Don’t Let Fear Rule You

By Rudra Shivananda

pexels-photo-568027.jpegEveryone thinks they know all about fear but few ever think about it, trying to avoid it as much as possible. The fact is that this emotion is so basic that it is almost impossible to become free from it. Fear arises from the instinct of self-preservation which was very important in the early days of humanity. We needed to react to mortal threats with the flight or fight program in those primitive times. However, we are still under the same programming without the same stimuli – there are no saber-tooth tigers hunting us these days.  The fear of death is one of the most enduring one that a human possesses.

It is the lesser variations of fear which dominate in modern times – stress and tension. Fear comes and goes – if you see someone point a gun at you, fear may grip your heart but when he puts the gun away, fear is relieved. However, stress is like background music, it is always there. We have little means to release stress because we are not even aware that it is there because we have become used to it. Paradoxically, only when one has attained complete relaxation does one recognize the encroachment of stress.

We do not require an immediate threat to feel some mode of fear because we have evolved beyond animal consciousness to human consciousness. The blessings of imagination and thinking ahead, which animals do not possess to any degree have the double-edged consequence of causing stress.  When a person thinks about the consequence of his action or inaction, such as being late for work or an important meeting, stress is increased. If you imagine yourself losing your job, more stress will spoil your life, but is it an immanent danger that requires such a reaction? We are doing it from habit and cannot stop.

We have been programmed from infancy to react with fear to certain stimuli. It is the punishment and reward system in the family, school, work and society that habituates us to fear the results of failure (however that is defined.)  Even when success is achieved in a certain activity, the process has set up so much stress already that we cannot even enjoy the relief.

Tragically, there is even a fear of the unknown. It creates another level of stress that adds to the fear of death.  Imagine a stress cake with many layers – the bottom layer is the fear of death and then additional layers are piled on based on our situation.

There is such an emotional perversion that we seek out “harmless” situations that can excite our imagination with horror and fear. Have we ever wondered why so many people actually go and watch horror movies so that they can get scared? The reason that fear and stress can become so habitual is because there is an adrenaline rush when we get scared – remember the flight or fight instinct that we have from our evolutionary past.

I would recommend that you contemplate the various kinds of fears and how they arise. Meditate on how stress is affecting your life and what it would feel like if you were totally relaxed and unaffected by fears.

Examine your life-style and mark down those activities that are contributing to your stress level. It might be a good idea to change or even omit these activities in the future. Don’t think that we can’t change things – make the effort now.

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