Fear is one on the most common human psychological sufferings that we all have as human beings. To understand fear, one must give their full attention to it. First, the physiology which is a state of panic. Your breath gets choked off, your heart pounds, you think you’re having a heart attack, or you feel lightheaded. You want to run out of where you are and get to safety, but you know it’s nowhere to be found. Just thinking about fear invites fear, which most people are unwilling to do. Fear cripples our life and the state of anxiety runs through all human beings just about different things. We have fears about people, places and things. We also have terrible anxiety about a relationship ending or not receiving a promotion or job and of course the greatest fear of all death. This deep feeling of panic that we are consumed with in moments that last five seconds or five hours is deeply embedded in our psychology and the very foundation of what the ego self is. Fear is the movement of trying to find psychological security. Hell, what does that even mean anyway? All human beings are looking for a safe place, a haven from the pain of fear and how deep this pain is.
Fear seems to have many forms, you are afraid of spiders, afraid of your boss, afraid of your spouse, afraid of a difficult person, an in-law, afraid of old age, getting sick, the pain of something that happened to you in the past, or hurt, a psychological wound. We are frightened to look insufficient and inadequate and then there are all the physical fears, like the fear of being injured or repeating an injury you have done in the past. Fear seems like when you’re having a panic attack, that it’s in the present and you are suffering right now; but is that true? Are you suffering from a fact or something you’re imagining? The only difficulty is how does one understand fear and come to terms with it and live with it. We have all been programmed to escape fear through entertaining ourselves with sports, drinking, drugs, amusements, games yet fear lingers in the back of our minds and we dread its attack.
We are not talking about the feeling of danger. To walk up a step ladder or to be afraid of a grizzly bear that’s on your path. That is not fear but the feeling of self-preservation - the sense of danger! It is useful to us because it helps keep us alive. If you’re walking across the road and a car comes quickly around the corner screaming its wheels in your direction you don’t feel fear, you sense danger and get out of the way. That is an important sense for living. Having a sense of danger is part of our survival need as human beings and it has its place.
But for our discussion today we are not talking about the sense of danger we are talking about how we are crippled by fear. Now if we take a look at fear, not trying to get rid of it, not trying to escape it, but really see. You can discover the fact that fear dominates our life and because of it, we are robbed from the joy and beauty of our existence. Most of us psychologically are afraid of being hurt, marginalized, discriminated against or made into something insufficient and inadequate.
We are terrified that we may get cancer, or some strange disease that someone reads about on the Internet and then you start to think you have it. Is this not a sign that you are totally incapacitated by fear? I know for a fact that I am. As this is part of the human psyche, part of our deep conditioning that has been put into us. We are the only creature in nature that lives with two types of fear. One real which is danger, which means you will pull up your attention, adrenaline starts pumping and there’s a change in your hormones that flow through your body. Then you prepare for fight, flight or freeze. All of nature is given the danger sense in some form, in order to survive. Most living creatures are extremely cautious because of predators so the danger sense helps them survive. We human beings being part of nature also have this intelligence that is not created by thinking.
Humans are crippled by our psychological fear. This kind of fear is completely psychological in its nature. It all starts when we experienced the pain of being rejected. We, through thinking build an image that a caregiver is supposed to bring us comfort and comes when we cry. If they don’t, we continue to cry until someone comes to look after us as we are so dependent on others for our survival. Every experience you have your conditioning program, gives that experience value. You see the experience as either pleasurable, painful, or neutral. All these experiences add up to building images of repeating pleasure and avoiding pain. We are programmed through this process of building images by constantly desiring pleasure and avoiding pain. Let’s take a really simple example. You have an image of playing for your town baseball team squirts. You want to play on the travel team, but the coach doesn’t select you and now you have to play Little League and just play on Saturdays, not visiting other towns and playing against them. When you find out that you are cut from the team the image you had of making that team is crushed! That feeling of being rejected begins from a young age to create fear and anxiety, from being crushed in trying out for any team into your adult life. It is the memory I’ve been rejected that forms the self and naturally the self protects itself and doesn’t want to try out for any more teams. The ego self is nothing but a collection of memories of all past, pleasure and pain, cause and effect relationships. If in one moment in your life you get hurt, it is the self that gets hurt. That self, which is put together in time through experience, projects into the present the fear of being hurt again, now, and therefore feels fear and anxiety. The self is nothing more than a collection of fears, fears that have happened in the past, alive in the present and projecting into the future. This means fear is time based, limited and stupefying our brains.
Now let’s look at it from a different angle. Countries and religions are all put together by thinking. Being attached to your country or your religion is supposed to bring about security and safety. But anything that thinking puts together the self identifies with. That image it has created, is the accumulation of knowledge that divides one person from another. As people identify with their country or religion, that little piece of land or that flag or that religious belief creates separation and division that leads to conflict and war creating greater insecurity and instability. We think there is safety in believing in a country or religion when all of our beliefs create division and separation. When there is division and separation there will always be conflict. That is why there is global insecurity, everyone is terrified of war but we do not realize that the self that is put together by thinking and images identifies with a nation or a religion for psychological security is actually creating global insecurity.
The very fact is that we are born dependent and all dependency leads to fear.
Now what do I mean by dependent? Human beings at a very young age do not have a sense of danger because they have little experience, it is experience that creates fear. An infant does not suffer from anxiety until thinking has built an image in the baby’s brain. Just think of this for a moment, any time you’re having a panic attack or have anxiety, it is because you fear something may happen to you in the future that has happened to you before. Or you start thinking of all the possible things that could happen in the future that aren’t happening right now. They’re in the future, and one becomes anxious about the future. If I have to go to the dentist and I think about getting my tooth pulled out, I think of the experience of getting a needle in the past and the pain I felt in the past. Then I bring the past into the present and then I start fearing about the future. So, the experiencer which is my past is brought into the present and then is projected into the future - that is the movement of fear.
Let’s take another example let’s say I have a girlfriend and I really like her and then I build an image of this girl as being my girlfriend. I have become attached to her which is an image she is with me, she’s mine. In that very image my brain has created the formation of my ego self. When some other guy comes along that is nicer, more handsome, smarter, more athletic, a better artist, whatever it is through comparison I create anxiety and fear as the result. To compare myself means I have built an image of who I am through my thinking and then I build an image of another person and compare my image with their image. In doing so I am creating fear and this anxiety is crippling. Fear is the common denominator of every human brain who has an ego-self. This is one of humankind’s deepest sufferings, the problem of fear. To understand and learn about fear is the only way to approach fear. To inquire into it as it’s happening and see the lie that fear is, to see the lie that anxiety is - It is all self-inflicted. If we human beings are going to bring about a different earth, each human being must understand the movement of fear in their personal life and bring it to an end. Only then will there be peace on this earth. We do not want to see the whole network of fear. Desire and fear go together, we desire pleasure and that very desire increases our pain. Desire is the front cover of our book; fear is the back cover. All the pages of our book are filled with self’s experiences, our wants, our desires and the fear of not getting them. This makes for a petty self-centred way of existence. To go beyond the self, by understanding the whole book of fear and desire is to move beyond it. If our brains were not instruments of desire and fear then what would be the true purpose of our brains? Probably to love one another and find ways of working together and setting aside our self-interest. For that the brain has infinite capacity, but only a very small percentage of our brain is used because it is crippled with fear, anxiety and desire.