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Fear

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Crises provoke fear and it is even a sensible thing to have fear. Fear is part of the way our organism reacts in response to danger. Fear emerges “automatically”, and it is evoked by the so-called limbic system – an old structure located deep within the brain which is responsible for our feelings and impulses. As is the case within the animal kingdom, fear also causes people to either “freeze” or feel paralysed (the “pretending to be dead” reflex) or to get ready to mobilize themselves and herein enabling them to either fight or flee from the situation.

At first we often feel paralysed or in shock when danger presents itself or when something terrible has happened. This is followed by a phase of great activity, of despair, helplessness - of fear. Sometimes we don’t experience fear as such but instead we transform it into feelings of anger, restlessness, and depression or into physical symptoms. Avoiding or blocking out fear (which occurs mostly subconsciously) only intensifies it further and leads to being afraid of fear.

     The entire person can be struck by fear

We can say that fear expresses itself on several levels: the physical, the emotional and the mental – and expresses itself ultimately in our behaviour.

We know that severe heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, trembling, sweating, feeling weak or sick etc. are all part of the physical symptoms of fear. In our thoughts and feelings fear manifests itself as being vulnerable, powerless, not in control, feeling helpless and desperate. Fear has something to do with the feeling of constriction – both physical as well in the way we feel and think. Fear can take complete possession of our thoughts and feelings. Thoughts revolve around the catastrophe - be it real or assumed. Clear structured thoughts and problem-solving become difficult or sheer impossible. It is right to say the expression: “fear is a poor advisor”.

Acknowledging fear and overcoming it

Fear is important for our survival, it is part of us. The way we deal with fear is very varied, according to our disposition, the way we were brought up and what our social situation may be. A trustworthy therapist cannot promise to remove our fears. But he or she can help us by means of therapy in overcoming irrational fears. Throughout the course of life, mentally sound persons learn to deal with their fears by themselves. Everyone overcomes them in his or her own way.

     The new and the unknown

Situations that are not familiar and are new to us are those situations which produce fear, as we have not yet learned to deal with them. We perceive the new and the unknown as being threatening, especially when it “hits” us without warning. However, it can also evoke curiosity and interest. Fear can make us wide-awake and alert in an emergency. Courage and the will to survive flare up within us and a creative potential capacity crops up, which was hitherto unknown to us.

Fears too are connected to the stages of development within our own lives. Radical changes in life can cause us to plummet into a crisis, such as starting Kindergarten, school, entering puberty, beginning academic studies or entering a profession, establishing a civil union, the birth of a child, unemployment and the confrontation with the finiteness of life, of illness, dying and death.

     Looking at ourselves

Fear confronts us with our vulnerability and our fundamental feeling of threat in this world. Ultimately, fear confronts us with our own selves. It’s not only about our physical state, it’s also about affection, appreciation, and about endangering our own self-perception or position within society.

Patterns of thought play an integral part here. They flow automatically (unconsciously), they restrict us, they define us. We are at the mercy of these thoughts if we don’t succeed in challenging them and changing them.

In psychological research one aspect has shown to be significant when it comes to reducing our fears: the feeling of gaining control of the situation. The fear is minimized when we know what we are doing in order to overcome the problem. It can be a fitting solution but it is often a strategy of avoidance.

Fear increases when we wish to avoid it. The thing we are running away from just moves in closer. Then being afraid of fear occurs. It is important to look at our inner self here, to look at what is taking place within.

     Fear of exams

Everyone has at some time in their life experienced exam fear, but it is a good thing as we cannot achieve optimal performance in a completely relaxed state. We need a certain measure of physical excitation, of discomposure or of fear. However, if fear prevails, it will block our thought and memory processes.

A vicious circle will be created if one tries to avoid fear, by not facing the learning matter at all, which means postponing the revising and the exam. It is helpful to steer our attention to the fear, take it quasi in hand and to live consciously with it. Then the fear is reduced.

Most people try to create life situations that offer security and in which things to a large extent are foreseeable. The stronger such a tendency is, the greater the uncertainty when sudden crises develop, such as the Corona pandemic for example. Fears switch between the fears of actually getting the illness, to fears of losing one’s job, to fears of becoming isolated.

Spiritual possibilities

Self-awareness is the beginning of wisdom which means the end of fear.
(Krishnamurti)

Do we perhaps think that a spiritually striving person should not have any fear?
If we do then we are succumbing to a grave mistake and fail to realise our existential and organic ligation.

But how should we as spiritually striving persons deal with our fears?

     Experiencing oneself – with all our fears

Whenever we wish to both inwardly and outwardly feel at ease - by means of either contemplation or meditation we feel more than ever our fears forcing themselves upon us. But this is a good thing as we are hereby in a position of being able to recognise our very own personal and general human attributes; we learn to be aware how we move and assert our conscious selves within this world, and we learn which methods we apply to forming our path in Life. The more serious our spiritual pursuit, the deeper is the insight into our own beings and also into our fears.

How are we supposed to deal with this strong and unpleasant feeling which we would prefer to let disappear very quickly? It is clear in this regard that any spiritual development does not lead us to a psychological state of feeling cosily embedded in cotton wool.

A certain degree of mental health and stability is important to the experiencing of the process in which fears finally dissipate: we turn to them and experience them in a much more clearer and conscious manner: there’s the fear of failing, fear of rejection, fear of losing one’s own material gain and good health, fear about the persons within our own family … All these fears are connected to specific, realistic or unrealistic thoughts, perceptions and fantasies. We experience them and see how all these thoughts and feelings arise within us, we tolerate them and at the same time we carry on focussing ourselves on the Spiritual Path – the spiritual “sun”, the Spirit. We can call this part of the path “Endura”.

     Commitment to the Spiritual

The word Endura means „endurance“.[1] So if we can hold out the fears arising within us together with all the physical and thought accompaniments then we can see through them - and through our attachments too. It’s about not reacting to them, practising “doing nothing” and at the same time trusting in the spiritual powers and in the spiritual field with deep longing, and to deliver oneself to these. We receive the strength to do so from this energy field. If we are able to persevere within this devotion and commitment to the spiritual power – which simultaneously is the one love – then a miracle happens: all our fears dissipate. We were able to detect them at their origin and tolerate them. Our consciousness experiences in them how the powers of this world operate and is able to differentiate between their work and the work of the spiritual powers.

     How a seed bursts forth

It experiences how in the heart the seed of a divine manifestation bursts forth – an existence which is free from death and suffering and thus also free of fear. Our personal presence is like a piece of earth which contains this seed. There is a shell around the seed which means we usually don’t know anything about it. This shell disintegrates through the longing we feel for “for the other within us”. Then the possibility of a new life grows – in the energy which is derived from this seed.

The fears linked to the spiritual path now dissipate too. Appreciation can be of importance to us on this path, we can fear unpleasantness and discomfort. Fear can arise on the path when we would like to spiritually “advance”, when we have doubts in our own sobriety or doubts in the organization which we have joined.

All this disappears when our consciousness – for reason of perseverance – experiences its own new foundation out of the bottom of the heart. Up to the organic structures of the brain the certainty develops that we are integrated in a higher context – in a large-scale Life Plan - in God’s Plan with the world and humanity. We experience ourselves being within this Plan, having returned back to it.

The author Aldous Huxley said the following:

When the spirit is completely absorbed in any issue then it will lose a part of its fear. Only when the spirit is absorbed in the love and knowledge of the Divine source can it fully lose each and every fear.

 


[1]  It’s taken from the Cathars’ spiritual path in the Middle Ages

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