Fear is such a pervasive emotion, to the point that some people claim it’s ‘an epidemic in our society that nobody is talking about’. Certainly you only need to watch a news broadcast to feel how much fear is projected through the media.
In terms of an emotion that can control our behaviour, fear would have to be the one of the most powerful. For when we feel fear it pretends to be the most important thing that is happening to us in that moment, whether the fear is based on reality or not, so when we feel fear we often quickly react to it. At times we may know our fear is illogical yet we feel so compelled by it we act on it anyway. A guaranteed recipe for suffering if there ever was one.
In general there are 2 types of fear. There is the immediate fear from a threat, such as when you step in front of a fast moving bus, and the second type of fear is a psychological one, where we can lay in bed unable to sleep fearing the exam tomorrow. It’s this second fear that causes us many problems and that I write about here.
Psychological fear is usually about not knowing, and what we want to know most is “Will I be okay?”. The reason we fear is primarily because we cannot really know with absolute certainty what will happen next. When we believe or attach importance to these thoughts that I must know what will happen next, the emotional response from the body is fear, which is the emotion expressed about not being ok with not knowing with what will happen next. The perception that it is vitally important to know what will happen next keeps us in a fear based loop where we often try and know, second guess, what is essentially unknowable.
Not knowing is all part of the human experience and the more you can relax with the unknown the less fear you will generate. The deeper truth is that you as you truly are now, the you that you have always been before and after death is not concerned with what the mind is fearing. As we become more connected, more in touch with the felt sense presence of consciousness, the less fear has a grip on us. It’s from this place that the ‘I Am’ is always at peace and where we can be aware of life and the mind’s fears.
This for most people is a process and can take due time. However there is a strategy that offers an effective way to clear fear as it arises, although the approach may seem illogical.
When fear arises we often try and get rid of it. For example, suppose we have a fear we might lose our job. We can try and get rid of the fear by acting on it, that is, we don’t know if we will lose our job so we to try and find out if it will happen. As an initial, one time only response, this can be fine, but usually the fear cycle begins when don’t get a clear answer to a future scenario.
This leads to all kinds of behaviours in reaction to the fear, for example, some people might already look for a new job, some might try harder at work to look more important, other people might try and suppress their fear with alcohol or others might use distractions such as the computer to avoid their fear feelings. In essence our reactions to fear can create great stress and suffering for us.
Instead of running with the fear I would like to suggest 2 approaches and while I will describe each one separately, I invite you to apply these approaches in parallel.
When we know/experience ourselves as we truly are, then we can place fear into a clearer perspective. Usually when we are in fear we are so aligned with fear all we know ourselves to be is the fear. A healthier approach to fear is to acknowledge that our thoughts want to know the answer to ‘will I be ok?’ Take some deeper breaths and relax more into the body and ask who is it that wants to know? Is it the felt sense of you, the place within you that is truly you, or is it the mind?
“The I is at peace with what the mind fears”
Recognising that it is the mind that wants to know is a step out of the grip of fear, enabling you to step out of the limited perspective of the mind and open up to your true self. When we are not identified with the thoughts (our mind) and are in touch with our true self, we feel less concerned about what the mind is fearing. However we remain open and allow the feeling of fear to be felt, knowing that this fear is an emotion (an energy in motion) and not who we truly are but rather an experience I am having, and remembering that any denial or suppression of a feeling creates even greater dysfunctions in our lives.
When we are gripped by fear and react to it, we strengthen a habitual response to fear. For example, if you fear your mole is a type of skin cancer, personally checking it every hour to see if it has changed shape or colour is creating a habitual response to fear. That is, you are creating a deep pattern for yourself that whenever you feel fear you will react to it.
If you have checked the mole once and still experience fear, a subsequent healthier response is to feel the fear. Instead of trying to solve the fear, solve the not knowing if I will be ok, allow yourself to only feel the fear instead. In the example of the mole, you could encourage yourself to feel the fear by imagining that the mole is changing shape. Then you could imagine that you have skin cancer and then you could imagine that the doctor tells you it is malignant. You could go one step further and see yourself actually dying in bed from skin cancer.
“Fear is a doorway to peace”
When we fully open up to our fear, what actually happens is that the full experience of fear becomes a portal. By fully allowing and feeling all of the fear we have in a given moment, actually allows us to go through this portal to experience something more real and true. To my initial surprise I have experienced great peace when I have done this with my fears. Also I found that this approach can quickly transform old repetitive fears.
Possibly why this works so well is that we have taken away the unknown with an imagined outcome. Knowing the outcome, no matter how bad it can be imagined, is actually more accepting to the mind and thus relaxing for the body than the question of the unknown. By imagining such an outcome is not the same as trying to manifest it, but rather giving the self an opportunity to relax because it senses that even if it gets as bad as we might imagine, that somehow the ‘I Am’ is ok.
Fear is such a strong negative motivator in our lives causing us to behave in dysfunctional ways in order to cope with our fears. The more we are able to sit with it, feel and clear our fears, not only do we clear our habitual reactions to fears but it also allows us to feel freer, open hearted and be more at peace.
Published: November 2014