Welcome back to our ongoing series on using yoga techniques to deal with strong emotions. Today we’ll be talking about fear. Like anger, fear can arise suddenly and powerfully. The way we respond to fear can have major consequences in our actions, our dealings with others, and even in the way we set goals and plan for the future, since fear of failure can be paralyzing. How can we combat fear?
Patanjali would tell us to think of the opposite, positive emotion when fear comes up. Many people think the opposite of fear is courage or bravery, but that’s not really true – courage is taking action despite your fear. The greater the fear, the more courage is needed! The opposite of fear isn’t bravery, but rather faith. Think about it: common fears are that others will fail us, that we will fail ourselves, or that an unpredictable disease, accident, or disaster will befall us. But by cultivating faith, we can reduce those fears. We can develop faith in ourselves, that we’ll work hard and live up to our potential to achieve our dreams. We can have faith in others, trusting that other people will do their jobs, act with integrity, and not let us down. And above all we can put faith in a higher consciousness. It can be God or science or nature or the universe, or simply faith in an unchanging reality beyond the ever-changing physical world. That sort of faith can give you the strength and determination to push past your fears, because you truly believe in something larger than fear.
Think of someone you know with an unshakeable faith in something. Most of us know a person like this. We’ll see such a person persevere through the worst of circumstances, because they truly believe that there’s a plan and a reason in all of it and that they’ll emerge from the hardship better than before, having gained something they needed. Their faith enables them to have great courage.
Now think of a time when you were truly brave. Maybe you did something you didn’t expect to do, or you did something without thinking. It doesn’t have to be something dramatic – it could appear quite small and ordinary to a casual observer, but for you it was an act of courage. How did it feel in the moment when you committed that act? And how did it feel afterward when you made it through?
When you feel fear, call to mind that moment when you were brave. Remind yourself of how resourceful and courageous you can be – that you do have the ability to face your fears. Cultivate that faith in yourself, and see how it helps you move forward.