Are you afraid of some condition in your life? Here’s a life-transforming secret: that seemingly scary condition, whatever it may be, is not the problem. It is your reaction that is fearful. This is why if you will become conscious of your condition instead of afraid of it, you will change forever your relationship with fear.
It is only within this special kind of inner-relationship that there is real safety, because now you are interacting with fear in an entirely new way. You are no longer letting it dictate to you how to act or what to do. Instead, you are aware of the fear. You are learning to quietly observe and study it. And, each day, as you discover something new about the strange and shaky nature of your own fearful reactions, they begin to lose their power over you.
Why? Because you are at last seeing them for what they have always been: unintelligent mechanical forces. You are slowly becoming stronger than they are because by seeing them as they are—not as they would have you see them—you have helped yourself to climb above and outside of their influence. This self-insight is the difference between trembling through your life and being in command of it.
To be consciously afraid means that you know you are frightened, but at the same time you know that these very fears, as real as they may seem, are not you. And no wrong reaction can keep you captive once you begin to see it for what it is.
Fear is, and has always been, nothing but a self-limiting reaction that we cling to in the darkness of our present life-level, having mistaken it for a shield of self-protection. But, just as the faintest of early morning sunlight can dispel the night-long darkness, so does the smallest of insights into a persistent fear lead to letting it go.
You can prove this powerful principle to yourself anytime you want. Just dare to proceed even while being afraid. But remember, your new aim isn’t to be courageous or to try and act strong in the face of fear. No. We’ve seen that this won’t work. You simply want to be more curious about your frightened thoughts and feelings than you want to believe in them.
If you will follow this simple but higher instruction, not only will you start to see these habitual reactions that have been keeping you scared and running, you’ll actually start seeing through them. This is where the real miracle occurs.
Each new insight into the actual nature of these negative reactions removes some of their power over you. And their loss is your gain. You are stronger now and you know it. You also know this new strength will never fail you because it isn’t just the temporary appearance of a bold opposite. This new strength of yours is the absence of an old weakness.
Let’s look at just one of the ways in which this principle of putting self-illumination before psychological self-protection can turn fear into fearlessness.
Do you know someone who you would rather run from than run into? Most of us do! Nevertheless, starting right now, resolve never again to avoid any person that scares you.
In fact, go ahead and walk right up to that critical man or aggressive woman and say or do exactly what you want instead of letting the fear tell you to do what it wants. Have no ideas at all about the way things should or shouldn’t go. You are there to watch and learn about yourself, not to win an ego victory. Let that person see you shake if that is what starts to happen. What do you care? Besides, it is only temporary. That unpleasant person before you can’t know it, but you are shaking yourself awake.
For the first time, you are letting your reactions roll by instead of letting them carry you away. As you stand there, momentarily apart from your usual self and working hard to remain as inwardly watchful as you know how, you can see that this flood of previously unconscious reactions has its own life story; a shaky sort of story that up until now you had embraced as your own. But now you are beginning to see the whole story. The fears do not belong to you. Here is the explanation:
You have never been afraid of another person. The only thing you have ever been frightened by is your own thoughts about that person. Yes, you did feel fear, but it wasn’t yours and it wasn’t towards someone stronger than you. The fear you felt was in what you thought he or she was thinking about you.
Amazing isn’t it? You have been afraid of your own thoughts! And seeing this ends this. Now you can let this thought-self go, because no one holds on to terror.
(Excerpted from The Secret of Letting Go, Rev. Edition, Llewellyn)