When Fear Becomes Clutter

Fear is a good thing because it alerts us to a present danger. It's a red flag that goes, "Hey, you need to pay attention to this right now." When you smell smoke in your home, fear makes you find the source of the smoke.

But fear becomes clutter when it becomes a constant in our life. It's easy to think in a fear pattern because of the news and advertising. They illuminate all the things that could go bad in our life. They present it in a way that makes the fear seem like it's actual. I remember once seeing a news teaser that said, "Five things in your home that can kill you, tonight at eleven." I felt a sense of dread. "Something in my house wants to kill me. I have to wait three hours to find out."

We're encouraged to be afraid of phantom things. These are things that aren't actually happening, "but what if they were?" It gets people thinking that something bad is going to happen and it seeps into all areas of our life. It's clutter because it cripples our peace of mind.

You can notice it in your own thoughts when you find yourself thinking of a possible future event in fearful overtones. You think of what's happening now and extend it into the future with bad consequences. In your mind it feels like your future conclusion is inevitable which makes you feel terrible.

The thing that is worth noting though is that we don't actually know the future. Most of us are not soothsayers. But when we react with fear about imaginary future outcomes we are assuming that we can tell the future. And experience shows that we don't.

You can see for yourself. When you catch yourself thinking of the bad things that you feel and worry are going to happen, gently ask yourself, "Do I actually know what's really going to happen?" "Am I ever accurate when I think this way?" When we call this mental clutter into question, it falls apart. It can't stand on its own.

I did this for myself recently when I was putting together a clutter busting workshop in Santa Monica. A few weeks into advertising the workshop, only two people had signed up. I found myself thinking, "It's not going to happen. I'm going to have to cancel, there are not going to be enough people to put this on." The feeling was strong. There was conviction behind it. But then I realized I was in some kind of fear trance - what I was worrying about wasn't actually happening. I thought, "There's another four weeks before the workshop. I have no idea what's going to happen by then. It could also sell out." Once I realized I didn't actually know the future, I felt free. Anything could happen.