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August 29, 2017

How to Use Fear as a Catalyst for Growth.

Fear is a natural part of the human experience. 

It touches the core of what it means to be human—and from the same source comes passion, love, and many other beautiful experiences. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with fear, or any emotion for that matter. The difficulty and trouble come when we fail to consciously acknowledge these emotions, and instead react unconsciously out of them. At such times, we are ruled by our fears, by our desires, and there is a higher likelihood of creating greater suffering—that of ourselves and of others. 

When fear arises, there often arises simultaneously with it a desire to try to control our experience, to try to prevent something perceived as bad, and strive for something perceived as good. The drive to have control can shut down our ability to experience life for what it is and diminish our capacity for experiential awareness. If, on the other hand, we can learn to be patient with our fear, it can bring us some of the greatest teachings about ourselves, relationships, and humanity. 

When fear arises, if we are aware of it and can acknowledge it, the next step is to pause. To try to not immediately react from a place of fear, but to create space for it to be just as it is. To allow the experience of fear to be held and experienced in the body. To feel where it creates tension and constriction, to feel the urge to act. The more we allow ourselves to sit with the experience itself, without repressing it or projecting it outward, the more we grow in our capacity to experience all emotions and sensations more fully—to experience life as a whole. 

Additionally, the more we are able to sit with fear (or any emotion), the more we are able to heal it, to see down to its roots and where it comes from, and to allow it to dissolve within ourselves. Many of our fears come from our history, our traumas, and our biology, and are often conditioned by our experience and our historical physiology. Fundamentally, however, almost all fears originate from a fear of death, of suffering, of the unknown, and of not being loved. 

The cure to these fears is to come to an experiential knowledge and awareness that we are so much more than these limited, individuated beings. We are always, inherently, connected to something beyond ourselves; the appearance of being separate is merely an illusion, a temporary, impermanent state of being that belies our actual state. 

The feeling of being separate is not our truth, and it is not our true state of being…we simply forget. While there are practices such as yoga, meditation, chanting, prayer, and so forth that can help us to experientially remember our true, underlying state of interconnectedness, it is not always easy. Often, the first step is one of faith—of having faith that we are more than limited, individuated beings, and then finding the patience to persevere and uncover our natural state. 

Fear creates tension in the body. As we become aware of our internal emotions, it is of the utmost importance to learn to soften around our experience, to soften around our emotions. To allow them to be just as they are, without bracing against them, to soften and create space, and to experience them for what they are. 

As one allows oneself to experience the emotion just as it is, it will change, and it will fundamentally transform us as individuals. Emotions are directly and intimately related to the ability to experience relationship to others and the world around oneself and develop out of our core motive force, passion, humanity, and love. 

Some techniques that can help in this process of softening around our experiences are to soften the gaze, move the awareness into the back body, and utilize abdominal breathing. Together, these techniques help to move one out of the sympathetic nervous system (which is triggered by fear), and back into the parasympathetic nervous system where we can be fully present with our experience as it is. 

As we soften, the energy moves more freely through the body, and as it does, the emotions become more fluid, less concretized, and able to shift and change. It is one of the great ironies of human experience that the more we fight against something, the more power we give to it, and the more deeply embedded it becomes. Opposition creates tension, and tension creates stagnation and stasis.

Non-acceptance of self, as well as non-acceptance of other, creates tension in the body and will tend to increase fear, stress, and ultimately, diseased states of being. Acceptance and love release tension, and stimulate the free flow of energy. For this reason, it is necessary to soften and release the tension of fear, and to fully accept ourselves as we are, in all of our states of being. 

As we learn to sit with our fear, it has the ability to help us to grow exponentially as individuals. We have the opportunity to gain integrity and wisdom, as well as our ability to hold space for others’ suffering, and thus to deepen our own humanity. It is often the giving in to fear that leads to a lack of integrity, for actions and words that originate in a reaction to fear can culminate in us not taking responsibility for ourselves and not being trustworthy.

Ultimately, when we speak or act out of fear, it is fundamentally coming from a self-centered place—we are more concerned about protecting our own sense of safety, well-being, and sense of being loved and cared for than we are concerned with seeing things as they are from a more transcendent perspective. 

We are living in times of great uncertainty and instability—politically, socially, environmentally—and it is natural to have fear arise. If we allow our fears to guide our actions, however, this will only make it more likely that our fears will come true. We need to cultivate patience and trust, and persevere on a path that strives to take into account all perspectives, sides, and viewpoints, for this is the only way out of the trap of dualities we are currently stuck in at a cultural or even global level. 

It is all too easy to judge others for their words, actions, or desires, while assuming that our own perspective and values are more worthwhile or correct. An important part of allowing space for fear without reacting to it is to cultivate humility—to acknowledge that we may not be right, that we may not know. Humility tempers the ego and allows for a greater capacity to see all sides of a situation or dialogue without needing to become imprisoned by our opinions and biases. 

After all, it can reasonably be argued that we have gotten to this crisis point in our society due to people trying to control others and the world around them, which ultimately stems from fear. Therefore, we cannot use the same methods that got us into this situation in order to get us out. After all, as the saying goes: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

It is therefore of the utmost importance that all of us take time to get to know ourselves on deeper levels—to investigate where the motivation comes from when we have the urge to act or speak or try to change the world or others in some way. If we can start by developing patience and cultivating space when desire arises, we then have the ability to see where these motivations and intentions arise from. If they are arising from fear and a desire to control circumstances to assuage our fear, then in all likelihood, they will not truly benefit ourselves or others.

With practice, over time, it becomes easier and easier to know ourselves and see where our motivations are coming from. Any motivation rooted in fear will not be ultimately effective; only motivations deriving from a pure intention will ultimately be worthwhile in the long run. 

And, it is through being patient with our fears that we can cultivate greater and greater purity of intent.

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Relephant Reads:

How We Can Free Ourselves from Fear.

2 Steps to Overcoming our Deepest Fears.

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Author: Thomas Richardson
Image: Unsplash/Brian Mann
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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