Most of the world, it seems, has experienced a great deal of fear during this past year.
I’m not thinking primarily of the recent U.S. election or the current U.S. presidential transition.
There had already been enough fear to write this post after a month or two of pandemic-occasioned “lock down.” Timelines differ around the world; in the U.S. this would have been early spring or late winter. You might think back to those times, feel back to how you were feeling.
For me there had been a lot of unrelenting fear for over a month. Fear for the health and life of others I cared about. Fear for my own. Fear for the financial effects of the pandemic and of the efforts to contain and ameliorate it, both on myself and on others.
None of this was helped by having social and recreation outlets reduced or cut off, or by the added practical difficulties of working during the pandemic and first “lock down,” or again by the added emotion effects of working during that time — all the intensified fear and other negative emotions that the people around me were feeling, showing, and acting from.
At some point I began to ask myself: What can I get out of all this fear I’m experiencing?
I wasn’t trying to make it go away, or say that is wasn’t bad, or that it wasn’t legitimate, or assuming that I could change it, or anything like that.
It was the question, Given that this is what’s happening and I don’t seem to be able to do much about it, what benefit can I derive from it? Not trying to see these events and feelings as themselves beneficial, but asking what good thing can I get out of these bad things.
The answer I remember was: The fear has been showing me my attachments, clearly, and without any effort on my part.
This didn’t presume that attachments are bad, or that I could get rid of them. In fact there wasn’t a further thesis to it, and I’m not advancing one now.
But this is in fact, I think, important self-knowledge. And it’s often difficult to come by, difficult to come by clearly, and we either don’t pursue it and thus lack the self-knowledge, or pursue it and gain the knowledge but only through much effort and time.
And here we were — I’m assuming this effect of fear is pretty universal — with being shown significant attachments with clarity and with almost no effort. The effort was already there in the prolonged fearful experience that we hadn’t chosen. Maybe it hadn’t been worth it, but since there was nothing I could do about it, I wanted to get what I could from it.