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Can Mindfulness Help Us Face Our Fears?

Updated: Jul 13, 2023

Befriend Your Fears

In this week’s Torah portion, Jacob is about to meet his brother Esau after many years.

Several years earlier, he quickly fled. He was afraid that Esau would kill him because of the way he deceived his father to receive the blessing of the firstborn.

When this happened, Esau was burning mad.

Fast forward many years and Jacob is married with two wives, 12 children, and many possessions. He fears for both himself and his family.

He prays to G-d and evokes the names of his father and grandfather.

He is afraid that he might not be worthy of protection and blessings (קטונתי מכל החסדים) that were promised him. The Ramban explains that his reaction shows not only his fear, but also his humility. He prays for mercy and grace in case he is not worthy on his

own merit.

In times of fear, it is a natural reaction to call out to our parents. Anyone who has ever been in a delivery room has heard women giving birth scream out for their mothers.

That is one way of dealing with fear. But what other ways can we cope when we are afraid? Uncertainty is a part of life, and fear often helps to protect us in times of threat by compelling us into action.

How can we face our own fears?

You already know the answer!

Mindful meditation can help us see more clearly—to distinguish an imagined threat from a real threat that needs to be acted upon. Most of our fears are generated in our own minds and are the product of our vivid imaginations and our desire to control everything.

Mindfulness practice can help react in a more healthy way, and here’s how :

According to Dr. Jeffrey Brantley, author of Calming Your Anxious Mind,

1. Name The Fear

Being able to recognize that fear is present is important in not allowing it to control you.

Notice your body sensations: rapid heartbeat, chest tightening, sweaty palms, etc.

Take however many breaths you need to slow your body down.

Acknowledge to yourself: “I’m scared. I’m afraid.” Name that fear so you automatically create some distance between yourself and the thoughts or emotions from the fear.

2. Don’t Avoid the Fear, Lean Into It

Whenever you feel fear, don’t avoid the feeling. Sit with it.

As fearful thoughts of dread and worry continue to arise, approach them with gentleness. Don’t treat them as a threat.

Be kind toward yourself for being afraid. You may feel more confident to face your fears.

Jacob acknowledged his fear, prayed for safety and protection, and also had a plan of action. He was not paralyzed by the fear.

Try to befriend your fears.

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