Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fear: Is there a Cure?

Whenever I see a book with fear in its title or subtitle, I go for it, often skimming, as with the many self-help books out there, such as Dr. Lissa Rankin's The Fear Cure, a new book I found at Barnes and Noble.

Why this preoccupation with fear on my part?  Because it has been such a persistent part of my life and because they more I examine the lives of others, past and present, the more I see fear as the underlying motive in jealousy, greed, power, racism, and hatred, to mention the most obvious obstacles to happiness.  And because the boy I tutor has been, for various reasons, frozen by fear--of failure, of criticism--so that he needs a daily reminder that he can do various things--exercise, meditate, simply breathe deeply--to help reduce the panic and terror that seize him.

Hence my attraction to Dr. Rankin's book, the work of a physician, not a psychologist, who has seen the effects of fear on her patients and has come up with a formula that suggests a cure for the negative, crippling kinds of intense fear that damages us.

Rather than be at the mercy of fear, she says, let courage take the lead in your life. This is easier said than done.   To replace fear with trust is a goal of much of my prayer life, and it must take place every day.  Still, I have some doubts if this book, or any book, can offer a sure-fire cure.

Yet Rankin offers some valuable spiritual advice, worth sharing with my student.

The first thing, she says, is to see that there is something bigger than me: I am not alone guiding the course of my life.  If I trust only myself, and cut myself off from God (as I will call the higher power), I will invariably be trapped by fears and worries.

Learning to trust the inner light within each of us seems to be the heart of Rankin's formula: Whether we call it the soul or the hand of God, this light has the power to transform everything that can pull us down into healing, as fears gradually lessen and we learn to trust the space between fearful thoughts.

In this way, peace can take the place of fear. Many other secular writers, of course, have said similar things, and many of the spiritual masters in the Christian tradition whom I have read over the years remind us how essential some form of contemplation and prayer are to developing whatever inner peace we can find in the presence of God.

So I am glad to see Dr. Rankin returning to a basic form of an ancient wisdom tradition. I hope her book helps many people.

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