Eighty-four percent of people struggle with irrational fear, according to an article in PRNewswire. Whether it’s worrying about losing our jobs, failing as a parent, or getting dementia, fear haunts us like a ghost underneath our beds.
Some call this irrational fear “anxiety.” It usually attacks our sense of security. Do I have enough money? Will my partner abandon me? Did I remember to blow the candle out? Will I go to heaven?
Some fears are healthy. They remind us to look both ways before crossing a street. They nudge us to avoid a growling dog. They help us steer clear of unhealthy relationships.
“A little healthy skepticism about activities that could be hazardous and a desire to not make errors is good sense, but when that becomes an inhibiting fear or a dogged refusal to embrace new things in spite of good evidence for adopting change, then it becomes an issue,” said Gytis Barzdukas, a guru at the tech company Mozy.
The other day I asked a buddy, Ralph, if he felt fear every day like I do. I wondered if I were a freak or just a normal guy with a head full of hidden ghosts like most people.
“Sure. Everyone experiences fear,” Ralph replied. “But I’ve found a simple way to quiet my irrational fears. When I’m filled with anxiety or overwhelmed by the what-ifs in my head, I remind myself my basic needs are met. I have sufficient food, water, and shelter, as well as people I love and who love me. I remember I’m safe.”
Ralph created an acronym for the word “SAFE” that helps calm an anxious mind. Here it is:
(S)ecure—My basic needs are met. I have enough money to pay for groceries and other necessities, a roof to cover me at night, and a handful of people who love me.
(A)ware—I’m aware of my need for God. I know life is a team sport with me as the player and the Creator as my coach. Together we travel the ups and downs of life.
(F)ull—My life is full, not just busy. I have meaningful purpose, whether it’s through my job, the volunteer work I do, or the loved ones I serve.
(E)volving—I am growing and learning. I face each day with a beginner’s mind, trusting life is my teacher and I am a student in the classroom of learning how to love myself, others, and God.
I love Ralph’s simple “I’m safe” wisdom. I wish I could wave a magic wand so I’d never be afraid again. But maybe fear is the rocket fuel of courage. Reminding myself I’m safe propels me through fear into the deep space of inner courage.
Like Ralph, when irrational fears raise their ghost-like head, maybe I can let the Creator gently nudge me and ask the simple question, “Are you safe?”
—brian j plachta