Fear can best be described as a paralyzing force of nature. Like a tornado that spins and gathers itself into an unstable wave of terror and destruction, fear is an unpredictable powerhouse of conflicting energy. It springs out of nothingness. It rips through our hearts and minds without warning. It torments our peaceful inner landscape, leaving behind a telltale trail of anxious devastation.

And yet, the confusing and sometimes challenging truth about fear is this: It is not a force of nature at all. It is a choice. A moment-by-moment decision. A soul-sabotaging temptation. A spirit-crushing compromise. Which means if we’re living a life tormented by worry, it’s not because fear broke down our door. It’s because we invited it in.

Often, the only way to rob fear of its power is to drag it out into the light. To go toe-to-toe with our anxiety. To confront those paralyzing what-if scenarios by asking ourselves openly, and without judgment: “If the thing I’m most afraid of were to actually come to pass, what is the worst that could happen?”

And once we’ve arrived at our answer, to keep asking ourselves “And then what?” as many times as necessary until we have reached the ultimate root of our fear.

Because it turns out, many of our deepest worries aren’t nearly as powerful as we imagine them to be. Most of the worst-case scenarios that leave us riddled with anxiety are nothing more than cartoon villains. Imaginary ghosts. Puffed up monsters. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” they tell us. And we listen. But were we to pull it back and see our fears for exactly what they were, chances are they wouldn’t seem quite so scary anymore.

Our minds often trick us into believing that a temporary setback may actually be our ultimate defeat. But as powerful as our fear may seem, it simply cannot stand on its own. It can’t rule us without our consent. It can’t survive unless we feed it. It is completely and utterly powerless without our buy-in.

Which means that no matter how helpless we may feel in the face of our present day worries, we have the upper hand. The power is ours. We don’t exist at the mercy of our fear.

It is fear that exists at the mercy of us.