Fear is present in every human being, which incarcerates all of us as slaves. It has been present since the mists of time, so rooted in all of us that it seems to be engraved even in our DNA code. Trying to overcome it from the beginning is practically useless, because we must beforehand neutralize the effects it produces.
Fear hinders every step on the path to a self realization, keeping us blindly and irrationally stuck in the animal realm. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that fear “kills” the mind, and without a mind disciplined and controlled by a will, we lose our humanity as we understand it.
We can educate ourselves through becoming part of what frightens us, dropping the distances and the sense of strangeness. Closeness produces intimacy, and this dissipates every fear. Fear arises from a sense of separation. In fact, we fear others, always!
To better explain about what kind of distance we mean here, we’ll make an “elucidation”: being separated means both a physical distance and a difference in form, intended as body: “my body is separate from yours.”
Ok, that’s obvious. But, being divided, as we intend here, implies a further and deeper distance, which remains so in the course of physical proximity, “My mind can’t be unified with yours. We are and will always be inevitably two divided realities.”
Fear is related to this perception of division which makes us perceive others as strangers and potentially dangerous. Thus, we live in suspicion – the “others ” must prove to us that they are not dangerous. We don’t start from the consideration that people are generally similar to us (different concerning their needs and superficial fears, but equal in depth). In fact, we do not consider ourselves as part of a “family”, but rather as isolated “entities” who need to be in constant protection from the outside world.
The subjective feeling of each man is his solitude, a loneliness that in rare cases is temporarily mitigated. But even when this happens, the individual lives a sense of “community” retaining his defensive barriers, for the reason he fear-and expects to be betrayed. Even the family, after early childhood, remains extraneous to our most intimate existence, and in most cases, we experience a constant sensation of “not being understood”.
So, what is “outside” of ourselves is considered a potential “danger”. For this reason, since antiquity, man has organized conglomerates and clans, fortified by a symbolic link of community, necessity, vital interests, an ideal or a feeling of similarity or “belonging”. Despite the “closeness” within these perimeters, humans remain suspicious. This “fictional” security brings at least the illusion of being protected from what lies outside the community. It is the root from which arises the idea of a “group- identity”, the nation, race and culture, which implies similarity and brings a type of better security.
Inside of this “circle”, each member feels protected from the external, the strange, the different, the alien, and the sense of loneliness and vulnerability decreases (even though it remains). Inside of this circle, men create further ties of closeness (a family), which allow different forms of intimacy which further reduces, momentarily, the sense of fear.
Understanding that fear is connected to the sense of division is fundamental; it could seem rationally obvious, but, seen from a deeper and more sincere point of view, the question is still open.
Realizing and understanding the concepts of “separation” and “division” is fundamental to understanding the concept of fear: willy-nilly, this represents the “pillar” of human life, and it’s related to the perception of what is alien and “outside” of us. Ignorance of “what is outside” covers different levels of fear and preoccupations. When we ignore the nature of an environment, we are unable to know what can happen. Similarly, if we don’t understand the character of a person, we are unable to “predict” his reactions.
Fear is related to a lack of knowledge and a sense of strangeness, and also from what we well know: we are afraid of something we know may happen. In other words, we project outside our bigger fears.
We don’t know how a friend, a mate or some other will react to our words, but we have an idea of the abundance of its negative reaction. He might feel offended, becoming aggressive, insulting us; or, he could remain silent, behave falsely, preparing a sort of “revenge” or something worse…. this is FEAR!
For the reason he is a “stranger” to us, we are unable to predict what kind of reaction he will have, but our mind projects a series of situations that might develop: and that’s what we fear, even before something could happen. Imagination wins over reality.
The fear, therefore, means imagining what could physically or emotionally hurt us, even if we ignore the way and the moment this will happen (if it will happen). And this produces insecurity, opening a neverending flow of imaginative activity concerning the possible risks and consequences of an action; the mind builds a series of possible scenarios which – proportionally to the anarchy of our thoughts – colors the emotions of fear or, worse than that, of pure terror.
As seen in the first part of this post, fear is deeply related to a sense of division and it is moved through the activation of associative thoughts (imagination), who feed on personal past experiences or past experiences common to all mankind.
When we reach the capacity to remain detached from what happens in our emotional and mental field, we become able to analyze and foresee the possible risks which could arise from a situation. Otherwise, we are at the mercy of what we commonly call fear; indeed, this could be seen as a “dysfunction” of the human machine- the intellectual center (mind) and the emotional center (emotions) drain “energy” from each other. This is not a rare situation, indeed, this is what usually happens, and it should be superfluous to say that this is neither positive or productive.
This is the situation that most human beings have to face every day.
One of the most “ancient enemies” of every human being is surely the dark, such as Nature, when it expresses itself in its full potential. Such as thousands of years ago, humans feared entering a forest at night. Today a person feels similar (probably the same) reactions before walking through a dark street because the mind tends to create an image of the possible “dangers” which it could face there. This image could be illusory, a myth, or real and concrete, but the result is always the same: humans face the demons of their fears before facing the reality.
The dark is the symbolic representation of a space in which we are unable to see, and where all the possible dangers could be hidden. Such loss of light, represents also a loss of knowing. If I’m unable to see what is in front of me, I don’t know what I could expect and, consequently, how to act. If I don’t know, I’m unable to manage any phenomenon. On one hand, this is not a negative thing, because if knowing gives me a feeling of safety, this drives me to know, and compels me to dive into the “unknown”. But, on the other hand, this produces also fear, because, I can fear only what I know- in the case of the dark street, the infinite and fantastic agglomerate of all the possible situations which my associative, automatic thoughts are able to produce. This is not a mere speculation, but a crucial point to understand and overcome fear in all its forms. What we commonly know is the result of what the past has revealed to us. It doesn’t matter if this is our own experience or what we have heard about an experience of someone else. “Knowing” is not projected into the future- it is always a result of the past.
Thus, when a thought is focused on a future event, it does it so through a more or less complex projection – a prevision based on the elaboration of data we have acquired in the past.
So, quite opposite of what most say, knowing alone is not enough to win over fear, because, if on one side it gives us the “tools” to face situations, on the other it allows the mind to create an image (or more images) of possible dangers. It’s a constant balance between prevision and worries of not being able to bear an unforeseen event.
Knowing can erase the fear only when related to specific situations, not to life in general. For example, if I don’t know how to drive a car, I have an obvious “fear” of driving, because I could create an incident. But once I have learned to drive a car, I have acquired the necessary “knowing” to manage this vehicle and this fear disappears. But we can’t learn and experience in advance every aspect of life. There are also some aspects where learning never stops, such as when it’s related to the emotional field: feeling, happiness, anxiety…. or some unconscious anguish whose roots are unknowable, and probably will be never known. So, to resume in a few words what we wish to express here- even if knowing and experiencing can help one to feel more safe in some fields of his life ,they are not enough to overcome Fear in its totality, thus so in every field of our life. Mind generates safeness and, soon after, doubts.
This means that fear can’t be faced only in details, but in more large and “philosophical” terms. Surely, the fear of some specific possible dangers exists, but the main problem is the crystallization in human nature of fear as fear, namely as an instinctive manifestation of perceiving ourselves divided from others and the world.
There are many modern methods which allow us to overcome some specific fears (fear of flying, of swimming, etc…), and they are taught in some formation courses, psychological therapy, etc.. . but they are focused on the superficial aspects (the reactions) and not on the primary causes.
At the opposite, a genuine inner research is focused on the roots of the problem, to resolve fear in its totality. It’s a long path, but it’s also final and resolutive.
In the moment that our mind becomes filled with imaginary fears concerning our life, we stop to be free; we don’t put attention on what our eyes objectively see and what our hands touch, but for what could happen. What happens is that the eventuality scares us more than reality, and this makes us weak, denying us to respond in an efficient way to unexpected situations.
The imaginary is based on the past, namely not so much on what we know as our experience but rather on what we consider to know. Indeed, the mechanism of the knowing acquired through direct experience should be understood in depth: knowing is the base of individual development, but what should be learned is to not fall into the net of what we have acquired from others, and accept as our experiential knowing. And, this is usually what happens. This could seem an intellectual and abstract statement, but it is more than practical in order to find concrete solutions in our daily life.
But, if we wish to better understand what fear is, we should put all our attention on the concept of division. What is this? How does it function? And, what is most important: is it real? The most immediate answer would be that its existence is a matter of fact, something concrete and undeniable. We have a body that divides us from the outside world, and this body can be harmed by the environment. Likewise, our emotional and intellectual fields are similar but different from the same fields of others. And, even these fields can suffer external attacks. So, that division exists, is a tangible fact, and fear has its reason for existence.
Is it so really? The first answer that could arise in our mind is discounted, but the topic is not so simple. Facing this argument, we enter into a field belonging to the realm of “what lies beyond appearances”. What is usually not perceived byhumans, could be formulated in the following way: reality is not what it seems to be, and we pay for this perceptive deviation with suffering every moment of our lives.
Once more, an individual whose aim is individual development should make a distinction between what is “separation” and what is “division”. This is not a sophism, but a concrete analysis of practical implications for human existence.
Physically, separation represents a reality: we can’t pass materially through a wall nor become one thing with an external object. We could say that this is correct from a point of view focused on matter, because it represents a common experience. Of course, this is so until proven otherwise. But, for now, we’ll accept the separation of physical objects (physical bodies included) as a matter of fact.
This “touchable” and “evident” experience that we are physically separated from the external world makes arise another conviction: that this “fact” belongs also to the field of emotions, intellect and, for those who are “spiritual”, even of the “soul”. “My soul is not the same as yours”. “My essence can’t resonate with yours”, etc…
And here lies the great mistake. Emotionally, intellectually and, let’s say, “spiritually”, things are very, very different.
An example: when we fall in love, for the time that this love lasts as a deep and warm passion, the sense of fear and of division doesn’t exist.
Another example: a mother, and even a father, does not fear their children (at least while they are small) because they consider them as part of themselves. These two are the most common and foregone examples.
Then, how is it possible that if separation exists as a matter of fact, there could also exist some manifestations of unity in which fear, the perception of division and distance cease?
Don’t discard this topic as dim, ponder about this.
And, examples can be found in fields that are more “touchable” than humans emotions.
There are some places capable of influencing slightly, in a negative or postive way, the mind and emotions of those who stay there. The “energy” irradiated from a place or an object influences the thermomagnetic field of those who get in contact with it, and so that happens, a physical contact is not required.
The same happens between persons: some individuals have the power to transmit calm and safeness independently from what they say or do; in the same way, others give a feeling of agitation, irritability and insecurity. Only the presence of such persons can make the environment pleasurable or not.
In both cases, the “physical touch” doesn’t influence such effects. So, what form of “energy” is implied in this “contact”? Through what “channels”? If the physical body possesses a thermomagnetic field that surrounds its perimeter, what are the results when more radiant energies get in touch? They merge together? They have specific qualities capable of influencing each other? And if it is so, what determines the “supremacy” of one form of energy from another one?
And, the main question: if a solid matter of a body can’t be merged with another form of the same consistence without changing its structure, but the same thing can be done from a radiant form of “energy”, at what degree can we state that the basic structures are divided?
We know that a warmth irradiated from an incandescent object can burn another one, even if both objects are not in direct contact. Ok, this happens because the air that separates the two objects overheats and becomes the agent for the transmission. But the properties of a substance can be transferred into another substance without a direct touch only if there is not division between the two substances, namely, if something not visible (such as heat, in this case) joins these two elements. Again, don’t discard this as plain theoretical speculation a priori. Ponder about that.
Let’s now imagine a field of connection able to maintain unity between all the emotional and intellectual fields. In this case, there’s a separation between the visible bodies, but there’s no effective division, because the radiant “energy” of emotions and thoughts merges constantly with the same “energies” of the others. A mass of people can react emotionally in the same way even without a conscious and direct exchange.
But, can this “energy” influence only the emotional and intellectual fields, or is it capable of modifying physical matter,to interact with a solid? Making such a statement could relegate us to the field of the visionary, and this is correct: without an objective experience, to make some statements as concrete, sure and “proven” means just this: being visionary – to imagine things instead of experiencing them.
There are many scientists who make this field of interaction between thoughts, emotions, and objects a subject for their research. There are also many writings which explain surely better than the author of this post, the interaction between thought and matter, but to prove this interaction between the two is surely not the aim of this post.
What would be said here is that the line of division between physical matter, emotions and thoughts and various forms of “energy” is fairly weak.
To return to the argument of the topic, the idea of division as explained above (so, not intended as separation) generates fear of remaining isolated, of not being part of something and it doesn’t matter what it is. The separation of bodies and minds is what makes the beauty of variety contained in unity. The only problem is that we are incapable of perceiving this “unity”, so we fear to remain isolated from all and everything.
So, fear is deeply connected with a loss of the perception of unity.
The ancient thinkers, philosophers, mystics, and teachers spoke widely on the illusory nature of division. Because of our deep identification with our physical mean (body), we consider that all which exists is an isolated entity, divided from the rest.
There can be an astonishing intellectual syntony between two individuals; sometimes, thoughts can match and merge together in such a way that they really involve the minds of those who live this experience. A similar merging is more perceivable on the emotional plane: an emotion expressed from a gaze is able to create a condition of intimacy such as a condition of unease. Also, sometimes two persons touch each other emotionally in such a way, that they don’t know what to say and how to act. This is a rare situation, but it could happen. What has to be understood is that, even if one event is occasional, it still reveals that the possibility exists, that beneath this event exists a law that has yet to be discovered.
The Eastern philosophies have been the main promulgators of the idea that division represents an illusion produced from our mind and sensations. Almost all the Eastern current of thought is filled by the conviction that everything is enveloped by a unique “energy” and that everything one does and thinks influences the whole in all its fields.
The majority of meditative techniques have just the aim of transforming this intuition to a concrete experience, mutating the sense of fear and solitude to the courage to live and effective self-expression.
Without entering into psychological theories that can surely be deepened in more competent texts than this post, we can say that, unconsciously, every human being feels the tendency to resolve this separation in unity: the tendency toward friendship and meeting, even the fusion with the opposite gender in a sexual act could be seen as indicators of such a tendency. But, what is certain, is that every human being experiences this compulsion to the degree that he suffers when he can’t find meeting, comprehension, love… namely, “unity”.
It is as though we all have an unconscious loss of memory of a state of unity which we are unable to find again.
We all keep in ourselves a basic fear of being deceived by those we love, a fear of being disenchanted. Such as we all say to ourselves: “Yes, I feel that all is one and that I have the possibility of reaching a deep intimacy with each other until feeling it as a part of me, but I fear that this is something that, in my case cannot be realized.”
Such a fear of being harmed makes us all to erect barriers, “walls” to defend ourselves from external dangers; a situation which seems to not have solutions. A prison called “fear” from which we can’t escape. We move in circles, deprived of alternatives. But, even in the most improbable situations, there’s always “a way out”. If there exists an “out”, there’s also a way to reach it. So, the alternative exists.
Indeed, an alternative could be trying to understand (truly understand) the fact that, basically, all of us share the same fears and defensive reactions.
Lowering our barriers, we’ll surely appear less ominous to others, so they’ll feel less the need to keep alert for “possible attacks”. Translated in practical words, this means to not be afraid of expressing our emotions and to diminish the depth of the “mask” we use during our relations with the others.
Of course, in such a way, we’ll be more susceptible to suffer some “low kick”, but even if hyper- protected as we are now, in life we still suffer strokes and counterstrokes. So the problem, in this field, remains almost the same. Indeed, we can’t protect ourseves totally from such “attacks”, but living in a constant sense of fear isolates us even from what is good and beautiful. Also, it’s surely not possible to practice this “lowering down” in every situation, but this doesn’t mean that there are not situations in which we can practice it.
It’s very difficult for a human being to become aware of how much he is isolated from the external world because of his own fears which deny him the possibility to live intense, real and fulfilling emotional experiences.
Usually, people try to exorcize such fear in all its forms instead of observing, studying and understanding it: only such an approach could bring him to the aim of winning over this fear definitively. What a human being usually doesn’t understand is that this approach of appearing “strong”, “determined”, “impassible”, or “cold” in order to cover these fears is what makes him extremely weak.
An exaggeration? Ponder a little bit about this, before making haphazard conclusions.
There’s also a more practical aspect that has to be pondered: lowering the barriers doesn’t mean to become a “good” person or a “if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also” type style. Ethically, this could seem appreciable, but surely not efficient in the hardness of ordinary life. This post doesn’t have the aim of suggesting people to become “cannon fodder” at the mercy of everyone that feels the egoistic need of getting rid of his frustrations on the first upcoming “good samaritan”. What we would like to say, here (for personal experience) is that to lower the defensive barriers delineates the parameters of a greater force and strength in life. And this is perceived from others such as we perceive this on other people with these characteristics.
Ancient China developed a war strategy based on the concept of unity and on all that it could express, in terms of efficiency and practice, the concept of “allowing to come in”, with the aim of using the strength of the enemy. Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua Chang, Wing Chung and Hsing Ji are just some of the martial arts that have been developed from this strategy, and their main efficiency lies in the idea of using the enemy’s strength.
By concretizing a defensive perimeter, maybe this physical, emotional or psychological means to become rigid and, to use, once more, the Eastern wisdom, “all what becomes rigid is nearest to a concept of death”. Indeed, we can crush a piece of ice, but not the water. Why? It’s obvious, because the water is not as rigid as the ice.
Fear makes us weak, building prefabricated structures of reality. We fear constantly and replace the uncertainty of life with the certainty of thousands of illusions. We prefer to accept an idea of what reality is instead of facing the reality as it is, so we create this image and hang on to it “to feel better”.
We deny the possibility of the existence of something that produces discomfort and accept only what makes us feel safe; take a deeper look at what happens in yourself and others and, with rare exceptions, you will see that the reality of things is not so far from what is stated above.
Fear is also the main thing that keeps us far from the possibility of finding a strong interest in discovering what truth is. Indeed, to find “the real” in everything, one must be ready to discover the “new”, unexpected realities, and that is accepted by us, except when the same “new” comes out from the parameters of our certainties, we feel nervous and unsafe. Maybe, even harmed.
As stated in the Chinese “Art of War”, “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”
This is a great truth, that can be applied in all the fields of our daily life and human existence in general, and it’s based on a fundamental concept: knowing is intended as vision, perception, understanding of reality, in opposition with the subjective ideas and the deformations of what we observe produced from our mental field.
So, if we really wish to overcome definitively the prison of the fear that keeps human existence imprisoned, thus, even our existence, to cease building illusory images about life and what happens is what we have to put all our attention and forces on.