Handling Fear in an Age of Upset

Fear is a primal emotion; whenever it takes center stage, love, compassion, and spirituality begin to vanish. As a real or a perceived threat triggers your fight-or-flight response, your adrenals pump hormones into your bloodstream. All the while, your heart races; your blood pressure shoots up, and your mind quickly examines your options: do you stay and fight or do you run and take shelter?

Unpleasant though it is, fear is also addictive: the explosive hormonal high it causes fills the void of a seemingly meaningless, dull life. This is why, in times of peace, people often pursue activities that may trigger similar responses: from horror movies to extreme sports, thrill-seeking individuals can choose from a variety of relatively harmless options.

As of lately, however, the addiction to fear has reached a new height through the bombardment of conspiracy theories. Often followed by an exhortation to “do your own research,” these bizarre stories push their believers into an alternative reality where the only opinions that count are those painting the darkest picture. Unlike the temporary (and innocuous) thrill provided by a scary carnival ride, the emotions inspired by conspiracy theories become constant companions in the lives of their consumers.  

By luring you into a rabbit hole, the fear and the anger inspired by stories that are meant to cause upset may detach you from reality, isolating you from your family and your friends. The goal of these stories is to make you feel special for “being in the know;” they also promote an us-versus-them mentality that inspires paranoia and hatred. If you take the bait, you will keep going back for more. You will also become oblivious to the myriad ways in which you are being manipulated.

Unfortunately, spiritual people have a proclivity to fall for this kind of ruses. Whether we are used to pursuing patterns others do not see or are just a tad too eager to renounce the rational mind, we have become a favorite target for the merchants of fear. The good news is, we also have the tools that are needed to heal ourselves from such unhealthy dynamics–emotional awareness in the first place.

If you have a meditation practice, activate the witness to examine your reactions: how do certain rumors circulating on the Internet affect you? Fully release the story that upsets you and sit with the emotion: what does it feel like? Does it have a color? What is its texture? Does this energy have a taste or a smell? Do you sense its frequency?

When the upset energy has run its course and no longer monopolizes your attention, you will most likely have a better sense of how such a low vibration hijacked your feelings. Repeat this exercise each time you find yourself having an emotional response. Be vigilant in your awareness, and you will reclaim the power you had surrendered to others.

Image by Simon Migaj via Unsplash

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