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Control Over Fear – Parshat Devarim

Control Over Fear – Parshat Devarim

Fear is an emotion. I have spent years speaking with clients about their emotions. Most of that time I was trying to help them to identify and legitimize their emotion reactions. I have even built up a defensive kind of reaction to a parent who says “don’t be afraid”, especially when we know how important fear can be. “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”1

So, I approach this week’s parsha, Devarim, and the very last sentence reads, “Do not fear them.”2 I am astounded! Do not fear? Is it not a negation of our humanity to say ‘do not fear’? The Netziv, an outstanding 19th century scholar, connects it to our cognition. We must first read the rest of the above sentence: “Do not fear them, for God will do battle for you.” If we can understand that God in fact will do battle for us, then there is really nothing to fear. That battle will be won easily with little or no loss of life.

While in 3rd grade, we may fear a 10 year old bully. Yet as adults, we will hardly fear this same 10 year old. We understand that he does not threaten us. We are no longer afraid of him. Our fear is based upon our concern for the outcome in this instance. We fear fire, snakes and lions for the same reason – they can be threatening. So, it’s probably a smart thing to be afraid of them. On the other hand, some fears can interfere with our daily functioning. A businesswoman who has a fear of flying for instance or a miner who is claustrophobic have fears which interfere with their functioning and their ability to make a living. In those situations, the sufferer quite often seeks out help. In logotherapy, for instance, there is a technique that deals directly with these fears.3

Denying our fears is not healthy and can come back to haunt us. (I didn’t mean for the play on words but it came out well.) Accepting our fears is part of recognizing our reality and accepting who we are. This can help us decide what to do with these fears – ignore them or control them (we don’t always need to be in control).

Learning to control our fears in certain circumstances can help us lead a better, happier and a more meaningful and productive life. After all, isn’t that what we want?

Click here to read another logoParsha article on Devarim.

Notes

  1. Southwick, Steven M.; Charney, Dennis S.. Resilience (p. 39). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition. Quote is of a famous prisoner.
  2. Devarim 3:22
  3. Viktor Frankl, describes paradoxical intention in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, pp. 126-7
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