By Life Positive July 2002 Fear, self-hatred and loneliness are fuelled by our mind and cause most of our miseries. The same mind, when made aware, can cure all these maladies, leading to self-mastery. An extract from Phil Nuernberger’s book The Quest for Personal Power (Full Circle) There are three destructive conditions of the mind: fear, self-hatred and loneliness. They are like fire-breathing dragons that usurp the creative force of the mind and corrupt our resources, creating disease, unhappiness, and suffering. They seem to be so powerful that we feel helpless before them. We don’t realize that we ourselves are the source of their power, and that we can take it away from them. Fear: a lack of self-mastery The most dramatic consequence of self-mastery is the ability to live without fear. Fear, the most destructive of the three dragons, is the cause of much of our suffering and stress. While we may be familiar with fear, we often don’t realize just how pervasive this monster is. Much of our anger and resentments are rooted in fear. Greed most often begins with the fear of not having enough or of not being important. Then when we accumulate wealth, we become obsessed with protecting what we have. Fear drives us to acquire political and military power, feeling that if we can dominate, we will be secure. But this kind of power can become perverse and feed our insecurities. The more powerful we become, the more we worry about someone else becoming powerful. The Cold War between America and the Soviet Union was a classic example of how fear drives entire cultures: so much power and intellect dedicated to servicing both individual and national egos leading only to an unending sense of insecurity, of not having enough, of not being ‘the best’. There are many faces of fear but the most terrible is violence. Whether it is the homelessness and street violence in American cities, the horrors of conflict in Bosnia and Rwanda, sectarian violence in India or Ireland, or political murders in Haiti, all have their roots in fear. Terrorists operate in a culture of fear, intentionally using it to gain power and control. Many of our fears are less dramatic, but not the less destructive. Some people spend their entire lives fearful that they will not meet someone else’s standards. Even gossip has its roots in fear. If we can make others look small, and by so doing make ourselves look better, we compensate for the fear of being unimportant. Religions, government, and communities use fear to control others, and parents use fear to control their children. We usually don’t like to think of ourselves as being fearful. We use softer words, such as ‘worried’ and ‘anxious’, which seem a little more acceptable. But worry is a form of fear, and being anxious is how we feel when we succumb to fear. Since we do it often, we get pretty good at it. Most of us become so skilled at worrying that it becomes part of our lives. And yet the only thing we accomplish by worrying is misery for ourselves and others. What would life be like for you if you lost all your fear? What if you didn’t worry about what might happen to this or that, or you weren’t afraid of what others might think of you, or you didn’t have to worry about losing your job or paying your bills? Most of us think that if we were only richer, prettier, stronger, better-looking, more charming, safer, taller, slimmer-or if we had a better job, newer car, bigger house, more friends, better-looking lovers, more respect (the adjectives are almost endless)-then we wouldn’t worry, and we would be happy. Worry and fear aren’t created by a lack of things, they are created by how we think. If you have the habit of worrying, it doesn’t matter who you are, what you have, or what you do, you will worry because that is the habit of your mind. This useless habit is one of the biggest causes of disease and unhappiness. And yet it has become so much a part of our lives that we even think that a little fear is helpful, and that fear is a natural part of being human. There are people who live life without being afraid. They realize that fear is not a natural part of their being, but rather a product of the mind, a fantasy that grips and destroys, but a fantasy nonetheless. Through knowledge and practice, they conquer the mind’s habit of creating fear. This is one of the first goals of Tantra Yoga, as well as the martial arts. Tantra Yoga masters are called ‘Masters’ because they have mastered their own minds and have conquered their fear. The same is true of the samurai, the great sword and martial arts masters of Japan, or the great Taoist Masters of China. You can do the same. You can live life without the petty fears and worries that dog us from day to day, and without the great fears that every so often rattle our cages. Even the most desperate of situations can be faced without fear. As a young man, my Master often walked through the mountains of northern India. The mountains were, and still are, rugged, forested, and untamed. Once, while crossing a very narrow footbridge across a deep ravine, a tiger started crossing the same bridge from the other side. The bridge was so small that only one creature could pass at a time. My Master knew that if he retreated, the tiger would attack. Instead, he raised his arms and rushed toward the tiger, giving a powerful shout. The tiger immediately backed off the bridge, turned tail and ran. Through self-mastery, you mobilize your powerful innate drive for self-preservation and create both the energy and the focus to find a solution to any problem. But once you allow fear to paralyze the mind, you lose your ability to make choices and become locked into reaction. The greater our self-mastery, the greater our ability to face any situation without fear and to live our lives without worry. Self-hatred: the other side of misery At times it seems that we are masters of creating misery. When we aren’t worrying about whether or not something awful is going to happen to us, we remember all the hurts, mistakes, and failures in our past. In other words, when we aren’t preoccupied with someone or something attacking us, we turn around and attack ourselves. We seldom live up to expectations, we are never quite good enough no matter how good we get, and we keep making the same old mistakes. We suffer from guilt, continually find fault with ourselves, condemn ourselves for not living up to our own or someone else’s expectations. These are all part of the dragon of self-hatred. After so many failures, mistakes, and broken dreams we begin to give up on ourselves and on life. Some of us become depressed, withdrawn, and passive, accepting whatever life gives as a cruel joke that we must endure. Others, angry with themselves, become angry at the world. They become cranky and hostile, taking out their own misery on others. Like fear, self-hatred is a habit of the mind, an arbitrary way of looking at life and at oneself that leads only to further mistakes, poor performance, and unhappiness. When someone else attacks you, at least you have the opportunity to conquer your adversary by mobilizing the body’s defenses. But when you attack yourself, there is no outcome but defeat. You cannot win in a battle against yourself; you only create conflict and suffering. Instead of mobilizing your body’s systems to defend yourself, you become depressed, passive and withdrawn. Attacking ourselves is only a habit of the mind, a consequence of the way we learned to see ourselves as we grew up. We can always find many reasons to punish ourselves for the mistakes we make and the expectations we fail to realize. Like fear, the dragon of self-hatred feeds on our lack of self-awareness and skill. We strengthen the dragon by constantly reminding ourselves of our weaknesses and mistakes. But as long as we continue to feed this dragon of self-hatred by paying attention to it, it continues to breathe fire and create misery for us. The secret is to stop feeding the dragon by experiencing your own inner strength and beauty. You can’t create self-esteem by constantly telling yourself that you are a wonderful person. Self-esteem and self-respect grow out of the experience of committed effort. Whether or not you succeed is not as important to your self-respect as when you know that you tried your best. And if you continue to make the effort, if you continue to work with your resources, you will eventually succeed. Self-mastery arises out of effort, the underpinning of success. The tantrics have long known that depression and apathy damage the immune system and lead to serious disease. They also know that when you give up on yourself and become a victim, you deny yourself the power to grow and change. You stay stuck in your own ignorance. That’s why the tantrics believe that the only true sin is sloth, the unwillingness to make an effort. Mistakes are seen as a necessary part of learning, not reasons for punishment. But without effort, personal power remains undeveloped and unused, and the outcome is self-hatred. Loneliness: in ignorance of spirit The third dragon is loneliness, the most subtle of all the dragons. It is the most difficult to defeat in part because it hides in our misunderstanding of its nature. Most of us think of loneliness as being apart from loved ones, having no one with whom to share our feelings, hopes, and dreams, our fears and concerns, and our experiences. The more unable we are to communicate our inner thoughts and feelings, the lonelier we feel. To solve this problem, we gather loved ones, build friendships, even join clubs and organizations. We think that if we have friends and family, people around us who love and care for us, we will never be lonely. But it doesn&rs
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