Tuesday, 24 January 2017

be not afraid

You are feeling anxious. When you ask yourself ‘why?’ all sorts of things come to mind but, then again, such matters do tend to come to mind when you’re anxious.

But then you change what we could think of as your tone of voice. The ‘why?’ question now becomes not an attempt to understand something, but a gentle challenge. ‘Why be afraid?’ ‘What is there to be feared here?’

Such questions are rhetorical, and all the more powerful for that.

The biblical injunction – ‘be not afraid’ – is another such form of intervention. It’s a call to courage. It's an en-courage-ment.

Psychotherapists are naturally wary when someone says ‘Don’t cry’. We fear the repressive damage such injunctions can do. We hope instead to promote a kind acceptance of feeling.

But sometimes the gentle injunction might be just what’s needed. It needn’t always be an invitation to repression. Instead it may be a loving call to courage.

Courage, recall, must be taken. With it we step up. This is an existential act – i.e. an act of self-fashioning – and not a matter of some pre-determined quotient of impulse lurking around in the mind.