Overcoming Fear & Anxiety | Orison Swett Marden | Audio Books

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Today’s motivational reading was edited and adapted from the book “Pushing to the Front,” by Orison Swett Marden, published in 1894…..

The monster of worry dogs us from the cradle to the grave. There is no occasion so sacred but it is there. Unbidden it comes to the wedding and the funeral alike. It is at every reception, every banquet; it occupies a seat at every table. No human mind can estimate the havoc and ruin wrought by worry. It has ever forced genius to do the work of mediocrity; it has caused more failures, more broken hearts, more blasted hopes, than any other one cause since the dawn of the world.

Did you ever hear of any good coming to any human being from worry? Did it ever help anybody to better their condition? Does it not always–everywhere–do just the opposite by impairing the health, exhausting the vitality, lessening efficiency? Think of the homes which it has broken up; the ambitions it has ruined; the hopes and prospects it has blighted!

If there is any devil in existence, is it not worry, with all its attendant progeny of evils? Yet, in spite of all the tragic evils that follow in its wake, a visitor from another world would get the impression that worry is one of our dearest, most helpful friends, so closely do we hug it to ourselves and so loath are we to part from it.

Is it not strange that people (who know perfectly well that success and happiness both depend on keeping themselves in condition to get the most possible out of their energies) should harbor in their minds the enemy of this very success and happiness?

Is it not strange that we should form this habit of anticipating evils that will probably never come, when we know that anxiety and fretting will not only rob us of peace of mind, and strength, and ability to do our work, but also of precious years of life?

No person can utilize their normal power who dissipates their nervous energy in useless anxiety. Nothing will sap one’s vitality and blight one’s ambition or detract from one’s real power in the world more than the worrying habit. Work kills no one, but worry has killed vast multitudes. It is not the doing of things which injures us so much as the dreading to do them—not only performing them mentally over and over again, but anticipating something disagreeable in their performance.

Worry not only saps vitality and wastes energy, but it also seriously affects the quality of one’s work. It cuts down ability. We cannot put the highest quality of efficiency into our work when our mind is troubled. The mental faculties must have perfect freedom before they will give out their best. A troubled brain cannot think clearly, vigorously, and logically. The attention cannot be concentrated with anything like the same force when the brain cells are poisoned with anxiety, as when they are fed by pure blood and are clean and unclouded.

The blood of chronic worriers is vitiated with poisonous chemical substances and broken-down tissues, according to Professor Elmer Gates and other noted scientists, who have shown that passions and harmful emotions cause actual chemical changes in the secretions and generate poisonous substances in the body which are fatal to healthy growth and action.

One of the worst forms of worry is the brooding over failure. It blights the ambition, deadens the purpose and defeats the very object the worrier has in view. Some people have the unfortunate habit of brooding over their past, castigating themselves for their shortcomings and mistakes, until their whole vision is turned backward instead of forward, and they see everything in a distorted light, because they are looking only on the shadow side.

The longer the unfortunate picture which has caused trouble remains in the mind, the more thoroughly it becomes embedded there, and the more difficult it is to remove it. Are we not convinced that every moment of worry detracts from our success capital and makes our failure more probable; that every bit of anxiety and fretfulness leaves its mark on the body, interrupts the harmony of our physical and mental well-being, and cripples efficiency, and that this condition is at war with our highest endeavor?

Is it not strange that people will persist in allowing little worries, petty vexations, and unnecessary frictions to grind life away at such a fearful rate that old age stares them in the face in middle life? Look at the men and women who are shriveled and shrunken and aged at forty, not because of the hard work they have done, or the real troubles they have had, but because of habitual fretting, which has helped nobody, but has brought discord and unhappiness to their homes.

I once read of a worrying woman who made a list of possible unfortunate events and happenings which she felt sure would come to pass and be disastrous to her happiness and welfare. The list was lost, and to her amazement, when she recovered it, a long time afterwards, she found that not a single unfortunate prediction in the whole catalogue of disasters had been realized.

Is not this a good suggestion for worriers? Write down everything which you think is going to turn out badly, and then put the list aside. You will be surprised to see what a small percentage of the doleful things ever come to pass. It is a pitiable thing to see vigorous men and women, who have inherited godlike qualities and who bear the impress of divinity, wearing anxious faces and filled with all sorts of fear and uncertainty, worrying about yesterday, today, tomorrow—everything imaginable.

Fear often runs like a baleful thread through the whole web of life from beginning to end. We are born into the atmosphere of fear and dread. We are afraid of our parents, afraid of our teachers, afraid of our playmates, afraid of ghosts, afraid of rules and regulations and punishments, afraid of the doctor, the dentist, the surgeon.

Our adult life is a state of chronic anxiety, which is fear in a milder form. We are afraid of failure in business, afraid of disappointments and mistakes, afraid of enemies, open or concealed; afraid of poverty, afraid of public opinion, afraid of accidents, of sickness, of death, and unhappiness after death. Humanity is like a haunted animal from the cradle to the grave, the victim of real or imaginary fears, not only our own, but those reflected upon us from the superstitions, self-deceptions, sensory illusions, false beliefs, and concrete errors of the whole human race, past and present.

Most of us are foolish children, afraid of our shadows, so handicapped in a thousand ways that we cannot get efficiency into our life work. A person who is filled with fear is not a real man, not a real woman. We are a puppet, a mannequin, an apology of an individual.

Quit fearing things that may never happen, just as you would quit any bad practice which has caused you suffering. Fill your mind with courage, hope, and confidence. Do not wait until fear thoughts become entrenched in your mind and your imagination. Do not dwell upon them. Apply the antidote instantly, and the enemies will flee.

There is no fear so great, or entrenched so deeply in the mind, that it cannot be neutralized or entirely eradicated by its opposite. You must drive out fear by putting a new idea into the mind. Fear, in any of its expressions, like worry or anxiety, cannot live an instant in your mind in the presence of the opposite thought: the image of courage, fearlessness, confidence, hope, self-assurance, self-reliance.

Fear is a consciousness of weakness. It is only when you doubt your ability to cope with the thing you dread that fear is possible. Fear of disease, even, comes from a consciousness that you will not be able to successfully combat it. During an epidemic of a dreaded contagious disease, people who are especially susceptible and full of fear become panic-stricken through the cumulative effect of hearing the subject talked about and discussed on every hand, and the vivid pictures which come from reading the newspapers.

Their minds become full of images of the disease, of its symptoms, and of death, mourning, and funerals. If you never accomplish anything else in life, get rid of worry. There are no greater enemies of harmony than little anxieties and petty cares.

It is the little pin-pricks, the petty annoyances of our everyday life, that mar our comfort and happiness, and rob us of more strength than the great troubles which we nerve ourselves to meet. It is the perpetual scolding and fault-finding of an irritable man or woman which ruins the entire peace and happiness of many a home.

The most deplorable waste of energy in human life is caused by the fatal habit of anticipating evil, of fearing what the future has in store for us, and under no circumstances can the fear or worry be justified by the situation, for it is always an imaginary one, utterly groundless and without foundation.

What we fear is invariably something that has not yet happened. It does not exist; hence it is not a reality. The fear habit shortens life, for it impairs all the physiological processes. Its power is shown by the fact that it actually changes the chemical composition of certain cells in the body.

Fear victims not only age prematurely but they also die prematurely. All work done when one is suffering from a sense of fear or foreboding has little efficiency. Fear strangles originality, daring, boldness; it kills individuality, and weakens all the mental processes. Great things are never done under a sense of fear of some impending danger.

What a slaughterer of years, what a sacrificer of happiness and ambitions, what a destroyer of careers this monster has been! Fear depresses normal mental action, and renders one incapable of acting wisely in an emergency, for no one can think clearly and act wisely when paralyzed by fear.

When we become melancholy and discouraged about our affairs, when we are filled with fear that we are going to fail, and are haunted by the specter of poverty and a suffering family, before we realize it, we attract the very thing we dread, and the prosperity is crushed out of our work or business. But we are a mental failure first.

If, instead of giving up to our fear, we would persist in keeping prosperity in our mind, assume a hopeful, optimistic attitude, and would conduct our business in a systematic, economical, far-sighted manner, actual failure would be comparatively rare. But when we become discouraged, when we lose heart and grip, and become panic-stricken and a victim of worry, we are not in a position to make the effort which is absolutely necessary to bring victory, and there is a stumbling all along the line.

There is not a single redeeming feature about worry or any of its numerous progeny. It is always, everywhere, an unmitigated curse. Although there is no reality in fear, no truth behind it, yet everywhere we see people who are slaves to this monster of the imagination. Let’s work on slaying this monster today. Let’s get started now.


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