By Arline Rowden
What am I afraid of? What am I afraid will happen? What am I afraid I will lose? Are you willing to ask yourself these questions and explore your fears? Do you often feel anxious but aren’t sure why? Fear has always been present in humans but it seems that the last few years there’s been an epidemic of fear going around. If it were a disease we’d be looking for a way to not catch it. Concerns about safety have always been present. Look at all the promotion of security systems, insurance against loss and even guns for protection. Fear and concern about safety are very primal. And danger can be very real. – Or it can be imagined.
As I reflected on these issues, I began to look at my personal relationship with fear and concerns about safety. As a child, I was afraid to be alone, especially in the dark. As an adult, I’m no longer afraid to be alone although I can feel slightly anxious if it’s at night and I need to sleep. But I’ve found ways to feel relaxed and can usually get a good night’s sleep when I’m home alone now. I’ve never lived someplace that was really unsafe so it was more of a feeling of uneasiness coming from my instinctual self and not about reality.
When I was 24 years old, one of my older sisters was murdered by her ex-husband, a few months after their divorce was final. Beyond grieving for my sister, I felt extremely vulnerable in the world. I felt like I needed someone to protect me. So when I met my first husband I felt he would protect me from any physical harm. He grew up in a tough neighborhood and I thought he didn’t seem afraid of the world. We were married for over 16 years but there were many issues that just didn’t get resolved. He used to say he couldn’t live without me so when I decided that I wanted a divorce I was concerned that he might harm me. He had never been physically abusive but I still had the memory of my murdered sister in my consciousness. So it took me awhile to follow through on my decision. I had to come to a place where I was willing to risk being harmed or even murdered if I filed for divorce.
I found that the fear I had as I filed for divorce was based on an imagined outcome for me, based on what really happened to my sister. We were able to go through the divorce without issues and even stayed in touch for a number of years so he could visit with our dog. Both of us married other people and continued on with our lives without bitterness.
I have a higher tolerance of fear now and better coping skills when I experience it. I found that fear helps me to understand how I’m feeling about my environment and the world. I can take time to process how I feel about situations that are reported in the media that stir up my fear response. I try to find information about positive situations to balance out the negative.
I see some political leaders using fear rhetoric, most likely for their own agendas. I see many people being caught up in the fear that is being fed to them. It would be great if they could learn to better tolerate, cope and deal with the fear they are being fed. I wonder if they are looking for someone to protect them like I did with my first husband. I wish they could feel empowered and not feel like victims. I hold that intention for them.