What can you get out of all that fear?

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.

Can you recall your fear experience during the first pandemic “lock down” period?

18 thoughts on “What can you get out of all that fear?

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  1. Pandemics always bring with them fears and this year has had many fears. I tend to acknowledge the situation that is but focusing on the little steps that are doable now but more importantly how it’s going to be after the season passes, imagining positive growth despite the challenging situation. Thanks for sharing your journey and experience. Stay safe

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  2. What’s struck me is how moderated the fear is in the general population around the world. It seemed at times as though the world was ending, and yet… human beings seemed to accept the changed reality and just shifted gear and got on with their lives in a different way. Pretty remarkable.

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  3. I am not sure that one can hook up these presented impressions with the word ‘fear’. That word does not always represent our ‘true’ conscious matter we are dealing with now. Although our fear due to our issue is a present danger now, I don’t think we have to learn something about this aspect. Fear is built in our species as long we exist. Maybe we have to learn more about the causes that fear triggers in our conscientious action.

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  4. Fear does seem be a generalized feeling now; a palpable miasma of misery and helplessness. I feel the fear around me, but personlly haven’t felt anything other than anger at the way this disease response has been handled. I am feeling this week, however, an increasing sense of disquiet teetering on fear based on economic consequences of that official response now looming large. So, this idea about fear raising awareness of attachments is interesting. Perhaps I am too attached to the belief in the abstract of money as a liferaft in hard times. A fear more for a society I have learned to function in, under threat of being replaced by an unknown. The Dalai Lama said that if you want to conquer your fear (of death), focus your worry on caring about somebody else. This makes sense to me, and seems to help? Love is the best distraction. Wait, where was I? 🙂

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  5. Somewhere along the way, I adopted the philosophy of Stoicism. Which is remarkably similar to Zen. And Bushido. And some branches of Existential philosophy. And the modern psychological theory of Radical Acceptance.

    You do what you can do. Your friends and family do whatever they do. You encourage them to do more but you have no control over whether they listen. I wrote numerous blogs about it and hope they clarified things for readers but I really have no clue.

    Beyond that, it is “Que sera sera!”

    I have lost a few things I was planning on doing. Theatrical stuff, volunteering as a docent at a local park, part-time work for a local college art department. OTOH I’ve never been bothered by solitude. Just gives me more time to develop myself in other ways.

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  6. I think we create fear by being selfish. We worry about what we can’t do. In cases like this last year, fear has been a waste of time. We needed to be sensible, to do the best to protect ourselves and others. if we think globally our fears recede. However a certain amount is also healthy. It keeps us caring.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In connection with what you say, I suppose attachments are, after all, intrinsically selfish. So it makes sense that fear, generated by selfishness, would throw one’s attachments into relief(?). And then again going along with what you say, a certain amount of attachment (and maybe a certain manner or quality of attachment?) is also healthy, and goes along with caring feelings, thoughts, intentions, words, actions…

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  7. I like your nonjudgemental approach in this piece. And such “detachment” reminds me that you are, at heart, a Stoic. I think it’s valuable to simply observe–not to prognosticate or pontificate but only to see and to note. There’s real value in the simple act of attempting to establish a kind of “distance” which allows one to put emotions to the side.

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