We often like to scare ourselves. We get a kick out of the adrenaline rush of fear that comes from a scary movie or a roller coaster ride. We like the feeling of being afraid as long as it comes in a form that is some sort of controlled context. The movie and the thrill ride have an end. We know that we are not in any real danger. As long as we know we have some sense of control over the situation we do not mind being scared. In fact, it is fun.
But what happens when we experience a situation that makes us feel helpless, when we don't know what to do to protect ourselves? We experience fear that seems to have no end and we are overwhelmed. Just think about our current economic and social situation. Many people are facing overwhelming economic difficulties as are many important financial institutions. Our financial structure is under great stress and we are facing uncertain outcomes. The words "panic" and "market crash" and "great depression" have been bandied around to describe our current situation. Experts in the field are warning us that we are vulnerable and exposed to a potentially devastating financial crisis.
How are you responding to this? This is an external threat to our well being and it seems no one, certainly not "us average citizens" have any control over the situation. If you listen to the dialogue of the financial experts they repeatedly comment that the financial institutions at the heart of the crisis do not know what to make of their situation. They are confused and disoriented. Their world has been turned upside down; they are confused about where the end point is, and they are frantically grasping for a firm hold. Their uncertainty has paralyzed their ability to act and so they panic.
What usually happens when we feel overwhelmed with fear is one of three things. We run, or we fight, or we freeze. This is the so called "stress response". In response to the financial crisis, we cash out and stuff our money in a mattress, or we act like Bill O'Reilly and many others who angrily attack and blame someone else, or we sit there like a deer in headlights and do nothing, not registering that a truck is about to hit us.
Is there another choice to the stress response? Are we locked into our instinctual response to threats? Can we look a threat in the face, even financial ruin or death and not be controlled by fear? Only if we believe that there is something more to life than what we can see, taste, or touch; only if we believe that life is fundamentally, basically, and organically infused by love.
The difference between feeling helpless and frightened or vulnerable and safe is most often a difference of perception. How do you perceive your world? Is it a hostile and threatening place where you must be on guard and defensive? Or can you be open and responsive, even in the face of threats, because you trust that the end game of life is love? A world infused by love is like a scary roller coaster ride; we feel the rush of fear but learn to trust that we can endure the ride.