Hope, Fear, Anxiety and Our Relationship to the Future

Hope, Fear, Anxiety and Our Relationship to the Future

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi

The world is a chaotic and messy place

For many, New Years is a time for reflection, aspirations, and resolutions. Something in the growing light after the Winter Solstice inspires us to turn our attention to what we would like to change in our lives. We feel the psychological turning from the oppressive darkness that leads up to the solstice toward optimism, empowerment, and hope as if nature releases all that it has been incubating.

However, when we consider the outer world, there is a lot of chaos and messiness, and much to fear. We can create a long list of “wows” that fuel our underlying feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Just by turning on the news, we can see the impact of the negativity and toxic collective shadow manifesting in the world. If we allow it, this toxicity can seep into our bodies, minds, and souls.

It is hard to have hope and feel positive about the future in conditions like this. Yet it is possible when we are reminded that we are empowered to choose our attitude and approach to ourselves and to the world.

Our relationship to the future and our emotions

The exploration of hope starts with our associations to the future and our basic trust in life. If we are afraid of the future and feel a slew of negative emotions, then we release a rush of cortisol into our physical system. If not addressed, these feelings can transform into a full range of anxiety and many other physical related disorders.

Conversely, if we view the future in a positive light, we can then experience the positive emotions of hope, and trust. Research at the Institute of HeartMath has shown that if we can activate positive feelings and attitudes, then we can reduce our cortisol levels. This leads to feelings of well-being and the cultivation of resilience in the face of outer challenges.

Fear and Anxiety

National Institute of Mental Health studies suggests that many people now suffer from an anxiety disorder. This anxiety is often associated with fear for themselves, their family, the world population, climate changes, terrorism, and diseases. However, focusing on a fearful future can turn into a habit, which becomes a way of life. The more anxiety we feel, the more it becomes etched in our neural circuitry.

Fear and anxiety go hand and hand. Some fear is healthy and necessary. Natural fear arises when we are under physical threat or harm; for example, if someone comes at us with a weapon or physically hurts us or if a wild animal makes threatening gestures. Fear is the natural and proper response. The body is trained to enter the “fight” or “flight” mode.

However, we have allowed ourselves to live in fear of everything. It gives us the illusion of being in control of ourselves.

If we allow ourselves to live in fear, then we rob ourselves of the experience of vitality and aliveness that is our potential. It robs us of the freedom to make positive changes in our lives or to make changes at all. It creates undue stress that releases stress hormones in our body. In fact, fear and anxiety have a tremendous cost on our well being and take a disheartening toll on our minds.

Whether we know it or not, our emotions create the world that we live in. Fear is one of the negative emotions that robs us of hope. If you expect to have negative things to happen in your life, then there is more a chance that these negative things will happen. The universe has a funny way of manifesting what we think about. Conversely, a hopeful mind can create so many opportunities in life.

Imagination, Hope, and Vision

Hope is an emotion. According to Verena Kast in “Joy, Inspiration, and Hope”, it is an emotion on which all other emotions of elation are grounded. We look to hope as the stability that things in the future will be better even though we don’t know exactly how they will look. If we create a vision of a future that allows creative changes, there is a possibility of hope that we can seek out.

Kast says, “Hope is not reasonable: it is the unseen vision, and prone to taking risks.” Hope is embedded in the entire process of individuation – the teleology of the slow unfolding of our life. It is through our imagination that we can expand our vision beyond what we see and know right now.

How do we cope and our relationship to our emotions?
We must learn the habit of hope. It is hope that extinguishes fear and anxiety. People who have found hope despite the world’s tragedies are also people have found inner courage and resilience.

The imagination of the future touches the hidden expectations that are concealed there. And connecting to our rich positive emotional life creates a sense of meaning.

Questions for reflection

Use this time to write and reflect in your journal about your relationship to fear and hope. One way of doing this is completing the following sentences.

My vision for the future is . . .
One thing I want to change in the New Year is…
One fear I have is…
One hope I have is…
When I’m feeling fearful, I will try to feel hope instead by…

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Christina Becker
January 2018

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