Build Resilience: Overcome Fear

Facing all that you fear will free you from yourself” – The Clone Wars “Sacrifice”

Fear often stops us in our tracks. Of all the emotions it is the one which hijacks our hopes and dreams the most. Fear of the unknown, fear of failure and ridicule are reasons that prevent people from starting let alone achieving their goals.

Most of the things that we fear reside only in our minds. We spend time imagining different scenarios of what might happen without realizing that there is no evidence or rational argument that supports the fears we harbor. The more we try to resist, avoid or flee from the things we fear the larger they loom. By confronting our fears we often find that they fail to materialize or have been blown out of proportion by our imagination.

Fear can either be an obstacle or an opportunity. We can use our fear to demonstrate faith and practice principles. Through fear lies the potential for power. We must simply overcome our fear and demonstrate our strength, courage and resilience. In order to overcome fear we must go through it.

The more we push ourselves to confront what we fear the more resilient we become. A fighter who enters the ring convinced that he is no match for an opponent has already lost the bout in his mind. We can however choose to enter in to the unknown as best prepared as we can be and face down our fears.

 

The Dagobah Lesson

It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live” – Marcus Aurelius

When Luke Skywalker stood at the entrance to the dark cave he was about to confront his deepest fears manifested as the Dark Side. Fear is the opposite of faith as dark is the opposite to light. Fear is little more than absence of faith in our own divine capacity to find the light within ourselves. Luke entered the cave and came face to face with his darkest fear, not his nemesis Darth Vader, but his own dark side. Dagobah showed Luke Skywalker that fear resides only within us. Faith or the Force can be used to light our way through the darkness of our Fear.

Fear can also drive us to do courageous things. When we hear of stories of heroism in war and peace we often hear it said that “fear” spurned them in to action. A war hero often can’t explain why he rushed a machine gun nest or ran under fire to recover a wounded comrade. Neither can the bystander who rushes in to a burning house to rescue those trapped inside. Fear can drive a reaction that defies the natural instinct for self-preservation. The mental and physiological effects of fear can produce incredible courage and almost superhuman powers for some while render others completely immobile or send them in to mindless panic.

Our response to fear is at times unpredictable and surprising. In the Army there were those who were outstanding peace time soldiers fall to pieces under fire and a complete disgrace of a soldier in the barracks who surprised everyone with exceptional courage in combat. Some very courageous veterans face the greatest challenges and fears not in active service but when they transition to civilian life and leave behind the protective shell of the Army. The fear is debilitating and devastating because it takes everything and leaves nothing.

 

Fear to Recovery

Fear not the future, weep not for the past” – The Clone Wars “Voyage of Temptation

Fresh out of the Army I was fearful so I got drunk a lot. When I was drunk I could be fearless one night and a pathetic coward the next. Fear riddled my being. The past haunted me and the future terrified me. In the present I found the solace of booze.

Be messy and complicated and afraid and show up anyways” -Glennon Doyle Melton.

In recovery I learned that courage comes in many forms. It is the person in the meeting who has lost everything including her dignity and self-respect and now sits before us holding back the tears and telling the story of how she came to be there. The amount of courage it can take for some to share their stories and seek to make amends in early recovery is in a way far braver than the instinctive compulsion to rush out and save a comrade while under fire. It is the sort of courage that will provide us the strength and resilience to stay sober.

 

An Insidious Rumor

“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

The important thing to remember is that Fear is a natural response to a legitimate threat. Fear is what kept our ancestors alive. In modern society fear has a different nature and is not always legitimate or real. Fear today is mostly insidious and chronic such as the fear of retrenchment, poverty, rejection or illness rather than the acute and immediate threat of being torn apart by a lion.

 “Fear is a great motivator.” – The Clone Wars “Heroes on Both Sides”

Intangible fears have been created to control us better or get us to do what Governments and Corporations want us to do.  We are conditioned through media to fear the perpetual enemy, the existential threat. Be it the Terrorists, Commies or the Russians, someone is out to get us. Fear is the greatest motivator. It was an irrational Fear of mortality that spurned Anakin to seek to control the Force and led him to the Dark Side. The Empire used Fear to control the Galaxy, the Emperor used it to control Darth Vader.

Some of us suffer chronic fear and anxieties that require professional help while others rarely feel any fear at all but have specific phobias that send them to pieces. If we are asked to name our greatest fears many of us can’t. Some of them are like whispers in the dark, a cold draft or a passing shadow. We know fear when we feel it. It is what we do about it that matters most.

 

Own you Fear

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when are afraid of the light.” – Plato

When we know our fears we can face them. Resilient people have a healthy relationship with fear because they recognize those that are real and those that are false or misleading. Resilient people do not jump to the worst conclusions and automatically create fearful scenarios and doomsday outcomes. An overly positive and optimistic view is avoided as well. In the absence of clear evidence resilient people do not make immediate judgement and then charge them with emotions such as fear or anger.  Resilient people recognize that fear is a tool for them to channel in productive ways. Fear is only to be feared when it short circuits our rational mind and hijacks out capacity for reasoned choice. When fear controls us.

Let us not forget what happened to Anakin Skywalker. As a child he suffered fear and tragedy. A young man and Padawan, Anakin started to feel anger for the injustices of his past. In “The Revenge of the Sith” we saw that anger turn to hatred pushing Anakin to the dark side. Anakin never lost the fear. It was always there, growing stronger with time, controlling him and eventually possessing him. Even as Darth Vader he existed under perpetual fear. Only his son Luke Skywalker could redeem him through forgiveness and courage. It was not the absence of Fear that won the day but the ability to rise above it.

In order to overcome fear and build resilience we must know what it is and what it is not.

Fear is

  • A natural and healthy human response to perceived or actual threats
  • Often the product of imagination or falsehoods
  • Often magnified in our minds through ignorance
  • Contagious and can be manifested in society through prevailing attitudes (eg. Terrorism)

Fear is not

  • Always objective and rational
  • An abnormal responses to life
  • Unique to the individual
  • A weakness
  • A final reason to not do something we want to
  • Unnatural or shameful
  • Inherited and a part of your nature

 

Further Reading

Stoic Warriors by Nancy Sherman (2016)

Jedi avoid acting on Anger

Jedi avoid acting on dark side emotions like fear, anger, aggression and hate.

We can’t control which emotions we will feel, but we can always choose to control our actions. We might feel anger from time to time, but we don’t have to act on that feeling of anger or rage.

 

A Sword

Anger is a double edged sword. The emotion is primal and inherent in our nature. Anger triggers an adrenal reaction in the face of a threat. As a biological creature we are primed to use anger to compete successfully and to survive. As a rational human being anger also serves to motivate change. For example, revolution is a societal reaction to common anger. Had it not been for anger among the masses there would never have been a French Revolution or an American War of Independence. Both historic events ushered in a world hunger for social justice and democracy. Anger can be beneficial, even essential to the human condition.

Controlled aggression is the tool used in the Martial Arts and by Soldiers to counter and defeat an opponent. There is a line between controlled aggression and cruel savagery. As Jedi we know not to cross it. Sometimes that line becomes blurred and we risk crossing in to the darker side of our natures.

Anger is a short madness.” – Horace

 

A Madness

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned”- Buddha

I have seen the other side of the anger. There is a reason why it is one letter from Danger. Anger is a poison which does more damage to the vessel which carries it than on which it is poured.

Unfettered anger can lead us to do terrible things. It can cause us to make the greatest and most memorable speeches we will later regret. In moments it can destroy a lifetime of effort, love and creation in a torrent of catabolic rage. In the biblical parable it was jealousy which turned Cain against Abel but anger which led to murder. Anger has been the trumpet call for countless wars, genocides and murders. The madness continues unabated.

 

Born to Anger

Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” – Yoda

The character emotion of Anakin through the prequels was Anger. Anakin was angry at fate and what it had put his family through. For years he held resentment against those who had enslaved him. Anakin hated himself for being unable to save his Mother. Eventually the Jedi became his object of anger and hatred. The dark emotions consumed him and carried him to the Dark Side where he submitted to Darth Sidious and suffered as Vader.

I inherited my Father’s anger as he inherited his Father’s before him. Anger runs through the paternal side of the family. It is an emotion embedded in our make up and carried in our souls. They are an angry people made to suffer in the crucible of the heart of the Balkans.

Centuries of war and occupation by brutal Ottoman occupiers who enslaved the population, forced conversions and removed children for the Janissary was passed down from one generation to the next as a deep anger and bitter hatred that fueled ethnic and religious divisions, war and genocide.  I saw that country explode in to war in the early 90’s and was horrified by the expression of raw anger and hatred between former neighbors and friends.

The pure savagery of the war still haunts me to this day. Entire communities on all sides were wiped out. Whole families snuffed out including relatives. I lamented the war but I understood the anger that fueled it. That anger was in me like some curse. It still simmers there in that old country.

“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it”. – Marcus Aurelius

 

A Heavy Burden

Anger took me to alcohol and kept me in her clutches. The promise that it would ease the pain of loss and history were false. Alcohol made it worse. Anger and seething resentment cast a dark cloud over the brightest days. It would simmer and occasionally boil over.

I lived in perpetual fear at what I might do if it exploded in to blind rage and consume the people around me. The memories of seeing anger and hatred in its worst shades would haunt me. My own anger lay brooding within and it remains there to this day buried deeper than it was before.

Men in rage strike those that wish them best” – Shakespeare

 

Its not Enough

Being sober is one thing. Everyone thinks that abstaining from alcohol is enough. Everything else must fall in to place and life will be rosy thereafter. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Take away our substance, our addiction and we lose our physical crutch. The spiritual must fill the hole that is left behind otherwise it is soon replaced with fear, anger and hatred. This is exactly what happened to my Father.

An alcoholic, my Father quit drinking and became a dry drunk. Unable and unwilling to accept the self honesty and humility required, my Father’s anger and hatred consumed him. At times his anger would terrorize and control I and my siblings. We lived in fear of physical and emotional harm.

That anger drove us away. One later took his own life, the rest of us survived as best we could. My Father later died with that anger a skid row drunk, alone and embittered. We still carry that ancient anger within us but we chose to stop the cycle. The anger will not be passed on. There is no need for the sins of the Father to be visited on the son. Love heals anger.

If we were to live, we had to be free of anger. The grouch and the brainstorm were not for us. They may be the dubious luxury of normal men, but for alcoholics these things are poison.”

— Alcoholics Anonymous

 

The Red Flag

Anger is a red flag for the recovering alcoholic for everyone else it is the “convenient emotion”. Of all the emotions which will carry me back to drinking and using, anger and resentment are the most dangerous.

I still get angry. It is a normal emotion and a normal reaction to certain situations in life. We would be foolish to laugh off something that any normal person would claim righteous anger. The difference is that we choose how to respond to anger as we do any other emotion. That’s a normal response to anger.

Do we act out our anger in destructive ways or do we carefully consider a proportionate response knowing that forgiveness and compassion might be one option. If anger visits us for trivialities such as a minor slight like a rude remark or a spilled drink do we allow it to affect our mood or simply brush it off as an event not worth an elevated heart rate?

Know what ticks you off. Manage your response to those triggers. Take time out when you feel your anger rising and find ways to stay calm and in control through relaxation and mindfulness techniques. Seek professional help if anger is derailing your life and relationships.

Remember Anger is our birthright as a species. It will serve us well if we use it wisely. Anger can also be terrible tool capable of the most heinous acts. Whether we use Anger to build or destroy bridges and light wild fires is largely up to each of us. The world is a very angry place now and mostly for the wrong reasons. Do we add to that global anger? We all have a choice in how we use this blessing and curse of being human.

The sharpest sword is a word spoken in wrath”. – Buddha

The Dark Side

Jedi believe that there is a dark side but refuse to dwell on it.

Jedi believe that the dark side exists, but refuse to dwell on it, or follow it, or use it in any way. The dark side is a negative energy, also known as the ‘negative power’ or ‘dark energy’. The dark side is considered to be evil, negative, the opposite of good, and is never to be followed or used by the Jedi.

“The 33 Traits of a Jedi”

Good and Evil

In reality nothing is inherently “good” or “evil” there is only the preferred and the non-preferred. Opposites do exist however at the spiritual or metaphysical level. The opposite of Love is Hate and the Opposite of Faith is Fear. All emotions come from a place of Love or from a root of Fear. The Ego creates Fear while the Divine self only knows Love.

In nature there is no “Evil” only indifference. There is no physical source of the human perspectives of “Light” or “Darkness”  in the Universe. The cosmos is entirely indifferent to our existence. Spend a second in outer space without a space suit and that cold harsh reality becomes quickly apparent.

There are two sides to the dimension of the Force and the duality of “Light” and “Dark” polar opposites. One is physical, the absence of light results in dark and the absence of heat is cold. The other is metaphysical or spiritual and is a question of belief. One could say that Fear is the absence of Faith and Hell is the absence of Love.

Dark Side is Ego

My view of the Force is that it is the source and destination of all. It cannot be described in words. The Force is the non-duality of reality and the source of all creation. The sum of the parts and the each of the parts all contain the Force. Life is expressed in the Force.

The Dark side is purely a Human construct, it does not otherwise exist. The source of the “Dark Side” is the Ego. It is made by the Ego. Without the Ego the Dark Side does not exist as it does not represent who we truly are. The Ego keeps us in separation from our Divine truth and in fear. Fear is the tool it uses to keep us there. As previously stated all “negative” emotions are rooted in Fear. The source of all resistance, conflict, denial and competition is Fear.

Negative Emotions

Emotions such as anger, shame, anxiety, melancholy, arrogance, guilt, doubt, distrust and envy are examples of “negative” states of mind which are generally non-preferred.  All such emotions are felt as “suffering” and are derived from attachments of the Ego.  Such states could be called “shades of the Dark Side”.  Extreme and forceful emotions such as rage and hate could be called expressions of the Dark Side. These raw emotions have the potential to be destructive and rarely serve.

“Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.” – Yoda “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”.

The statement reminds us to be mindful of our negative emotions. To be human is to have an Ego and to have an Ego is to carry the burden of emotions. In some people there is the capacity to suppress or mask emotions. In rare people there is a heightened state of consciousness which transcends base emotions and replaces them with higher order emotions such as abiding love and joy. These people are said to be “enlightened”. Ordinary emotions are however human and each person chooses how they respond to passing emotions particularly those we refer to as “negative” such as fear, anger and hate. Do we rule our emotions or do we rule them?

Evil is an Opinion

I personally do not believe in a “Dark Side” as depicted in Star Wars anymore than I believe in a place of eternal suffering as depicted in the mainstream religions called Hell. Hell is a choice we make for ourselves through the consequence of our decisions and actions. There is no eternal pit of fire for damned souls other than a metaphorical one.

I do believe however that each person has the capacity to do evil. By evil I mean something that is contrary to both nature and moral virtues common in all societies historical and contemporary. An evil act is usually obvious to the observer but not always apparent to the perpetrator. One only need to search their conscience to decide whether an act is evil or not.

People will also differ in their definition of evil based on religious or cultural mores. For example, some people consider abortion to be evil while others view it as an individual right. The same applies to euthanasia or capital punishment. No person is inherently evil any more than a person is born hating someone.

People do “evil” things, some people may be so mentally disturbed that they appear “evil” and even act evil. Psychopaths and megalomaniac generally fall in to this category. However even the most vile criminal who is sane of mind will be able to articulate the rationale and justification for their heinous crimes. The will to commit evil will rarely ever figure in their decision to murder, rape or molest.

The Sith

The Sith never said that they were evil, quite the contrary the Sith believed they were acting in accordance with their beliefs and to the benefit of law and order, the greater good.

Once more the Sith will rule the galaxy, and we shall have peace. – Darth Sidious

You will find many occasions in the Star Wars saga (Canon and Legends) where the Jedi could be contrived as being the “bad guys”. As a matter of fact many Star systems sought to breakaway from the Republic and viewed the Jedi as an autocracy as bad as the Sith.

you‘re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Anakin embraced his raw emotions of anger, hatred and fear. He used pain to grow stronger and become one with the Dark Side of the Force. The Sith believed that such emotions that we view as “negative” were actually a source of power. The philosophy advocated the attainment and ascendancy of power at the expense of inferior sentient beings. Evolution applies the same principle without effort, through natural selection. Is it right or is it wrong? That depends on your point of view.

The question is whether Anakin’s conversion served him in the long term. Considering what he lost by turning to the Dark Side and becoming Darth Vader the verdict would be that he suffered.

Heart of Darkness

Joseph Conrad wrote about a man’s personal journey in the “Heart of Darkness”. The story was brilliantly adapted in to the movie Apocalypse Now. Sometimes the Dark Side does overcome what Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature”.

“Because there’s a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature.” – General Gorman “Apocalypse Now”.

I have  seen some of what humans are capable of in the name of country, ethnicity, religion and race. There is a “Dark Side” to human nature. If Hell exists it is in places right now like Darfur, Syria and Yemen.  I have seen it in East Africa and Bosnia. We are essentially animals struggling for survival at their basest nature. Politics, patriotism and religion is nothing more than mind trick to incite people to war and keep us in separation. The Ego also pushes the limits of what a rational person would consider acceptable under any circumstances.

Everyone still has a choice though. We do not have to resort to emotions that make us act in ways we will later regret. We do not need to fall victim to our own personal “Dark Side”. To do so leads to suffering.

Never Forget

In my descent to my own “Dark Side” of alcoholic “Rock Bottom” I was filled with fear and loathing. The wold was a dark place void of all hope, the shrieks of madness and despair echoed within its walls. Nothing less than a complete deflation of the Ego allowed me to emerge and start a journey of recovery.

The “Dark Side” is something that exists in all of us, it is part of our Ego, not some sort of Force that builds and coalesces into energy we can shoot from our finger tips. My Dark Side of alcoholism still resides within me like some twisted beast tethered by a rope, it sits there in silence, watching and waiting for a chance to come out. I know it and it knows me. A cold wind blows and a chill runs down my spine as if I have been brushed by the Dark Side. I can hear it laugh and rage within me. Better not to dwell on it but I never forget that it is there.

Fear

Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Yoda, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

This was a prophetic line and one which reverberated through the entire Star Wars Saga . Yoda’s words revealed the destiny of a single child who was to ultimately change the course of history and have a resounding impact on an entire galaxy of trillions of sentient beings. The wisdom also shows us the path that can lead us back to despair. Our own journey to the Dark Side begins with fear.

Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with Fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself” – ACIM

Fear is the polar opposite of Faith. Only Fear can eclipse Love. It was Fear which drives the wedge of separation between who we truly are and our divine source. It is Fear that keeps us in that illusion of separation. The Ego thrives on Fear and validates itself there in the human expressions of anger and hate. Fear, Anger and Hate are the harbinger of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse; Conquest, War, Famine, and Death. Every negative expression of human emotion and each of the seven deadly sins finds its source in Fear.

Every single negative emotion and action has its root in Fear. Fear is Suffering, the very essence of the Dark Side. The need to resist, attack, impose, possess and control all come from Fear. Fear controls us in so many ways and forms the basis of the Ego. Without Fear there is no Ego as it removes the filter between our false and true selves. To live in separation is to exist in Fear.

 Facing Fear

Besides your recognizing that thoughts are never idle, salvation requires that you also recognize that every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear.” – ACIM

Fear kept me in alcoholism for decades and controlled every aspect of my life, every decision. The Fear of rejection, fear of loss, fear of change and fear of the truth defined who I was. For me it was “F#*k everything and Run”. In recovery we make our way out of the dark and we begin to realize that Fear is nothing but an illusion which the Ego uses to keep us from self-realisation.

In recovery we learn to face our Fears and facing them they vanish one after the other. We realize that we have been held captive by something we empowered with our own minds. Like the children’s tale of an imaginary beast that lives in the Forest in order to keep them from straying, our Ego creates a beast and the more we resist it or try to run, the larger it grows until it consumes us. Through non-resistance we are able to confront our Fears and face them down, what appears to be real soon fades and vanishes.

All healing is essentially release from Fear” – ACIM

We become free of Fear, we really had nothing to Fear in the first place other than Fear itself. Fear really is “False Evidence Appearing Real”.

Destiny

In “The Clone Wars: Destiny”, Yoda meets the manifestation of his Dark Side. The creature harbors all of Yoda’s Fears and Doubts and tries to attack and kill the Jedi Master. Yoda fights for his life but the more he struggles the stronger the entity becomes. Realizing the truth Yoda confronts the Dark figure and draws it to him. No longer afraid Yoda looks in to the face of his Dark Side and releases it, banishing the entity to oblivion. The Force Priestess Serenity arrives and reveals that the entity was nothing more than a manifestation of the mind, it never existed.

Observe and Let Go

In the “Power of Now” Eckhart Tolle teaches that within us all exists a light that we can use to illuminate anything we Fear. I doubted this and realizing that Doubt is the cousin of Fear I began to explore. One day I felt a strong sense of Fear and foreboding hit me that was overwhelming. It took me to the edge of sanity and I knew that unless I did something I would lose my grip and drink again. I resisted and fought the sensation and the Fear grew stronger. Somewhere in my mind I realized it didn’t have to be like this, I was giving in to Fear. I remembered the “Power of Now” and used my own inner light.

“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness.” —Eckhart Tolle

This is how it works. Observe your Fear to overcome it. Imagine that Fear to be inside, a dark mass where the core is. Now imagine a strong glowing light growing brighter and brighter in your mind. Watch that glowing white light fill you entire body and illuminate the “Dark Mass” of Fear within you. Observe without judgment, with equanimity and without resistance. As Fear recedes from the light, embrace it and let it go. I imagine this as the Force negating Fear.

Your Fears have no Power over you no more than the Dark Side had any Power over Yoda. Luke faced his Dark Side on Dagobah also an illusion of Fear. Anakin let himself fall victim to something that was not real, his own Fears. This led to immense anger and then hate, the very fuel and oxygen needed for the dark Side to consume him. Our Fears do not own us unless we let it.

 Natural Fear

In some situations Fear is a healthy response. For example if confronted with a threat to life the Fear emotion is a normal. Natural Fear is used to elicit a “fight”, “freeze” or “flight” physiological and behavioural response in the face of Danger. The Jedi were trained, like Soldiers and Emergency workers in the real world to harness that Fear in to mindful actions and responses. Anxiety, fear of the unknown and the imagined is Ego-Fear and it is not real and not rational. Therefore there is no need for the emotional suffering we put ourselves through. It is important that we know the difference between Real Fear and Irrational Fear.

The greatest insanity of all is to submit to Fear. The greatest act one can do is free oneself from Fear. Love is the only thing which can truly overcomes Fear. Choose Love not Fear.

He who has escaped all fear of future pain has found his way to present peace. Place then, your future in the Hands of God.” – ACIM

Fear

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering“. – Yoda

Fear is a pervasive element in the Star Wars saga. The symbolism of the Death Star is a classic example of fear and terror manifested. Imagine such a weapon; the immense size of the Death Star foreboding alone would strike abject terror as it filled the sky with its ominous presence. The Death Star was also able to destroy entire planets with the simple flick of a switch. It was the Dark Lords ultimate weapon against his enemies and its true power was Fear.

As a child I grew up under the shadow of the Cold War. The threat of nuclear war a was a pervasive fear  that I remember as a young child. It seemed that the Soviets and the West were committed to destroying each other with scant regard for life. It may have been saber rattling and perhaps we came close to midnight a couple of times. I remember laying at wake at night barely 11 years of age imagining that missiles were arching through the night sky toward their intended targets. The thought was terrifying and with world events and the current trajectory we find ourselves in I wonder what my children imagine when they lay in bed at night.

The Black Dog

Being an alcoholic is to live in a perpetual state of extremes.  We are either in a state of buoyant optimism and hope or we are filled with anxiety and ridden with fear. Sometimes both in the same day. Our hearts will leap with a sense of renewed purpose and a sense that all is well and then slowly the cold wind and grey skies of fear and morbid reflection creep in. It’s no wonder that we drink to gain an even keel and try to feel half decent.

Neither of those extremes, false hope or undefined terror, were valid or accurate perceptions of reality when I was an alcoholic. They were simply the symptoms of a diseased mind and a depressed mental state that bordered on bipolarism. The other way to look at it was it was simply rampant imagination. I was simply a victim of the alcoholics ability to create a world in his or her own mind. A perception that is completely untrue if viewed objectively. I would swing between fear, sadness and elation and self medicate with booze to celebrate the euphoria or chase the “Black Dog” away. I would stall in depression for days. Thoughts of hopelessness and suicide would drift in and out like passing dark clouds.

Reclaim your Sunshine

With admission and acceptance of my disease and surrender I started to reclaim my sanity. I had been insane all of this time and now the fog was lifting. Reality had been distorted. Sobriety taught me that the fear of uncertainty is a normal human emotion when it is rational. Fear and dark imaginings can also be illusions. We needn’t let fear rule us and steal the sunshine from the day. When can face fear and watch it melt away like a phantom and realize it was all in our head.

We suffer more in imagination than in reality.” – Seneca

Today things are better. I still get sad, angry or down on occasion but these emotions I feel are appropriate and healthy. I don’t need to feel sad for feeling sad. I can also decide what is real and what is imagined. My disease still tries to play “Jedi Mind Tricks” on me but I’m one step ahead. The monsters have receded in to the background. I view the threat of a nuclear war or the sudden appearance of a Death Star in the morning sky in an objective and rational fashion. One I hope is still highly unlikely and the other is almost (but not entirely) impossible. I won’t be losing any sleep over worrying about either.