cross posted from jfxramblings.blogspot.org
“Fear” is a big word in psychology today. It is one of the most primal, instinctive negative emotions, and it often masquerades as other things. Anger, sadness, and withdrawal can all be disguises for fear.
Very often I’ve noticed myself parenting out of fear that disguised itself as righteous indignation. I see my kid doing something wrong, and BOOM! Out comes the lecture! Down comes the consequence! Yes, indeed. I am a responsible parent.
But wait, what’s that? My racing heart? Why, what’s that about? What emotion is really underlying that virtuous parenting moment?
Fear, that’s what.
What are we afraid of when we parent out of fear? We’re afraid that our kids will slide down some slippery slope. We’re afraid to lose control over their behavior. We’re afraid others will think we don’t have a handle on the situation. But I’ve seen that when I parent out of fear, 99% of the time I react wrongly. Too harsh, too shrill, bad timing. It’s about me, not about my child.
About a week ago I got a very long private Facebook message describing behavior of one of my children that another person observed that was, let’s just say, not a nachas note. My first reaction: anger. Which I then quickly diagnosed instead as fear. Of what was I afraid? I was afraid of my child’s future. Is that a legitimate fear? When our kids do something wrong, isn’t it correct to fear for their future? Well. Yes and no.
Fear that leads to thoughtful contemplation, that then leads to rational, calm decision making: good. Fear that leads to anger that leads to lashing out impulsively: bad. Fear that causes you to do things because of what others will think or not think: very bad.
Adon olam is one of my favorite songs. The last two words of it, slightly less famous than the first two, are: “V’lo ira” – I shall not fear. The entire phrase goes like this: “Hashem li, v’lo ira” – G-d is with me, so I shall not fear. For me the antidote to the primal fear is to strengthen my faith. Nothing bad can touch me while G-d is holding my hand. If something is destined to be, it will be, with or without my fear. Open your hand and release your fear and grasp onto something else instead, which is far more supportive: faith in G-d, faith in your ability to handle life, faith in the future.