When it comes to overcoming fear, one of the most important tools I learned was how to not fight fear.
It’s actually quite a paradox. When fear strikes, our instinct is to fight hard against the onslaught of confusing and tormenting thoughts. Our body releases adrenaline, and immediately our entire physiology changes to face a threat. Blood is pumped into our arms for fighting and our legs for running. Our stomach releases extra acid to digest food quickly to give us the needed energy to run or fight. Our blood pressure rises. Our heart rate increases. Our breathing gets shallow. Our body instinctively prepares itself for danger.
Here’s the problem: There’s typically no real danger or physical threat. So, our mind starts to search within to find what’s triggering this fear response.
- Maybe I have cancer
- I wonder if this is a brain tumor
- Maybe I’m going insane
- I’m losing my mind
- I’m about to die
Sound familar? Much of our body’s response is a direct results of our thoughts. It’s a vicious cycle. First, we have a thought, then our body responds. The additional adrenaline increases those confusing thoughts, which releases more adrenaline. Then, more confusing thoughts. It grows quickly spins out of control. Wam! A full blown panic attack!
Early in my search for freedom, I read a couple of excellent books on the subject. It was the early 80’s and the term “panic attack” wasn’t even coined yet. Dr. Clarire Weekes wrote two books called “Hope and Help for your Nerves” and “Peace from Nervous Suffering“. There was one thing that stood out from her books that really gave me an edge in this battle with fear was the concept of “floating a thought”.
The concept is relatively simple to understand, but a bit more difficult to apply. When a fear thought comes into your mind, don’t fight it and don’t resist it. Simply let it “float on past”. Let it come and let your body dump the adrenaline, but don’t respond to it. Don’t give in. Just let it float into your mind and pass on through.
I remember my first key victory over panic attacks. I was sitting in a recliner holding my three-month-old son at my in-laws. Fear hit me. My body went numb. The panic attack felt imminent. But, instead of fighting the fear, I decided to just let it come. It did and it passed. No panic attack. It was amazing!
Here are some steps to remember when a panic thought invades your mind:
You know that feeling well. A thought hits you and your body starts to react.
The first thing you need to do is recognize that thought. Recognize that it’s a fear thought, and that it’s not a real threat. Once you recognize what it is, then…
Don’t Fight It, Float It
As the fear thought hits you, don’t resist it. Don’t fight it. Let it come and tell yourself, I will not resist the fear thought.
It’s like a campfire. When I was a boy scout, we would make fires by first getting some small embers going. Once they were going, I would blow on them to make them burn hotter. You would think that blowing on them would make them go out. But, that’s not what happens. Instead of extinguishing the embers, you are actually blowing more oxygen into the flame, feeding the fire. The same is true with fear. When you fight it, you are feeding the fear.
It’s very counter intuitive to not fight the fear, because everything in your mind and body says FIGHT! What has helped me the most was learning how to…
Trust in the Lord
When the Moses and children of Israel were fleeing Egypt, Pharaoh and his army were hot on their trail. As they approached the Red Sea, there as no escape. They were trapped by the mountains on each side, the sea in front and the approaching army behind them. They were gripped with fear. Then, the Lord spoke to Moses, and Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD” (Exodus 14:13a).
God said to them, “Don’t fight. Just trust me. Stand still and I will rescue you.”
I know first hand how terrifying and confusing those fear thoughts can be. I know how hard it is to not fight. But, I’ve also seen how the Lord can rescue those who “stand still” and trust in him. He is faithful. He will not let you down!
Prayer: Father, the next time a fear thought hits me, give me the courage to let it come and float on past me. I will not fight. I will stand still and trust you to rescue me.