Don’t Be Afraid to be Happy
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.. – Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear (From the novel Dune by Frank Herbert)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about fear in our society. Fear really holds us back in a lot of ways. One of the frustrating things for me is that what I often see is that people are very often afraid of the wrong things. What do I mean by that? In an average year in America, one person dies by shark attack, however around thirty die by dog attack. However, I bet far more of you would be willing to walk up and pet a strange dog in the park than would swim in the ocean. Fear is not a rational activity, which is why so many more people fear sharks than dogs. Now I know what you’re thinking, there are no sharks in my pool at home. However, in a given year about 60 – 70 people die of drowning each year.
In America fear has become rampant, in addition to sharks, we fear being murdered by gang members, blown up by terrorists and dying in plane crashes. Of course murder rates have been declining for 30 years (except in a couple of urban cities), you are about as likely of being killed in a terrorist attack as winning the lottery and plane travel is safer than traveling by car. Ok, so we’re afraid of the wrong things, why is that?
Fear is a psychological phenomenon, the idea of being torn about by a shark or falling out of the sky is so horrifying that it magnifies the danger in our minds. Add to that something like Jaws and pretty much sharks become utterly terrifying. What we have to also remember is that fear is a business in America. You see fear sells newspapers, pumps up cable news ratings, sells us types of insurance we don’t need. Remember all of those stranger child abduction and molestations in the 1980’s and those poor kids that were abducted by Satanic Cults? Those stories sold a lot of newspapers and books, only one problem, they never happened. But bring it up at work tomorrow and I bet you can find someone who will swear it all happened. We are bombarded daily, heck hourly, by things that are meant to scare us so that people can make money off of us.
How do you beat the cycle. First, the next time you are hesitant about doing something that scares you look up the facts. Knowing the real risks might make that step a little easier. Stop watching cable news, something my friend Rich bugged me about for years, even though I was watching very little by that point, stopping made me happier. There was a time when I would usually have CNN Headline News on in the background at home. Loop after loop of the same stories, murder, death and destruction as a running commentary in my life. Later, as I still tuned into CNN once a day for an hour, it really was more of the same, shallow stories meant to make me nervous and not want to risk missing what else might be happening. Please understand, I’m not suggesting you ignore what’s going on in the world, just that you take it in small doses from sources that are not as inflammatory as cable news. I scan the headlines online from CNN and if I see something that looks interesting I dive in on sites with more substance. Sites like the Christian Science Monitor, the BBC, the NY Times or Al Jazeera. Especially sites like the Christian Science Monitor take a nice deep dive, you won’t get a story ten minutes after an event, but you’ll get a non-biased in-depth analysis.
Finally, as we’ve discussed before, happiness is a choice, as is fear. The quote above about fear from the novel Dune, is one I love and good advice. For me, what gets me past my fear in most instances is taking an honest look at two things. What is the worst thing that could likely happen, not the worst thing, but the worst likely thing. Then comparing that the best possible thing that could happen. In the end, we more often regret what we didn’t do than what we did and that is because the best possible thing is often magnificent. The best example I can give is my trip to Jordan in December. Yes, there was a small chance of being killed in a terrorist attack, however the most likely worse thing was a twisted ankle or knee. However the best thing was what happened, utter awe seeing the 2300 year old city of Petra and one of the most joyous moments in my life floating in the Dead Sea.
So my friends, let your fear flow through and past you. Minimize the sources of anxiety in your life, you’ll be happier for it. And take chances my friends, risk leads to reward.
Have a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane