Stepping into Reality… from Fear

By Keith Miller | February 9, 2011

Keith, I am so afraid that my life is not going to turn out well.  My closest relationship is in shambles.  No one knows this because in my family we were trained not to admit our fears or our failures.  But in my heart of hearts my fears have gotten so big that there seems to be no room for anything else.  It’s like they are swelling and are going to choke me somehow.  My imagination and pictures of a divorce or business failure and of being alone and unhappy are dominating my life… and no one knows.

If you can understand what I’m saying will you tell me what you’ve done to deal with this kind of scary, crazy thinking?

This is a very important question—and problem!  My life seems like a magnet for this question or others very similar to it.    And before I talk about how I’ve learned to deal with the fear into which these swollen images of failure and rejection lead me, I want to tell you that almost every really sensitive person I have counseled or mentored before in a continuing way has reported similar fears that have almost overwhelmed them—till they finally got the courage to bring them out and share them.

From a clinical perspective (and from my own experience) what I see happening is that some significant  problem comes up that a person can not solve—perhaps a significant relationship is threatened by an affair, or a spouse announces that he or she has ‘had enough’ and is planning to leave, or one has discovered that his or her drinking has increased but he/she cannot stop, and that person gets fired, etc.

What happens to me is that I start by “awfulizing” in my thinking.  My mind begins generating images of being alone, deserted, or fired, with no job or remedy in sight.

When I get in such a situation, my natural impulse is first to try to find someone else to blame, so I won’t be shamed and rejected by those whose approval means the most to me.

I see myself  trying to muster evidence that will make my unacceptable behavior be seen as reasonable or justified.  But when that doesn’t work, my fears swell until I can’t sleep or even rationalize any way out of my “overwhelming” problems.

Fortunately, years ago I met a man I trusted enough to tell him what was happening—to share the terrifying scenes that were by that time filling my mind, leaving no room for anything else.

I heard this man share his spiritual experience with a group of people who meet together regularly to share such problems honestly.  After attending that  meeting for several weeks I finally got the courage to ask the man who had shared if I could talk to him.  When I had told him honestly how frightened I was and how powerless I felt to overcome my fears, he said that I had “just taken” the first step to deal with my seemingly impossible situation.  I had gotten my feelings of fear and powerlessness out in the open in the real world.

He told me what he’d found helpful to get through such times of magnified fear was to realize that the human mind is 3-dimensional and that we experience our fearful mental images in 3-D, often Technicolor, moving pictures that have length, width and depth.  And these fearful pictures are strangely elastic—that is, “they swell” and our fears increase in magnitude in our minds so they seem to fill our consciousness until there seems to be no more room for anything else—like solutions or strategies to solve our seemingly impossible problems.

So I asked him, “What do you do when you’re in that situation?”

He smiled and said, “I do what you just did; I bring my fears out into the 4th dimension: “time,” the arena of Reality.  And when I share these feelings with others in the reality of the present moment, they quit swelling.  And I see in the eyes of the listeners with whom I share, that my swollen fears are normal and can be faced and changed.

What happened was is that I was no longer alone with my fear.  And I realized that the greatest threat of my fearful fantasies—that I would wind up alone and rejected—had dissolved.

And instead of being rejected as I’d shared fearful experiences I was accepted as one of the group as a real, fallible but honest struggler trying to surrender our lives to God.  And I realized that God is always there in the present moment when we bring our lives out of the unreal shadow land of the past or future because God never did anything in a “past” moment or a “future” moment, only the present moment.  So my only hope to have God’s help is to bring my guilt about the past and fears of the future into God’s time, the present moment, where he has always been—waiting to forgive us and love us—and to be with us from now on.

Dear Lord, thank you that you are waiting to deliver us from the elastic three dimensional images of the guilts and regrets of our pasts and the fears of the future.  Help us to have the courage to bring these painful images and fears into the 4th dimension: time, your dimension—the present moment—where they no longer swell and can be offered to you and our brothers and sisters in your family for forgiveness, and new changes in a new life.  In Jesus name, amen.

“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed.” James 5:17, The Message

Topics: Christian Living, Weekly Devotional | Comments Off on Stepping into Reality… from Fear
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It is Keith’s genius to take very elusive and complicated material and make it understandable… His own rigorous honesty is a living mirror which can inspire us… The Taste of New Wine is today as important as it was, when it was first published—in fact, I feel it is more relevant than ever… It has increasing importance for the Christian life in our time.
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