Whether you turn to the right or to the left,

your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying,

“This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21

There is your task ...

Psychologist Carl Jung said : "Where your fear is, there is your task."

I am not sure what Jung meant by this. Nonetheless, it has impacted me as I have battled fear lately.

Here's how:

* First, it has caused me to get very specific about the details of my fear. Though it is a strange way to hone in on something like fear, I have asked myself "Where is your fear, Alice?"

Being forced to look clearly and seek intensely for the source of my anxiety, the exact location of my worry, has proven fruitful.

You can't fight what you haven't named.

* Instead of seeing fear as an enemy, as something to be run from or suppressed, I have taken Jung at face value and have started to view my fear as my task.

I ask the fear - "What are you here to teach me?"  "What do I need to learn from you?"  "What do I need to let go of in order for you to dissipate?"  "What misguided ways of thinking are causing you to grow out of proportion to reality?"

There are deep lessons to be learned when we are afraid. I don't want to miss them.

* When I approach fear as something I can learn from rather than something I should run from my whole mindset changes.

I no longer feel in the grip of fear. Instead, I feel empowered by my own curiosity. Fear is not something to be afraid of (see what I did there?) but something I can learn from, grow through and eventually leave by the wayside once it has served its purpose. Once I have done the work.

What I have been discovering is that there is something underneath fear that needs attention. 

When I see that deeper issue as my task, as a thought or a belief or a circumstance that is asking for my focus, the true work begins.

This has actually turned into a rich time of exploration of some issues that were badly in need of some scrutiny.

I leave you with some questions:

Where is your fear located?

What is underneath it?

What might it have to teach you?

"Where your fear is, there is your task."

Get to work, friends ...

 

 

What is anxiety?

I have been learning a lot about fear lately.

More than merely feeling  fear and "learning" that way, I have been digging in to the literature on the topic. Learning from those who study fear for a living.

Three definitions have proved inordinately helpful as I wrestled with my own thoughts and emotions of late.

Fear - The perception (thought) of imminent threat or danger to an individual's safety or security.

AnxietyAn enduring emotional state when individuals anticipate a personally aversive, unpredictable and uncontrollable future situation that is perceived (thought) to threaten their vital interests.

Worry A persistent chain of repetitive, uncontrollable thinking (there's that thought thing again!) that focuses on uncertain future negative outcomes. Also, repeated mental rehearsal (thought!) of possible solutions that fail to resolve the uncertaintly about the impending threat.

Recognize yourself in any of these definitions?

Sometimes the naming of things helps right-size them.

Putting into words what is going on in our minds is the first step in gaining some kind of upper hand over these thought processes that can feel overwhelming and overpowering when we are caught up in their vortex.

One thing I noticed with each of these definitions is that they all have to do with thoughts, perceptions and the imagined future we all create.

Now fear of an immediate danger is vital to life - think braking hard before you blow through a red light.

But all kinds of other fears - in my life at least - are simply made up. They are not reality. They are mere perceptions, thoughts I create.

All kinds of anxiety simply stems from me drumming up potential bad outcomes for future events I have either invented or over which I have little control.

Worry is merely a stubborn habit of my mind.

Naming these truths has been powerful for me. I hope they help you in some way, too.

More thoughts coming about ways I have been learning to help my poor, overworked, anxious mind in the midst of the uncertain times in which we all find ourselves.

 

A relentless effort ...

I have been thinking lately about fear, anxiety and worry.

In fact, I've been experiencing this fun little trifecta quite a bit as I go throughout my days.

I am sure the world has felt this shaky and uncertain before but I certainly don't remember it during my lifetime.

A global pandemic ...

Fresh, painful, almost daily reminders that our country still bears the deep wounds of racism ...

A toxic political environment ...

All combine to create fertile soil in which fear can take root and grow like a late-summer weed.

This sentence that has stuck in my mind as of late:

"A relentless effort to seize control is a basic element of fear and anxiety."

I read that and a sly smile crossed my lips.  "Who, me?  Relentlessly try to seize control of the universe? Well, I never ..."

But of course it is true.

Is it true of you?

When the world spins faster and faster, when chaos reigns, when even the simplest of things no longer feel manageable, don't you want to double-down on control, too?

The problem with this very understandable plan is that it sets us up for even more fear and anxiety than we originally experienced.

If a "relentless effort to seize control" is a basic element of fear, then it certainly seems that the better strategy when we feel fearful is something that looks and feels like a softening, a yielding, a kind of surrender.

Ponder this today whenever fear, anxiety or worry bubble up in your soul. Remember that control is an illusion at best, and a thief of your joy and peace at worst.

Instead, open your hands, take a few slow, deep breaths and,

Ask yourself:

*  What can I do to soften?

*  How can I yield control rather than grasp for it?

*  What kind of relentless effort do I need to surrender?

*  What might God want me to learn in this moment of fear?

 

 

 

Just a few thoughts ...

I haven't written for awhile.

We hosted our son's wedding in our yard a few weeks back, which was lovely.

Then a huge oak tree fell on our house, which was disastrous.

Immediately after these events, I took two weeks off from work and on the first day of my little vacation I fell down several stairs whilst carrying 5 books, a yoga mat and a 15-lb. kettlebell.

So I've had a bit going on.

But I have been watching what is happening in our country.

And I have been listening, especially to young people.

And I have been reading and educating myself and trying to learn.

And I have been deeply saddened by so many things.

1. ) Black and brown people are being murdered and abused in our streets, our courts, our jails, their own homes.

And white people, myself included, have been too busy, too privileged, too distracted by life to care until we were literally forced by social media to watch a black man die over the course of almost 9 minutes  in broad daylight.

It is time white friends, to wake up and pay attention, listen, learn and practice being allies with our black and brown neighbors. We have no excuses. None.

And white people of faith ... please explain to me how on God's green earth the bible was ever used to justify human slavery.

The second book of the Old Testament kicks off with good ol' Moses enlisted by God to set the enslaved and abused Israelites free. Then the New Testament opens with Jesus quoting the prophet Isaiah, saying about himself:  "The spirit of the Lord is upon me ... he has sent me to set the oppressed free ..."

How did our forefathers and mothers use the bible to justify kidnapping and enslaving human beings  created in God's good and beautiful image?

And how on earth do we read that same bible today and not immediately affirm that Black Lives Matter?

And see with our own eyes and acknowledge with our own minds that systemic racism still exists and it crushes our black and brown brothers and sisters?

And that it is past time to do something about it?

2.) And then ... the pandemic. 

Over 120,000 Americans dead.

And scientists and doctors begging us to do one or two simple things - like wear a mask.

Not mainly to protect ourselves, but to protect our neighbors.

And we can't be bothered to do that? 

Because we feel "our rights" are infringed?

Jesus said, "Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their life for their friends."

The apostle Paul said, "The only thing that counts is faith working itself out through love."

There is nothing in the bible that calls on followers of Jesus to fight for their own rights.

Nothing.

The only thing we are called to fight for is the good of our neighbor.

The good of our enemy.

The good of the marginalized, the persecuted, the poor, the excluded.

Which leads me to one last thing that I am noticing ...

3.) The church is crushing young LGBTQ folks.

I am not going to say any more about this here, except to say that it is wrong, and it breaks my heart.

Jesus always, always, always stood on the side of the people being crushed by those in power.

Jesus always, always, always stood on the side of those being crushed by religion.

We are called to do the same.

No. Matter. What.