“Fear is a question: What are you afraid of, and why? Just as the seed of health is in illness, because illness contains information, our fears are a treasure house of self-knowledge if we explore them.” — Marilyn Ferguson
*Ten years after the National Disaster, many Americans are still discussing fear.
Some are discussing the manner in which America dealt with the fear and some are discussing how much of the fear is still lingering
Others, still, are discussing the true intent and purpose of the fear and the actual source of it.
I would like to discuss fear in its purest form.
Most of us have heard the phrase: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” even if we have no idea who first said it.
But if we are able to conceptualize this phrase, then we know that we are not often afraid of the tangible, but of some intangible creation of our very own mind.
Often, fear isn’t even based on something currently in front of us, but something that we imagine is going to happen in the future.
For example, we may be afraid of losing a job, but unless and until it actually happens, the fear of the event lives only in our minds.
Some people actually seek out fear as a thrill, taking on dangerous activities that place life and/or limb in jeopardy in order to get the rush that comes from the adrenaline our body manufactures in the heat of fear. Repeated exposure to the adrenaline rush can actually cause a person to become addicted to fear, seeking greater threats to life and/or limb in order to experience a rush of adrenaline.
But under normal circumstances, most humans avoid fear, and even detest it, though fear serves a real purpose. Our “fight or flight” instinct ramps up our nervous systems so that we can react quickly to defend ourselves or run.
And, because most of us are averse to fear, it can be used to keep us in line. For example, fear can be found at the very foundation of religion, which arguably keeps humanity from descending into chaos and disorder.
While some may claim to have tangible evidence of things unseen, the fear involved in religion, much like the fear of something dangerous is an unpleasant feeling of what may occur, whether real or imagined.
Fear can be used to manipulate behavior, as seen in cases of a perceived national security threat. American citizens who otherwise would not have supported George W. Bush did so following the National Disaster on 9/11/01, because of a perceived threat from “terrorists.”
Fear can also limit opportunity. It is said that the most successful people in the world are people who are unafraid to take risks. Living without the limits of fear can expand the depth, breadth and quality of life.
Our fear can be experienced on a range anywhere from paranoia, which is typically an awareness (perceived or otherwise) of being pursued or persecuted, to sheer terror, which is the state of fear following something horrific (perceived or otherwise) this is immediate. Someone who is paranoid may behave erratically, while someone who is terrified may behave irrational and out of character.
While going through the range of fear, we may go through a range of emotional stages, such as a rat going from wilting away from attack seeking escape, to becoming violent when cornered. That is why people who commit violent crimes are generally given some consideration under the law, if they commit the crimes under duress.
As a child, I was told that I should fear God, and that I should fear trying to do too much and/or trying to go too far. But I was given this information by people who had lived extremely limited lives. These were people who were frozen with fear—afraid to live because to live ultimately meant facing death.
As I grew in the world, I understood that in order to live the broad and beautiful lives of my heroes, I had to learn to understand fear.
Where fear is concerned, we live in a world of duplicity–double thinking, and as a result, double-living with duplicate opportunities that really aren’t duplicates. For example, fear and love are double thoughts (they typically occur together), but sit at opposite ends of the continuum. Our fear doesn’t have to be real–it lies in our mind and can only become real if we allow it to. It is only in our mind that we accept things that are separated and temporary.
In our very essence–our souls–we have no fear, because our souls only see the unity of the universe. Our task is to have our souls comfort our minds, which hold fear. Unity and love represent a higher energy, while fear represents a lower energy. Bringing them together allows the higher energy to transform the lower energy.
Our challenge in the human experience is to manage our fear.
According to Thomas Jefferson, we must “question with boldness even the existence of a God, because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.”
And, according to Marianne Williamson, in a statement often mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented or fabulous? Actually who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This means that what we need to do, is to embrace our fears, rather than running from them or trying to manage them. When we come in direct contact with our fear, we learn about the fear and about ourselves.
Perhaps that is the lesson of life.
Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” James’ stage play, “Love In A Day,” opened in Los Angeles this Spring and will be running throughout 2011. View previous installments of this column at www.bridgecolumn.proboards36.com. Reach James at [email protected].