Have you ever considered your fears in life? Physical and psychological fears are often rooted in a lack of security. Physical security may be established through basic food and shelter, but psychologically, our fears continue to shape our experiences until we look at the root cause. Let’s study this universal experience through a mindful approach.
“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”
There are many fears: The fear of judgement (from people or God), of loneliness, poverty, heights, loss, and death. There are millions of different fears, and many of us are working through our own personal fear now, at this moment. Sometimes when fears arise, you can receive help with the assistance of a psychotherapist, psychiatrist, or another healthcare professional. This often becomes a cyclical pattern, however, that deals with one branch of fear at a time without looking at the whole structure of fear itself. Fear can be said to begin from a deep need for psychological security—a feeling of comfort found through a steadiness in life that most people desire.
Throughout history, we have looked for psychological security to overcome fear. This has led to the creation of ideologies like politics, religion, economy, education, professions, family, etc. If we look at any one of these ideologies, we can see that although our minds have been trained to “believe” there is security in them, it’s not intrinsically there. Let’s look first at family. One may believe there is security in a relationship with a husband or wife, but at any moment, that security may be lost to illness, divorce, or death. A child may feel secure with a parent, but is then left alone by being pushed out by a loved one, or they may venture out on their own. These kinds of scenarios will bring some level of fear to the child. Therefore, the familial home may not actually be a place of everlasting security.
We can look at the ideology of a particular political group and see that at any time, the group may not deliver on promises made to a community or nation—security here, too, is fragile. In education, after acquiring the credentials needed for a particular job or career, continuing education may be needed to practice in a new city or country, or you may need to adapt to new life situations due to the loss of a job, moving, illness, politics, etc. This does not bring psychological security either. At this point, you may seek security through new training or a new workplace, but this new search or work also brings fear.
Sometimes, people seek psychological security through the ideology of a religion, a guru, or a spiritual leader. Over time, they might find that such a leader or role model changes, or a person no longer enjoys the teachings of a new minister at a familiar church or the new administration behind it. In such cases, you may look for a new church, temple, mosque, or leader to find psychological security as you work through personal fears. The same experience is often felt through working with one’s healthcare team. The team is appreciated when all is going well, but when personal health or the team itself changes, you may look for a new provider. This also brings fear and often resentment, anxiety, and frustration.
Understanding And Awareness
These examples of ideologies we look to for psychological security each show that they are temporary, which inevitably breeds fear. Our entire world experience is temporary, and fear can grow because we’re conditioned to believe that security can be found in short-term experiences. But there is no security in fleeting things.
Just like fear, a happy moment or anger is also temporary. Any one of these emotions can further feed fear. For example, if someone is very happy living in a particular home, they will likely fear any damage or loss to it. Eventually, they will look for a new home due to changing needs, then fear that change. Usually, people are encouraged to overcome their fears; they may seek out a parent for help, a teacher or leader, or a healthcare professional, but rarely can these helpers treat the root cause of the fear.
Physical pain also connects with psychological fears. If a person had excruciating pain yesterday, but the pain is gone today, the mind will fear experiencing that pain again. The memory of the past filters through the present, projecting this fear into the future. Thus, even without the pain, people will carry the fear.
Thought and time can sabotage us; both can intensify fears and move a person out of the present moment. If there’s no fear currently, thought and/or time can bring it about. When there is fear requiring immediate action, it doesn’t need conscious thought or time to express itself It’s just suddenly there. For example, avoiding being hit by a car or getting up after a sudden fall are instinctual reactions. But after an incident like this, your mind (thought) will wonder, “What just happened?” and fear arises along with it. Suddenly, all sorts of muscles in the body feel tighter, and the thought furthers your discomfort with the fear that you may be injured.
Today, most people in North America also understand that if they do not report an accident or injury right away, they may not receive any insurance coverage, so quick action is taken to make phone calls and appointments for even unnoticeable damage. This fear of perhaps not being able to do something in the future shapes a person’s actions. Often, these fears are also tied closely with family dynamics, where a family member may be harsher on a person who has been in a previous car accident, for instance. Similarly, a person who has expressed physical pain yesterday may not be treated with the same compassion when expressing it today. Because of this, many avoid sharing such experiences at all with family. Most people are not consciously aware they are participating in this practice and treating others this way. The remedy? Awareness.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
Do not allow the mind to conjure up endless scenarios of possibilities that do not exist. Anyone would feel shaken from a close call with a car accident or a sudden fall. Thinking about the experience only allows fear to settle into the mind. An awareness of the fear, and the passing of it, allows us to experience only the present moment and a sense of safety, peace, and ease. A mindful attention to these details will bring more of these feelings to the mind, and then to the body.
We can learn to be mindfully attentive to our fears, grief, and frustration. Let them pass by as transient, fleeting moments. This awareness can then create new and healthier neural pathways in our minds and through our actions, we can then shape our experiences lovingly and peacefully. Let us all allow peace to be our guide. Try this regularly to shape new healing in yourself.