One of the primary sources of negative encounters and tension is fear. Fear causes or contributes to many illnesses and diseases. Fear is the source of the flight or fight response. Fear is an irrational response to the unknown. Fear is the response to apparent overwhelming opposing force, whether it is physical, mental or emotional. Fear is supposed to keep us alive. Unfortunately, fear can be so strong that it overwhelms us and turns into panic. We may start to run and keep running when no one is chasing us. We may be so overcome by fear that we shut down completely. Fear deprives us of our rational mind and we cannot think straight. Unfortunately, fear is always the wrong response. This type of fear is externally created. As Torah Jews we are instructed to fear our Creator, fear our parents and fear our teachers. This type of fear is internally created. This means that we must learn not to simply overcome fear from external sources, but to eliminate it completely.
This last statement is a very bold one. Clients and students often tell me "Sure, it is easy to talk, but how do you do it?". They continue, "It is impossible! My problems are overwhelming and there is no solution to them." Since they cannot imagine life without a solution to their problems, they become paralyzed by fear of the unknown.
Our sages tell us that our Creator gave us only those commandments that we are able to fulfill. Thus, since the commandment of "Fearing our Creator" is a commandment like any other, we are able to fulfill it, too. This realization is the first step in eliminating fear.
The second step is to realize that not all problems have a solution. The Talmud is full of cases that end without resolution. The matter is dropped and life continues. The commentators also have questions that are either unresolved, or have less than optimum responses. Yet, learning continues. Unanswered questions are put off to another day.
The third step is to realize that not all battles must be fought. Learning to let go, as discussed in the previous chapter, will go along way not only in eliminating tension but also in eliminating fear.
The fourth step is the realization that not every battle can be won. Most events in universe are beyond our control and nothing we do, beside prayer, will influence the outcome. Thus, some battles will be lost and hopeless battles should not be fought. Sometimes we are required to retreat and regroup. It is important to keep our focus on the big picture and win the war.
In addition to the exercise on letting go, the following exercise should be practiced. Keep in mind that in the beginning, you will not remember the exercise when encountering fear or tension. That is fine. You can remember to do the exercise quite some time after the encounter. What is important is that you continue these exercises until they become automatic. This may take up to a year or two. However, you should not become discouraged. They will eventually work.
Exercise 17. The Banner
"The Banner" is a visualization exercise. Imagine a banner strung across a street. A strong wind blows down the street picking up all sorts of objects and hurling them down the street. The wind fills up the banner and threatens to tear it off its supporting ropes. But the banner has cutouts all along it. The wind blows through it leaving the banner intact and strong.
The wind represents negative encounters, tension and fear. You are the banner. When you try to run or fight the wind you will be blown away. When you let the wind blow through you without affecting you, then you are intact, strong and stable. Do this exercise everyday. It can take less than a minute and can be done everywhere. Do this exercise before, during and after negative encounters.