Mining the Headlines

Dishing about the legal and psychological implications of the day's news

The Sky Is Falling: Dealing with Fear

Does a falling satellite make you anxious?

Sometime Friday or Saturday, a 6-1/2 ton defunct satellite will fall to Earth. No one has any clue as to where the estimated 26 pieces of the spacecraft that survive re-entry into the atmosphere will land-scattering harmlessly in the ocean or hitting your neighborhood on its 500-mile long path of impact. NASA says the likelihood of the space junk hitting you on the head is extremely small, but that doesn't stop fear from arising. Ever since Chicken Little thought the sky was falling, we've wondered about that possibility . . .

Fear is fear. It doesn't matter if you're scared of being offed by falling pieces of a spacecraft or succumbing to a deadly disease, of being maimed in a car accident or losing a loved one to a random act of violence. The fear of what could happen tomorrow, any tomorrow, stops us from living fully today.

It starts early. Mom gazes lovingly in her newborn's eyes, still "trailing clouds of glory" from above, and starts to think: She's got ten toes and ten fingers, but what if I drop her? What if the cat scratches him? What if she develops colic and I can't get her to sleep? Later the fears escalate: Will he reach all his age-appropriate landmarks on time? Will we have enough savings to let her attend the college of her choice? Oh god, what about sex?

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Fear is endless. Every negative human emotion is fear-based. Jealousy? You're afraid someone else has or is more than you. Shame? Fear of what others will think of you because of some perceived wrongdoing on your part. Anger? Fear that someone or some situation will break through your defenses, so a good offense is necessary. Bitterness? Fear that no one understands just how much you've suffered.

So what can you do about fear? How can you bring yourself into the present tense, without regret over the past or worry about the future?

There's an old exercise, a form of meditation, that can help. Imagine yourself sitting peacefully on the banks of a river or stream. You can be "seated" on a bench overlooking the water or stretched out on the grass along the banks, under a cloudless sky, enjoying a lovely breeze. You're just sitting there, watching the water flow past. The water carries your thoughts-all those mental constructs that you can get so entangled in-the way it carries a leaf blown onto the surface of the water. It came from somewhere in the past and is heading somewhere downstream. You can't see where it came from, or where it's going. You can't hold onto it. Let it all keep flowing past you. You are simply here, now, in this present moment.

In the present moment, there is no fear. No fear of what the past has created, no fear of what the future may hold. Right now, right here, in this moment, all is well. Give your mind a rest, send your dark emotions on vacation for five or ten minutes as you visualize the water flowing past you, carrying away your burdens, dissolving your fear.


And if you see something falling from the sky, you'll know in the present moment just what to do!

 

Deborah King, New York Times best-selling health & wellness author, speaker, and attorney.

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