Fear Versus Faith

Written by: Jorinde Berben
Image credit: pexels.com

Today is my operation day -2. On Monday, I’m having my eyes lasered, something I’ve been thinking about doing since when I first heard about it around 20 years ago.

I’m excited not to have to wear glasses or lenses for the first time in roughly 30 years, but at the same time, the idea of having my eyes open and exposed, unable to blink, while a machine works inside them is slightly nauseating.

I didn’t really feel this fear until a few weeks ago. Up until then I’d saved, gone to check-ups and planned the operation without any real thought as to what the operation itself would be like. Even when they described it to me in the hospital, it still didn’t feel as if they would be working on my eyes. It just seemed a simple, well-established procedure with almost no risks. My brain has full confidence in the wonders of medical technology.

The first time I actually felt the fear, I was a little surprised by it. How had I gone all this time without even realising that part of me would be nervous about the procedure? How could that have completely passed me by?

This question brought an important insight: I realised that I hadn’t worried about being afraid, because I know that my go-to reaction is the freeze response (not the fight or flight). I wrote about what’s behind that response in this post. When I get really scared, I freeze up completely. I don’t move, I don’t blink, I stop feeling altogether. I noticed how much trusting in that freeze-response has helped me take scary steps in my life, even though it has kept me from taking other important steps as well. My fear response helped me step on a plane and move to China with my ex-husband at 23 years old and it helped me at the Chinese dentist’s office while I was getting 4 wisdom teeth pulled under local aneasthetic. It might even have made the idea of giving birth seem less daunting.

When I told my therapist about this, she mentioned that these situations could also be taken on with something completely different from fear. I could also rely on faith, on trusting that things will work out the way they should. I could trust in the technology of the operating machine, just like we trust in the pilot who flies us across the ocean and the doctor who cuts us open. In all of these situations we are powerless, except for the control we have over our state of being.

This morning, as my partner and I were discussing the Covid restrictions, the impact of these and how difficult it is to distinguish fact from falsehood these days, I noticed how, in all of these situations, in all of our lives, we can choose for one or the other. We can choose to have faith instead of being fearful.

And yes, it’s hard. Choosing to have faith, to trust in others and in the future, is anything but naive. It means recognizing that there are things outside of our control, and accepting that. It entails that you feel your own vulnerability and let it become your strength. It requires grace.
Fear is such a strong emotion. It can overpower you in mere seconds if it catches you unawares. And when it puts its claws in you, it is slow to let go.

I think there are very few of us who have not had any experiences with fear during this Covid crisis. Whether it’s the fear of getting sick, or seeing your loved ones get sick, or of restrictions that might damage your relationships, business or psychological health, we have all felt afraid. How have these fears impacted you? And would you choose to feel something different, if you could?

I wonder if my freeze response will kick in anyways when I am put under this laser, or if I’ll be able to choose faith instead. Feeling the fear and choosing faith is not easier in the moment itself. It is far easier to completely shut down and feel nothing. But the first response won’t leave me with added trauma, while the second might.

By extension, I choose to put my faith in you, in the people around all of us. I choose to trust that you have the best intentions and are acting to the best of your abilities. In fact, I know this to be true. And if my trust gets broken from time to time, that’s a very small price to pay for a life not ruled by fear but by faith and love.

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