By Anita Anand
Fear is one of the primary emotions we face. some of it is healthy, but most of it is unhealthy and a source of tremendous suffering. here’s how to deal with it
“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here”. – Marianne Williamson
“The components of anxiety, stress, fear, and anger do not exist independently of you in the world. They simply do not exist in the physical world, even though we talk about them as if they do”. -Wayne Dyer
A few years ago, 18-year-old Vanessa came to see me. She said she was afraid of flying, heights, elevators, escalators, roller coasters and water slides. She was terrified of planes. When someone close to her was flying, she was a mess. Her mother traveled extensively for work, and every time she had to fly, Vanessa was scared. How did this fear manifest itself, I asked her. Her overwhelming feeling was of losing control, panic, and the feeling that she couldn’t breathe.
Upon getting to know her life story, I learned that the first time Vanessa experienced this fear was when her mother took her and her younger sister from an African country to Asia. The marriage was over, and her father, an African, stayed behind. Vanessa was 10 years old. Further into the conversation, she expressed anger and animosity towards both parents, and at the life changes she had to make. Now, she was ready to go to college, and wanted to take care of these issues, especially her fears.
I suggested that Vanessa take the Bach flower remedy, Mimulus, and did a past-life session under hypnosis. She saw a plane come down in a remote village in a jungle, and her mother (in her current life) burned to death. She, and a child belonging to the village, watched in frustration and fear as others died, also witnessing the funeral procession and burials of the dead from the plane accident. Her mother in this lifetime was one of them.
Vanessa was angry at her father, and felt abandoned by him. She refused, at first, to send him love and forgiveness, or to discuss him in more detail. Her parents’ separation and troublesome relationship had made her against marriage, she said. Her relationships with men were not good – she felt they would not accept her as she was, and she had issues with trust. In determining a line of therapy for Vanessa, I understood that, first and foremost, she had to make peace with her father. It took a while, but eventually she came around.
Fear and The Chakras
In energy healing, the issues that Vanessa and many like her have to deal with are related directly to the various chakras, or centers of energy in our body. Caroline Myss, a spiritual and intuitive healer, spells out the power in each of the seven main chakras, and corresponding fears that exist in each of them.
For example, in the first or base chakra, the primary fears are of physical survival, abandonment by the group, and loss of physical order.
In the second or sacral chakra, the primary fears are loss of control, or being controlled by another, through the dominating power of events or conditions such as addiction, rape, betrayal, impotence, financial loss, abandonment by our primary partner or professional colleagues; and fear of the loss of power of our physical body. Here lies the power of choice, and managing this, with all its creative and spiritual implications, is the essence of human experience, says Myss. Almost all spiritual teachings are directed towards inspiring us to recognize that the power to make choices is the dynamic that converts our spirits into matter, our words into flesh. Choice indeed is the process of creation itself.
“Power is of two kinds. One is obtained by the fear of punishment, and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is a thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear of punishment.” -Mohandas Gandhi
“The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free”. -Oprah Winfrey
The third or solar plexus chakra harbours the fears of rejection, criticism, looking foolish, and failing to meet one’s responsibilities; all fears related to physical appearance – fear of obesity, baldness, aging; fears that others will discover our secrets.
“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.” -Paulo Coelho
The fourth or heart chakra’s primary fears are loneliness, commitment, and ‘following one’s heart’; fear of inability to protect one emotionally; fear of emotional weakness and betrayal. Loss of fourth chakra energy can give rise to jealousy, bitterness, anger, hatred, and an inability to forgive others as well as oneself.
The fifth or the throat chakra is the willpower chakra. Fears related to willpower exist within each chakra appropriate to that chakra.
The sixth chakra or the third eye is the chakra of wisdom. The primary fears are an unwillingness to look within and excavate one’s fears; fear of truth when one’s reason is clouded; fear of sound, realistic judgment; fear of relying on external counsel, of discipline; fear of one’s shadow.
The seventh chakra is the connection to our spiritual nature, and our capacity to allow our spirituality to become an integral part of our physical lives and guide us. The primary fears are relating to spiritual issues such as the ‘dark night of the soul’; fears of spiritual abandonment, loss of identity, and loss of connection with life and people around us.
“Do the thing we fear, and death of fear is certain”. -Ralph Waldo Emerson
The most costly energy consequences, says Myss, comes from acting out of fear. When choices are made on the basis of fear, it does lead us to where we want to be, but produces harmful side- effects, which may sometimes come as a surprise. These surprises suggest that choices based on fear transgress our trust in Divine wisdom. We like to think that we are in charge of our lives, and the choices we make for ourselves. Yet, the idea that consciousness requires surrendering personal will to the Divine, stands in direct conflict with all that we have come to consider the measure of an empowered person.
Our choices are reflected in relationships – and the conflicts that arise out of them. Relationships generate conflicts, conflicts generate choice, choice generates movement, and movement generates more conflict. We can break free of this cycle by making choices that transcend dualism, and the perceived division between ourselves and others, and between ourselves and God. If we focus on controlling the other person, and forget that the person is a mirror reflecting back our own qualities, we keep conflict alive within ourselves. Seeing others and ourselves in symbolic unions, however, helps us accommodate differences.
The Nature of Fear
What exactly is fear? Fear is an unpleasant and often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger. In some ways, fear is completely natural, and helps people to recognize and respond to dangerous situations and threats. However, healthy fear – or fear which has a protective function – can evolve into unhealthy, or pathological fear, which can lead to exaggerated and violent behavior. Newborn babies have only two fears – of loud noises and falling. These are normal, are a kind of alarm system given by nature as a means of self-preservation. And normal fear is good. You hear or see a car coming down the road in front of you, and you move aside to avoid it. The momentary fear of being run over is overcome by your action. All other fears are abnormal, caused by particular experiences, or passed on by parents, relatives, caretakers, teachers and others who influence us as we grow up.
Dr. Ivan Kos (Head of Radiological Laboratory at Institute of Hygiene and Medical Ecology, Academy of Medical Science of Ukraine, Ukraine) lays out several different stages of fear. The first is real fear, or fear based on a real situation. If someone or something hurts you, you have a reason to fear it in the future. Second is realistic or possible fear. This is fear based in reality that causes a person to avoid a threat in the first place (i.e. waiting to cross a busy road for safety reasons). Next, exaggerated or emotional fear deals with an individual “recalling past fears or occurrences and injecting them into a current situation.” This type of fear is particularly relevant to conflict. Emotional fear affects the way people handle conflict situations. Conflict could be within oneself, between two people, and between groups.
Almost every client who comes to see me for therapy is afraid or has experienced fear. For many, the issues are based in fear. There are 35-year-olds who sleep in their parents’ room; fifty-year-olds who need a light in the bedroom, and when their spouse is traveling, need someone to sleep in the room. Some are afraid of contracting deadly diseases; others afraid their spouses will leave them. Young people are afraid that they will fail, and not make it. Young women are afraid of marriage and motherhood, anxious about their new roles as wives and daughters-in-law. Young men, early in their professions, fear not making it up the ladder and being left behind in salary and status. Children as young as six are withdrawn and sick as they fear they cannot live up to their parents’ expectations. Often, this leads to anxiety and complications. Extreme anxiety then requires medication and regular psychotherapy.
Dealing with Fear
Dr Kos suggests several ways of approaching fear in the context of conflict. However, since fear is such a personal issue, most approaches focus on the individual. There are various ways to deal with your own fear, including
• becoming aware of it
• identifying the ways you express fear
• recognizing the situations which trigger fear, and
• using behavioral techniques to reduce fear and stress.
In order to overcome fear, individuals and groups must first come to terms with their own fears, and understand just how destructive they can be. However, it is equally important to be aware of others’ fears, as it allows you to deal with it appropriately. One of the most effective ways of handling the fear of others is through empathy, or seeing things from the other person’s perspective. Once one does that, one can recognize actions of one’s own that might be unnecessarily causing fear on the other side. By toning down one’s language, or clarifying one’s interests and needs, it is possible to dispel unwarranted fears, thereby helping the other side feel more secure. Empathy is also important in any attempt at reconciliation or mediation because it helps to foster a positive interaction between people. It is also important to share your own fears so that others can empathize with you in return, and alter their behavior in ways that will lessen that fear as well.
I remember a rather remarkable story from my youth. Growing up in a remote area in West Bengal in the 1950s, dacoits and robbers were common. Friends of my parents narrate a story of their relatives whose house was broken into by a gang of armed thieves in the middle of the night. The homeowner, startled, kept his presence of mind, inviting them to make themselves comfortable, waking his wife to make tea and organize snacks. He sat and chatted with them as if they were regular houseguests. He brought out his arms and ammunition from another room and began a discussion on this. The robbers were so overwhelmed, that after the tea and snacks, they beat a hasty retreat, after touching the feet of the owner! This is a good example of getting in touch with one’s fear, and being able to empathize with the fear of others, and handling the situation with imagination and nerve.
In my practice, I use the subconscious mind to deal with all fears – as it is very amenable to suggestion. When the mind is relaxed, the thoughts of the conscious mind sink into the subconscious and there is serenity and calm. The central goal of the therapy is to work with the mind and make the client see that the fear is the thought in the mind. Additionally, the client is made to work with the fear, so that it is neutralized and they realize that it is only in the mind.
For example, a small child can be paralyzed by fear when a friend suggests there is a monster under the bed that will grab them in the night. When the parent turns on the light and shows the child there is no monster, the child is freed from fear. In the same way, most fears have no reality. They are like shadows, which are not real.
The technique of having a dialogue with the self to overcome fear is important. From this, befriending the fear, speaking to it, owning it, and finally convincing it to leave the self, is a powerful and highly effective technique. Done under the supervision of a therapist, under hypnosis, the messaging to the subconscious mind is powerful, followed by exercises to embed the messages.
Writing and speaking about the fear also make it easier to deal with it. It’s a technique by itself to be in touch with oneself and move forward. The American writer, Joan Didion, says, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
Vanessa today flies without major fear. She has completed college, and has chosen to travel to and looking for work in the Ivory Coast. She moved into her father’s house, and began painting her room. It’s not been easy for her. Living in Africa is a major adjustment, as is being in close proximity to her father, who she was away from for a long time. But, in making these choices, Vanessa has chosen to deal with what she chose to turn away from. It’s the beginning of a new beginning – facing her fears.
“We need to teach the next generation of children from day one that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind’s greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.” -Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
‘Befriending the fear, speaking to it, owning it, and finally convincing it to leave the self, is a powerful and highly effective technique.’
Anita Anand is a Delhi-based hypnotherapist and crystal healer. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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