Fearful Thoughts and Feelings Are Activities, Not Things

Most of us have a habit of getting fearful and stressed-out when we face a challenge. It’s as if we think fear is our friend. The better we understand how this happens, the easier it is to get out of a fearful state and into an enjoyable, productive one. To do this, first let’s take a look at feelings.

Feelings are not things. They are the activity of our being, vibrating at various intensities. No matter the feeling, it is our being vibrating. When our being vibrates at a given rate and we label it with a noun — happy, sad, anxious — we imagine we are dealing with a thing that is separate from us. 

When we believe our fear is a “thing,” we also imagine we can push it away, run from it, stuff it, or just pretend it’s not there.

But whether it’s sadness, or some other feeling, it’s pretty obvious that we can’t push it away, run from it, stuff it, or pretend it’s not there. When we understand this, doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous to try?

So why do we do that when we feel fear? It’s due to a habit’s remarkably effective at convincing us our feelings and thoughts are solid objects. We squeeze ourselves, mentally, emotionally, or physically. 

Even though we can’t succeed at pushing away or stuffing those feelings or thoughts, we can squeeze and create tension in our bodies, then interpret the effect of that squeezing as our having pushed, or stuffed, or run away from, the thoughts or feelings we’re hoping to avoid. 

And here lies the problem: Rejecting the activity of feeling turns it into a dysfunctional activity.

Why? Because we don’t realize that we’re simply squeezing ourselves. We’re not relating to our feelings as they are in reality. That’s the definition of dysfunction.

It’s like digging a hole while trying to climb a mountain.

Fearful thoughts and feelings don’t help us accomplish any constructive endeavor. They’re always a distracting energy drain. That’s why you look up from a bout of worry and discover that an hour has passed and you’ve made no progress toward your desired outcome.

The simple logic is this: all activities, feelings included, require our energy and attention. Any energy and attention you put into one activity — worrying, for example — is not available for another activity. 

So what does this mean in your day-to-day life? It means that if you care about accomplishing a task, focus only on the task itself, and avoid feeding extraneous thoughts or emotions. Feeding extraneous thoughts and emotions, especially fearful ones, drain energy and attention you could be using to attend to the task at hand.

When we imagine fearful thoughts and feelings as “things” we assume those things have power. We think we’re going to war with those “things,” but actually we are at war with ourselves. It’s exhausting and demoralizing.

The Easy Way Out of Fearful Thoughts and Feelings

When we realize we’re the one creating the struggle, we discover the easy way out, and we’re happy to practice these steps to end that struggle:

Take a few deep, easy breaths and release any tension in your body.

Look around. Look up and down. If you are indoors, look out the window at the sky and the earth. Remember where you really are.

With respect and genuine interest, ask the fear, “What are you trying to accomplish?” Listen to the answer.

Ask the fear a few more questions:

  • “Do you realize you are taking my energy and attention away from accomplishing that?”
  • “Do you want me to fail?”
  • “Do you want me to succeed at enjoyably accomplishing my goal? 
  • Or do you prefer that I succeed at being afraid and having no enjoyment at all?” 

Then ask yourself, and deeply consider: “What bad thing do I believe would happen if I stopped creating and maintaining fearful activities? And what bad thing do I think would happen if I practiced creating and maintaining enjoyable, life-enhancing activities?” 

The most important point is this: You don’t need to wait for answers to all these questions in order to let go of the fear! The simple act of asking such questions helps you let go. Try it! 

Continue to practice letting go distracting fearful thoughts and emotions. Now that you realize fearful thoughts and feelings are never your friend, it’s easy to stay inspired and enjoy this practice of letting them go. With a smile!