I got my hands on the October 2010 issue of a Hindi magazine called Yes Osho. An article on fear caught my eye. The author talks about two types of fear.
First, there is the physiological or physical fear. This is as much present in animals as in humans. This fear is a built in defense mechanism to keep us safe from danger. If you are about to fall off a cliff, you jump away to safety. Usually, action in times of physical fear does not require thought. You are totally present in that moment. Its only later that you analyse it and think what a dangerous situation it was, that you could have died.
Then there is the psychological or mental fear unique to us humans. A father sees that a lot of people don’t get jobs these days. His son is interested in studying literature. The father fears his son will not get a job easily. He may try to force his son into taking up a course that he believes will get him a job. This is mental fear. Joblessness for the kid has not occurred yet. There are probably years to come before the kid will look for a job. But the fear is there, created by the father’s thoughts.
Mental fears are created out of our past experiences that we project on to our future. The mind is not able to distinguish between real and imaginary danger. The physical response of the body is the same, we sweat, our breath runs heavy, our throat turn dry and we tighten our abdomen.
Most human fears fall in the second category. While the physical fears keep us safe and away from real, imminent danger, mental fears, most of the time, serve no purpose. They keep us stressed for prolonged periods. Over a period, they turn into belief systems that we don’t even notice anymore. We start treating them as reality. With these beliefs, born out of our mental fears, we would have created a cage for ourselves within which we operate. We have certain self-created laws that govern our lives. These laws prevent us from expanding in life and achieving what we are capable of.
When you try to analyze the cause of your fears, you ego will always point away from itself, from yourself. It always points at the object of your fear. In reality, fear is always created as a result of our own thought.
There are collective fears also, unique to nations or unique to a particular social segment. There are a lot of our fears that we receive as part of our traditions.
How to handle fear
Just observe your fear. Observe it with detachment – its physical manifestation and emotional manifestation. When you observe it, you slowly start seeing the thought that is causing it. Also, the funny thing about fear is, when you start focusing on it, it melts away.
To be able to observe fear, you need to have a very calm, egoless mind. A regular practice of meditation helps a lot in looking within at your own fears.
Ask your self why you fear something. Try to look at the object of your fear with love. In the beginning there might be revulsion. A lot of people don’t think about, don’t analyze their fears because it gives them a bad feeling. This constant suppressing, constant ignoring your fear makes it grow stronger in your subconscious. Rejecting our fear is ignorance. The fear is caused by our own thoughts and by rejecting it, we are turning our eyes away from a part of our own self.
Try to get your thought in control. Remember, if you can control your thought, you can control your fear.
A lot of people try to hide their fears by acting bold. They puff up their chest, stiffen up their arms. They spend a lot of their energy in trying to curb their fear. Instead of suppressing fear, spend your energy in experiencing it, observing it totally. Experiencing fear totally is important to understand and define it exactly.
There are two things you can do about a fear –
1. Study the object of your fear. Understand how it works. If you are afraid of getting on escalators, read about them. How does it operate, what are the risks and possible bad scenarios, how often are there accidents on escalators etc
2. Face your fear. Once you understand that the object of your fear poses no real danger, go ahead and face it, get closer to it. For your fear of escalators, you might have to find a friend who is comfortable with them and find a, not so used escalator. You will actually have to get on it a few times. The knowledge you already gathered in the previous step will help you overcome your fear. Courage is still required. Put it in. You are much more capable then you think you are.