We all experience a bundle of tense muscles when fear takes control. The confusion, the victimhood, the hurt slither and cut off our supply of hopes and optimism. The intensity of negative emotions obscure our vision and mold our flesh and bones to a chronic curled up snail pose. Clearly, this image is not desirable; we all prefer the warrior position, one leg in the past, the other in the future, standing firm, holding on to the lesson, ready to turn the corner just as the great Rumi’s words and wisdom urge us to ignore fears and limiting beliefs in challenging times:
“Search the Darkness
Sit with your friends, don’t go back to sleep. Don’t sink like a fish to the bottom of the sea. Surge like an ocean, don’t scatter yourself like a storm. Life’s waters flow from darkness. Search the darkness, don’t run from it.
Night travelers are full of light, and you are too: don’t leave this companionship. Be a wakeful candle in a golden dish, don’t slip into the dirt like quicksilver. The moon appears for night travelers, be watchful when the moon is full.”
It is easier said than done. But how to win over our fears? Turning to the basic tenet of stoic philosophy, “you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your response” is a mindset that strongly protects us from the invasive weeds of fear, not to mention that occasionally anxieties immobilize us before an event unfolds.
“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment” — Marcus Aurelius
The idea is to shift our mindset from fear to embracing challenges and being uncomfortable by psychological distancing from egocentric solutions. For instance, the wisdom to know that there is a limit to our knowledge by considering other people’s perspectives and knowing well that circumstances change, we will be better equipped to navigate life complexities. Hence, when problems arise, the best way to deal with them is to remove assumptions and take an objective view of the circumstances.
“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.” — Marcus Aurelius
So, how to tame the inner-storm?
Practice thinking ahead about the negative outcomes of a situation and write down how you will deal with them.
Remind yourself of your goal, whether it is self-improvement to building an empire.
Train your mind to be curious, especially during troubling times. When you look into a problem with curiosity instead of anger or fear, you are broadening your perspective; your focus will shift from the tormenting stimulus and harness inspiration from unexpected places.
Be like water in a challenging situation; let go of preconceived ideas, paths, or over-planning defined by yourself or society to reach your goal. Do not resist the turbulence, and be a powerful force to carry on.
Be a friend to yourself. University of Waterloo psychological scientist Igor Grossmann carried out experiments about the nature of human wisdom in his research “Exploring Solomon’s Paradox.” King Solomon was the Biblical king most famous for his wisdom. But apparently, he had failed in many ways in his personal life. The study implied that people show higher emotional intelligence when solving other people’s dilemmas than their own. The findings support the notion that if we rise above egocentric perspective and view our problems as a third person, we will find better solutions.
Without a doubt, at one moment, life can be in order and nurturing; at another moment, it can lack luster or, worse, be threatening. But the stoic perspective allows us to build a logical fence and muster our courage to move forward and find solutions, even if we feel unsafe.