Transforming Fear

Transforming Fear

Introduction

In this generation, fear has grown to such a proportion that it has become a real threat to the world we live in. Fear comes in two forms.

The first is a real fear within each of us. Some of us are aware of the existence of this fear that resides within but many are not. The conscious suppression or unconscious repression of fear is one of the problems to take note of when dealing with fear.

The second is a fear that is intentionally created. This created fear is used as a tool or weapon to sow distrusts and suspicions among human beings and to stoke dissatisfactions, anger and hatred. It is a powerful weapon because it plays with our own inner fear and insecurities. If we are not aware of this, we can very easily become an unsuspecting pawn in this dangerous game.

Therefore, awareness is the first step to change.

But what exactly is fear?

The Anatomy of Fear

Fear is a by-product of the self. The self has two fundamental concerns.

The first is that of safety. It is in its own self interest to preserve its existence. So there is an underlying self-preservation mechanism that manifests in the form of fear of insecurities. This self protection exists at all levels or aspects of existence. Whether it is a physical threat, emotional threat or mental threat, the self will find a way to secure and protect itself.

It is useful to note that the threat need not be real. Even if it is only a perceived threat, the self will automatically and most often unconsciously go into a self-protection mode.

The second concern of the self is a sense of worth or significance. This is actually a more subtle form of fear. In a way, fear is a great motivator. When the fear is small and manageable, it drives us to achieve our goals. However, if we are not careful, this fear can grow out of control and turn us into someone with a huge ego or one who needs constant validation from others to feel secure.

The Manifestations of Fear

Fear is the mother of all negative emotions.

A threat to the self can turn into anger or hatred and drive one to violence. This weakness of ours is often exploited by others, and if we are not aware of it, we can easily become unsuspecting pawns that serve their own hidden agenda. Politicians use this weakness to their best advantages by dividing and rule, and pitching one group against another. The division can be in any forms, for example, poor against rich, one race against another, women against men, one nation against another or one religion against another.

Unlike love, which is inclusive, fear plays with exclusivity.  People band together out of the need for safety or significance. Fear plays with our egos. It inflates the ego and gives one a sense of self importance. The self likes to feel special, unique and important, and constantly seeks recognition and validations from others. It is actually a subtle manifestation of the self’s sense of insecurity.

Greed is another form of fear. It arises from the fear of not having enough. It may begin with an almost innocent need for self preservation but it can very quickly grow out of control and turns itself into a huge black hole of covetousness, greed and lust that is impossible to satiate. It becomes an addiction.

We can see greed everywhere in today’s economies and politics. People in positions of power want to hold on to their power perpetually because from this power base, they can try to satisfy their greed, lusts and desires. Caught in this addiction, it is difficult for them to see themselves snared in a trap. This is also partly because our society today explicitly accepts greed as a motivator for success. It has become a “everyone-for-himself” society.

The irony is that religions, which profess and promote love and peace, have become fertile grounds for politicians and religious zealots to use fear as a tool for their personal agendas. This happens because most religions, for the most part, have themselves used fear to control their followers, casting their God as vindictive and punitive. Followers have been told to toe the line or face the wrath of their God. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before someone realized that the cowed and submissive flocks can easily be led and manipulated for their personal agenda.

Likewise, the Western free market is an economic concept that is supposed to deliver equal opportunity for all and therefore has the noble goal of making everyone who works hard grows in abundance. However, as it is based on greed as a motivator, it is also a matter of time before the monster grew too big to be contained. Thus, we see in our world today massive corruptions, cronyism and callous disregards for fair play.

Fear is Self-Destructive

The bottom line is that if the motivation is based on fear, it cannot be perpetually sustained as fear, manifested in the forms of hatred and greed, will grow too big to be contained and therefore collapses onto itself. It will self-destruct at some point, just like a cancer that spreads within the physical body will eventually kill the body that supports its existence.

Thus, fear is destructive for the individual, for those interacting with this fearful individual and for the society and world at large. Whether you believe in a God or an afterlife or not, the fact remains that fear is not something we want to feed since the more we feed it the bigger it grows and the more destructive it becomes.

Fear is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The word FEAR is often used as an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. It is in fact an apt description of fear. When one has fear in his or her heart, the mind will automatically seek out “evidence” to support this fear. Unfortunately, a fearful mind does not have the clarity of mind to be unbiased in its appraisal. Instead, it will accept even the flimsiest of “evidence” as fact to validate its own fear. This vicious cycle is what feeds the fear.

Whether it is a fear of lack or a fear of safety or a fear of insignificance, the very fear will go into a vicious cycle, feeding itself into a frenzy until it grows too big and uncontrollable, and eventually destroys itself. Thus, fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fear is a Mirror

Whatever fear one has within oneself, one projects it outward. This projection can be in the form of the person’s own body, another person, thing or event.

For example, a person who is fearful of sickness or death may unconsciously project this fear onto his body, seeing sickness in every sensation or change of the body. Even normal sensation or change is falsely interpreted as abnormal, thus causing more anxiety and worry to his mind. As the fear grows, it becomes uncontrollable and may lead to fear about all sorts of diseases afflicting the body. Very often, the paranoid patient seeks cure for his “ailments” from many different doctors and healers without any success, further fueling his fear.

The real cure is, of course, to confront and remove the fear of sickness or death, which is the underlying cause. However, this type of patients is very often not very insightful. He is unlikely to be aware of the underlying cause, and even when told about it, often refuses to believe or accept it. Without such awareness and acknowledgment, it is therefore quite difficult to initiate the proper cure, which is to confront and remove this very fear.

Likewise, fear can be projected into another person, thing or event with equally devastating results due to the self-fulfilling nature of fear. Thus, a person who is fearful of snake sees a snake in a coil of rope while another who is fearful of ghosts see ghosts in every dark corners and alleys.

Knowing that our fear is often projected outwardly gives us a great tool to be aware of and recognize our own fear.  We can use this to our advantage in managing our fear.

The Bigger the Ego, the Greater the Fear

Fear manifests itself in many forms. From the most subtle, such as a feeling of uneasiness to the grossest, such as uncontrollable hatred and violence, symptoms and signs of fear is seen in just about everywhere in our society today.

It is not difficult to recognize the symptoms and signs of fear. Any form of emotional or mental discomfort is a sign of fear. A sense of insecurity is a sign of fear. Frustration, anger, hatred and violence are all signs of fear. Greed, lusts, a habit of hoarding and the need for control are also fear in its various forms of manifestations.

Generally, the more extreme the manifestation, the greater is the fear. For example, when our personal safety is perceived to be threatened, we feel insecure and anxious. One example of this is when we hear that a neighbor’s house was broken into. However, when we are confronted face to face with the thief in the middle of the night in our own house, then we sense a real threat to our lives and our responses may be more violent. If we have strong hatred towards the thief, we would even be willing to hurt or kill him.

Likewise, the bigger the ego, the greater is the fear of insignificance. The problem here is a sense of self worth, which is proportionate to one’s self esteem. The more one feels insignificant, the greater is the need to be validated by others, and this is manifested in a behavior or habit of wanting to show off, which we see as having a big ego. One who is confident of his or her own self worth does not require external validation as much.

The Antidote for Fear

Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is exclusive while love is inclusive and all embracing. Fear is selfish while love is selfless. Fear leads to an increased in negative emotions while love leads to more positive emotions, joy and peace.

The antidote for fear is therefore one that takes us from a point of separation and incompleteness to oneness, and in the journey or process, we go beyond the fear and the self with total awareness and acceptance. This, in fact, spells out the characteristics of a true spiritual path, which are:

  1. LOVE – A reduction of fear and an increase of unconditional love
  2. INCLUSIVENESS – A reduction of exclusiveness and an increase of inclusiveness
  3. SELFLESSNESS – A reduction of selfishness and an increase of selflessness
  4. PEACE – A reduction of negative emotions and an increase of positive emotions, joy and peace in the heart
  5. OPEN – An increased in transparency and a decreased in secrecy

Using these criteria, we can know whether anyone who professes to be religious is truly practicing a true spiritual path or not. If he or she thinks, speaks and acts in such a way as to promote all of the above, he or she can be said to be walking a true spiritual path, regardless of the religion he or she follows. In fact, even an atheist can be spiritual in this way. Not only that, even a non-sentient entity such as a corporation can be spiritual in this sense.

It takes Courage to Face the Fear

To manage fear, one needs to be aware of its presence. Once we recognize it, we may choose to deal with it in the best possible way. This requires real courage on our part. Many people do not have the courage to face their fear, so they either consciously suppressed it or unconsciously repressed it.

Through repression, they have no conscious awareness of the existence of the fear in them. It is difficult for this group of people to even admit that they are fearful for they are honestly unaware of its existence.

Others may knowingly suppress their fear, and when confronted with it, either choose to ignore or deny its existence in them or find the courage to confront it.

It takes real courage to confront our own fear. The greater the fear in us, the greater is the sense of “dis-ease” we feel when we confront it. Thus, the greater the fear in us, the greater is the courage we need to face it.

This is why it is said that only the courageous will choose the true spiritual path.

Are you courageous enough for this path?

The Inner Journey from Fear to Love

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[Click here for a copy of From Fear to Love]

 

The true spiritual path is an inward journey. This journey takes you to some dark shadowy places within. It takes you to the pool of unresolved pains.

The inner journey begins with awareness or an acknowledgment of the existence of fear within us. This is followed by a decision to do something about it, to familiarize ourselves with it, to face it, to befriend it and to finally make peace with it. In this way, we take responsibility for our own fear.

The tools for this journey are mindfulness and letting go.

Mindfulness is an attitude and exercise of constant, non-judgmental self awareness directed at our thoughts, emotions and body, with the goal of attaining self knowledge and understanding.

Letting go is an attitude of non-judging, non-blaming and acceptance of things as they are.

Where there is Fear, there is a False Belief

Remember earlier we said that the acronym for FEAR is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This is true because when you explore the source of your fear, you will realize that it was based on a false belief. Fear is a delusion – an error in conception or thinking. It arises out of the self’s resistance to accepting things as they really are. Thus the correction of this delusional thinking automatically removes fear.

Understanding Fear makes us Free

Once we truly understood the root cause of our fear, and have learned the tools to observe and trace our thoughts to their roots, it becomes easier for us to simply let go. We know that going against reality is a hopeless situation and resisting what is only creates more fear for ourselves.

Thus, the logical and sensible choice is simply to let go of grasping to the wrong thought.

However, this process needs to be put into practice constantly until it becomes second nature to us. Only then can we let go easily. In the beginning, before we are familiar with the process, the going can be quite tough. It takes courage and honesty. It takes discipline and effort. The end result, however, is worth it. In fact, it is priceless. Was it not Thich Nhat Hanh who said that “Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy”.

Once you have become an expert with the process, you may wonder how you could have survived for so long without it.

Tools for Transforming Fear

I am aware that people with different temperaments, beliefs, characters and attitudes may benefit from different methods and tools for personal transformation. Thus I have here a few different tools that are extremely powerful in bringing transformation and insights.

1. The Work of Byron Katie

2. Why is this happening to me again? By Michael Ryce

3. The Release Technique of Lester Levenson

4. Ho’oponopono by Dr. Hew Len

The Work of Byron Katie

Byron Katie’s work leads us directly into identifying and recognizing the root cause of our fear, which is an erroneous thought, belief or idea that we cling on to and refuse to let go. She offers a structured method that guides us to do this and to look inward until we achieve insights.

You can follow this simple process using a worksheet that can be downloaded for free at her website at http://www.thework.com. The worksheet is called Judging Your Neighbor worksheet.

The same website also offers free short video clips on how she uses the same process with others as she guides them through their thoughts, self understanding and insights.

Why is this Happening to me Again?

Michael Ryce, who authored the book “Why is this Happening to me AGAIN?” offers a similar method of identifying and recognizing our erroneous thoughts. He also offers a worksheet to guide you through the process, albeit with slight variations from that of Byron Katie.

Michael says his work is about forgiveness. However, his definition of forgiveness is the letting go of erroneous thoughts. Coming from a Christian background, you may find a lot of Christian terminologies being used and referenced in his work. However, his definitions of the Christian terminologies may differ from norm.

You can download a free ebook copy of his book from his website at http://www.whyagain.com. His worksheet is also available for download there.

The Release Technique

For you to benefit from the work of Byron Katie and Michael Ryce, you need a certain degree of maturity in thinking as well as the honesty and courage to see things as they truly are. Such criteria may not fit everyone.

The Release Technique introduced by Lester Levenson, on the other hand, does not require the above criteria.

All you need to benefit from this technique is the ability to recognize and accept your negative emotions, and then let them go. There is no need to identify your erroneous thoughts or beliefs. For some, this process is easier to do and is needed to remove the resistance and blocks to their spiritual progress.

Lester was a physicist who was suffering from an incurable heart disease and was sent home from the hospital to die. Instead, he stumbled upon this method to release all his negative emotions and eventually not only healed himself but lived on for many years to share his technique with others.

Lester’s work is now being packaged and called “The Sedona Method” by Hale Dwoskin and “The Release Technique” by Lawrence Crane, two of his earliest students. Unfortunately, the courses are expensive and beyond the reach of many.

However, the technique itself is very simple to learn and practice. Here are the steps:

1. Tilt head downward as in prayer

2. Choose an unresolved issue and focus on it

3. Feel the negative emotion that arise in the heart or stomach areas, recognize the emotion and acknowledge it

4. Ask yourself 3 questions:

a. Could I let it go?

b. Would I let it go?

c. When?

5. Once you have decided to let it go, visualize the release of the emotion. There are many ways to do this. One simple way is to visualize the negative emotion as pouring out of a hole in your heart (like oil sprouting out) until it clears completely

6. Feel the light feeling that accompanies the release

7. Repeat 1 to 6, doing it repeatedly like pulling out pieces of tissue from a tissue box until it is empty.

Ho’oponopono

Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian system of healing that was popularized by Dr. Hew Len and Joe Vitale in their book “Zero Limits”.

This method also does not require you to identify your erroneous thoughts but simply accept that all negative feelings and experiences that you encounter in your life arise from erroneous thoughts.

Like the Release Technique, you then simply let go of your thoughts without having to identify them specifically. This is done using four simple phrases:

1. I am sorry

2. Please forgive me

3. Thank you

4. I love you

You can learn more about this technique by reading their book “Zero Limits”.

Meditation

In my own practice, I have found meditation to be an essential tool in personal transformation. Meditation, done regularly, makes us become more aware of ourselves – our thoughts, feelings and body – how they change, arise and pass away.

With the heightened sense of self awareness, it becomes easier to use all the other tools mentioned earlier. Therefore, if you are not meditating, I suggest that you get yourself a good meditation teacher and start meditating now. If you are already meditating, continue to do so regularly.

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