letting it go, we continue to relive the pain over and over because fear has captured us in its all assuming grasp. When we are fearful we assume we will be hurt again, just as we did in the past. This cycle can keep our family and community stuck, not just mentally but physically in a state of unrest.
Fear brings upon us the need to defend. Anger is the emotion of defense. If we allow our anger to take over we can act in rage toward people and things without looking at the situation with an open mind. Anger is a defensive emotion based on right or wrong, an “us versus them” mentality. The violent protests we have been watching are a clear example of behavior based on fear. This has also been apparent with some of our behavior surrounding the COVID pandemic. Fear supports narrowmindedness, which can sometimes lead to more harm than good.
The solution to fear is presence.
When we are fully present in this moment, rarely is there anything to truly fear. Unless we are in a current life or death situation at this precise moment there is nothing to fear. The fear our minds create is based on assumptions and memories of the past or worries of the future. Being present to this moment with our breath and quieting our minds breaks the chains fear has placed upon us. The peace we feel in this present moment opens up our hearts to love, gratitude, and compassionate solutions for the problems we face as a society. For the past and future are both constructs of our minds, and not real. This doesn’t mean the past wasn’t real, but that it is not real in the present moment. It does not mean we will forget the past, but acknowledge that it has no power over us now.
The past doesn’t control the future, our present decisions do.
Show your children that there truly is only this moment! We are all connected by this moment. Allow the power of this moment to bring peace and understanding to our decisions.
Go ahead, take that deep breath, and feel the peace in your heart that comes with being present!
Ben Jessen PA-C.