Commentary

May 16, 2014

Going Big Brain: Facing our fears

Capt. John Schuck
452 AMW Chaplain

You know, they say that fear of the unknown is often worse than the thing that is in fact the object of our fears. And I’ve found this to be true. This is one of those phenomena that frustrate me enough to have designed a way to adjust fire on the principles I live by. Fear is the catalyst for much of our decision making as individuals, and perhaps as a culture, and I’ve tried over the years to connect natural fears with unnatural spiritual discipline, namely to redirect that energy into excitement of the many opportunities I have yet to realize exist.

A few weeks ago I stood in front of a customs agent at the long beach customs bureau and presented a pack of paperwork for a shipment I arranged from Asia to Long Beach via ocean freight. It seemed like a daunting process and when one searches the internet for how to import items, there are enough parts to the process that it could make anyone’s knees shake a bit. But you know what? Even though I was slightly apprehensive, I knew somehow it would all work out. And I would have conquered, to some degree, the task of importing something in a container vessel. It certainly helped that one of my two forms of identification was a military Common Access Card (CAC) with a captain’s rank.

Fear can be viewed as a “spiritual phenomena” that takes away the fullness of our ability to make sound decisions and to know that those decisions will be positive, fruitful, life-giving choices. Physiologically, if strong enough, fear engages the amygdale of our brains – the tiny center that is known for giving us our primordial fight or flight response. The problem with our modern world with all of the input our brains get is if left unchecked, we can spend an unnecessary amount of time thinking of complex issues with a simplistic resource. I call it thinking small brain. But when we are able to maintain the spiritual and intellectual practice of going big brain, we free ourselves up from bondage to fear. And the possibilities are endless. Knowing that there are many unfortunate things that can happen in life, but realizing their statistical likeliness of occurrence is lower than our brains can effectively grasp is key to mastering this. The detriment to health and choices of living a life driven by fear has been documented medically in various formats. Fear is great when you come up on a wildebeest in Africa. It’s not so helpful when paying your mortgage, or doing any other number of things we all do every month.

Here’s my challenge. Perhaps personal cognitive behavioral therapy is a good way to deal with this one. Every time you find yourself afraid or apprehensive or worried, consider creating a connection that can take you out of fight or flight mode. The connection could be to be to any number of things that make you feel capable, like remembering a story of triumph or watching a feel good movie such as “Forest Gump”, be creative. When I lived in France, I knew that the streets I was walking on in my town were 1000 years old. It does something to you to know that something has been around for that long and is still there and is not in peril. You realize that whatever you are dealing with, in many ways it has been dealt with before by many others for a long time. And there will still be sunny days in the future whether what you ultimately fear actually happens or not.

The Bible says “Fear not and know that I am God.” There are a few ways to take this, I have taken it to mean when I acknowledge the vastness of the cosmos and God, my problems don’t really seem like problems at all. They merely become points of interest. That is my hope for all of us. I would hope that we can learn to live lives characterized by joy and curiosity – that we may find freedom from our fears. For I am convinced it will add years to our lives and more importantly, dramatically increase the quality of life.




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