Have you ever let an opportunity pass you by because of fear of the future? Perhaps you love playing soccer but you were too scared to try out for the team. Maybe you wanted to pursue your passion as a career but you were afraid of what others would think of you. Whatever it was, fear held you back. This is normal, and it happens to everyone. But that doesn’t mean you should keep on living this way, in constant fear of what might happen. Fear of the future keeps you from living a good life. This post is all about how to overcome your fear of the future through spirituality.
Don’t Resist Fear of the Future
The bad news is that fear of the future is not going anywhere. You’re going to experience it throughout your life. The good news is that you can overcome it. But it might be helpful to understand that overcoming fear doesn’t necessarily mean wiping it out completely. In fact, it could mean welcoming fear and giving it space to exist within you. No emotion is truly bad, and every emotion deserves to be felt.
When you let fear be what it is instead of trying to force it away, Thomas McConkie from the Mindfulness+ podcast (Energy Centers episode) says that “You're simply acknowledging what's already here, what's already been with you, perhaps for some time, perhaps for a long time. And you're just saying yes to the experience of it, the truth that in this moment, this is what's coming up, this is what I feel. Rather than bracing around it, rather than thrashing around, doing everything we can to escape it, we let it in even deeper. And as we do this, we start to gain confidence; confidence that no matter what the experience I'm experiencing, at the level of the bodymind, I don't have to abandon myself. I don't have to scramble to escape myself and stop feeling what I'm already feeling. I can feel it fully. I can welcome it. And then from a higher wisdom, I can act fully informed, act with intelligent love . . . As we open up deeper and deeper to exactly what we're experiencing, we realize there's a part of us that is utterly resilient, stable, powerful, open, and can use even this challenging experience for our good.”
This practice can help you transform fear into something that serves you and progresses you forward. Trying to escape fear is trying to escape yourself. You have to let it be a part of you, and then make a decision out of faith. If you’re wondering how to go about welcoming fear, one possible way is through mindfulness.
Respond to Fear of the Future with Mindfulness
When fear takes over, you lose awareness of the world as a whole and instead zoom in on just one thing, typically blown way out of proportion. It’s impossible to ignore; it’s all you can think about. You can’t see the whole truth, and your fear feels insurmountable. Fear jerks you out of the present and into a nonexistent, anxiety-ridden future. You’re paralyzed, and you don’t want to take any steps forward. Thomas McConkie explains it through the concept of ‘contracted awareness’ on the Hold Stroke episode of the Mindfulness+ podcast:
“This collapse, this contracted awareness, is directly associated with a fight/flight response in our body. So the moment we feel threatened, awareness collapses and physiology goes into a kind of fight/flight response. ‘I'm in danger. I either get outta here as quickly as I can, or I stay and I fight. Or I freeze; I can't get outta here, I can't fight, I'm just totally frozen.’ So in this sense, if we learn to spot where our mindfulness practice breaks down, we can actually learn to correct for it. It's something that seems to be deeply wired into our evolutionary biology. When we perceive a threat, we focus on it the way you cross a busy street and you focus on oncoming traffic. It's skillful. 100,000 years ago, you hear a rustle in the bushes and every part of your awareness focuses on, you know, movement, sound, smell. Is there a predator nearby? It's a survival mechanism. We don't wanna get rid of it.
“However, the situation in modern life is that these alarm bells are going off all the time and they're rarely accurate. They're rarely giving us information that our life is actually threatened. The upshot for you and your mindfulness practice is, as you start to pay attention to this every day of your life, when you're in a rush, when you're stressed, you have a deadline at work, or you're in a conflict with somebody, whatever the challenging situation, you can start to notice that awareness is contracting. And associated with that contractive, collapsed awareness is this enhanced feeling of, ‘Oh no, there's danger. I'm threatened.’
“In a mindfulness practice, you notice awareness is wanting to contract around a perceived problem, and you intentionally remain spacious. You keep it open. That's it; that's the correction. But it's profound. As you notice this happening in daily life, you'll start to cultivate a habit over time where you're resting for longer periods of time in open, relaxed awareness. . . . If you catch your awareness contracting and you practice opening it up, your awareness will develop a greater strength, a capacity, even a stamina to remain widely open in easy situations, in very difficult situations.”
Fear is a natural response. You can’t stop your body from reacting the way it does. So mindfulness can’t completely eliminate your capacity to feel fear. In fact, as Thomas said above, fear is there to protect you, so you don’t want it to disappear forever. But practicing mindfulness can help you learn to expand your awareness the next time fear kicks in so you aren’t overcome.
Mindfulness is just one spiritual practice that can help you combat fear. Read more about how faith can help you overcome your fear of the future in the next section.
Fear vs. Faith
Fear cannot exist in the present. Think about it. When you feel fear in a given moment, it’s usually because you’re worried about something that might happen in the future. Spirituality grounds you to the here and now, where it’s impossible for fear to have too much control. A spiritual wellness practice will help you stay rooted in the present on a regular basis.
Spirituality involves having an attitude of faith. Faith is trusting that the divine power over all things is aware of you and will take care of you. Trusting God won’t eliminate your fear, but it will help you feel peace in trusting that things will work out. Because the universal creator is all-loving, you can trust that everything will be okay. Faith is also trusting your inner self to know what’s best for you. This involves getting to know yourself and putting your own wellness first. Have you ever said or done something that just didn’t feel like you? Maybe you weren’t completely in line with your true self.
Having an attitude of faith means that you act out of faith, not fear. So many of us make decisions because we’re scared of a potential outcome. It’s like jumping into cold water. You spend twenty minutes hyping yourself up, stepping up to the ledge only to back away over and over, because you’re afraid of the shock from the water. Faith is like jumping in the cold water even though you know it will be uncomfortable for a few moments. Take a moment to consider when you’ve made a choice out of faith instead of fear. How did it feel? How did you know it was the right choice?
With the amount of anxiety that humans experience on a daily basis, it makes sense that it’s hard to act in faith and not fear. And sometimes it’s challenging even to know which choice is the choice of faith. These questions are helpful to ask yourself in moments of decision:
● Does this decision align with my inner desires and values?
● Am I making this decision to please others at my own expense?
● Am I acting out of faith, with hope for the future? Or fear?
● What thoughts and feelings do I have about this choice? Are they positive or negative?
Acting out of faith looks different depending on the situation. It doesn’t always involve action. For example, choosing not to cross the street when cars are zooming past is a choice made to protect yourself. You’re choosing faith and safety, even by staying put.
Through spirituality, you can overcome your fear of the future. You can learn not to resist fear, but instead to welcome it and let it exist within you. You can use mindfulness to bring yourself out of the future and into the present moment. You can make decisions out of faith instead of fear. These tools will replace a fearful future with a peaceful present.
Need some help managing your fear and anxiety? Try the short meditations Calming Worry or Anxiety Melt, or listen to the Letting Go of Knowing Mindfulness+ podcast, all on the Skylight app.