Do you have a serious or haunting fear of the future? Do you spend a lot of your life protecting yourself from this future? You already know that doesn’t work. But something else will.
Fear can be dangerous
Most people have at least one serious fear of the future, the kind that fills them with anxiety or terror, that may even be running their lives for them. Does this sound like you?
From visions of poverty, unemployment, sickness, chronic pain, disability or alzheimers, to losing a partner or child, growing old in neglectful care homes, or being alone and seriously ill, is there something that presses all your buttons, and makes you feel that life would not be worth living if this happened?
As we know, fear is dangerous. It leads us to do irrational things. It sets our whole body into the kind of fight-flight reaction that might be useful if a lion is threatening us, but not in our everyday life. Stress, illness, and a life that is boxed in rather than free, can all result. And it is a major reason for people failing to open up to the turning points and new beginnings that their heart and soul are calling for.
Remember this: All the security in the world is not enough. You can never be so totally in control of life that you never suffer any major loss, failure, or catastrophe. It is to our imagination that we must go to solve the problem, since this is where it begins.
Do you believe these fears are protecting you, keeping you alert to a real problem that you need to solve? This is true of relatively moderate anxieties. But these big fears that fill us with terror are not helpful in this way. In fact, they can stop us from appropriate rational action because we simply cannot see straight. As one young woman involved in work to do with climate change told me “If I were that afraid, I wouldn’t be able to do my work.”
The truth is that not only can you overcome these fears, but that in doing so, you will unlock a door to a more peaceful, creative, and constructive life. And the way forward is not to make your life so secure than it can never happen to you. We know that’s impossible.
It is actually much simpler than that.
What fear of the future is really about
A serious or crippling fear of the future is not really about the future, nor is it about the real event that you are afraid of. It usually stems from the past, and it is about your picture of that future, or rather of yourself in that future, not about the future itself.
It couldn’t be about the future, since by definition the future is never real and it never comes. But your imagination is very real, and it has very real effects.
To put it simply, if you look at your picture of that feared event happening to you, you will be seeing yourself as fearful, collapsed, shrunken, young, or otherwise not coping with the situation. It is this picture of yourself that is frightening you, not the event itself.
For some reason, probably to do with the past, you believe that if such and such happens, you will not be able to cope. You may think that you are fearful of losing something you cannot do without.
It is actually losing yourself that you are afraid of.
What can I do about this fear?
Because this fear is about the future as you imagine it, it can be solved in your imagination, where it started. To do so, you need to learn how to change your picture of the future so that you see yourself as vibrant, strong, and resilient in that situation that right now you fear.
This takes a little work. But it is well within your ability to do so.
And when you do, you give yourself a chance for a real turning point, and an opening into a new way of seeing yourself and life that will become your real security.