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Fear, panic, paranoia

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
March 11, 2020

FEAR, of course, is one of our emotions. It is our natural reaction when we perceive something to be a danger to us or is so incomprehensible that we feel helpless. Fear is one of our natural and instantaneous defense mechanisms.

Since we are exposed to all kinds of things in this world, we should not be surprised that fear comes to the surface from time to time. We can even fall into panic. But we should relieve ourselves of it as soon as we can.

We just have to see to it that like the other emotions, we do not let it stay simply in the level of raw, unprocessed instincts or that of a reflex reaction. It has to be processed and has to be dominated and directed by reason, and ultimately by our faith in God. Fear that is unguided by reason and faith would not be a healthy one. It would destroy us rather than defend us.

Amid the spreading scare of the Corona virus that we are having these days, we need to distinguish between a healthy fear and an unhealthy one, a normal fear and what may be described as a paranoia that is already a mental disorder.

A healthy fear does not freeze us into inaction for long. It would immediately lead us to study things well so that we can act with prudence, and as a consequence we can manage to have peace of mind and continue with our duties and responsibilities in spite of the ongoing danger or scare.

When our fear is of the unhealthy type or, worse, has degenerated into panic and paranoia, we continue to feel helpless and unable to function well as we should. It is kind of obsessive that leaves us feeling insecure and always in the state of fright. It’s a fear that finds no relief. It is actually an over-reaction that does not seek support from reason, and much less from faith. It makes things worse.

What we have to do is to immediately go to God. He has the answer to all the questions that we may even be unable to ask. He has all the solutions to all the problems that we may not know we have. He will enlighten us as to what concrete steps we can do. He will reassure us and will infuse courage to our weakening or wavering heart.

Let’s remember what Christ said once: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33) These reassuring and comforting words of Christ had always been repeated many times in the gospel. “Fear not, it is I,” Christ said to the disciples when they saw him walking on the water. (Jn 6,20)

From the Book of Isaiah, we have these reassuring words from God: “Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (41,10) We really have no reason to be afraid of anything for long.

We just have to be strong in our faith that in turn will guide our reasoning and strengthen our emotions, especially when we encounter situations and problems that humanly speaking seem to have no more solutions. We have to expect this possibility to take place and we should just abandon ourselves in the wise and omnipotent providence of God.

We are told that God is always in control of things and that there is always time for everything to happen, “a time to be born and a time to die…a time to kill and a time to heal…a time to weep and a time to laugh…” (Ecclesiastes 3)

To repeat we should not allow our fears to stay long on the level of raw, unprocessed instincts and reflex reactions. With God, we will find a reason for everything, and that everything will somehow work out for the good. (cfr. Rom 8,28)

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