Monday, January 28, 2008

Fearful or Fearless?

You need only watch the evening news to see how fear driven humanity has become. So much of what the media presents displays and exacerbates our fears that we have to wonder, how much of our daily individual experience includes fear? Do we need fear? Can we live without it?

Many of the world's finest minds have chimed in about fear. Heidegger brought these fears to the center of his existential philosophy. He argued that the basic anxiety of [humanity] is anxiety about being-in-the-world, as well as anxiety of being-in-the-world. That is, both fear of death and fear of life, of experience and individuation. Marcus Aurelius thought that if you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. President Roosevelt taught us that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. The Buddhists think that mindful meditation relieves us of our fears.

Some consider fear to be paradoxical: Fear is what keeps our boundaries. If we do not listen to that fear, that knowledge that there is something imminent that is not us, we will face the second type of fear, the fear that destroys all boundaries.

What do YOU think?

16 comments:

Lana Gramlich said...

I think fear of death shapes our world in a phenomenal number of ways. I stopped fearing death about 15 years ago & compared to that, nothing else is worth fearing.

Pat said...

Perhaps what we need is caution rather than fear. When walking
around the woods in southern Missouri, it was always a good idea to be cautious of copperheads (snakes), as they were poisonous. But, if you carried a forked stick and a knife, it was so easy to trap and behead one that fear was just silly. Being cautious and being prepared can alleviate many fears. Abstract fear of the unknown, ithough, is a different kettle of fish. We could live our lives in fear of almost anything, but 99.9% of it would be pointless. Why be afraid of nuclear war, for example, if you live in a ground zero area? The
death would be painless. The time to fear nuclear war is if you live
far enough away from the blasts that you're likelihood of surviving the attack is high. THEN, you might fear the aftermath. Also, fear of being shot by a gun is almost as silly. In my youth, whilst trying to prise the primer off of a 12-bore shotgun shell (AFTER having removed the shot and powder!), it went off and the primer went through my thumb. I never felt it. I didn't even notice it for about a minute, but, by that time, there was quite a flow of blood. A quick trip to ER and 3 stiches later and I had a tale I can retell for the rest of my life. But even being shot in a non-vital area, there was no pain from it; it was just too quick.
My fears, these days, are mostly fear of what happens if I become homeless or am forced to bankruptcy (Heidegger's fear of life). Again, though, there's a part of me that think those fears are absolutely silly. As long as my life isn't threatened, I can
rebuild. A decent respect for real threats can lead to enough caution to keep most of them at bay and a realisation that more damage is done emotionally and physically by fretting when it isn't necessary should help with the rest.
Abstract fear is definitely worth being afraid of. It lends no advantages and gives no comfort. It leads to despair and can, in extreme cases, lead someone to take their lives rather than addressing the issues that cause(d) the fear. Fear is a guide, true, but a mindless one; only worth following for just long enough to get out of the situation that caused it. Those who call fear their master are afraid to live, wake, sleep or die. All of which are a natural part of human existence.

Molly Brogan said...

I've found, that when fear comes into my heart or mind, it is my signal to recognize the feeling and all it involves and expand my awareness - feel my connection to all that is and the unity therein. We feel fear in separation, and its our opportunity to recognize the seperation and the oneness together. Is fear part of the human experience? Yes. Must we live in fear? A big fat NO there.

seeker said...

Given our current level of development(physically we're approaching an evolutionary plateau, mentally & spiritually we have some growing to do), I feel a degree of fear is healthy. There are people out there who want to harm others. Nature is threatening to trash the place and be done with our species. But a need for balance is key here. The counter to fear is love, which can keep our fears from hijacking the whole show.

Perhaps we should try not be fearful(full of fear) but fearless(not devoid of fear but just carrying less of it). Enough so that we can take care of ourselves and others in the real world but not so much we do harm. Fear flows from the realm of the mind and ego. Love flows from the realm of the heart and spirit. I try to remain open to both.

Roy said...

I think that fear/awareness of being harmed, has always been part of our evolutionary survival mechanism and is in a way necessary.

I feel that the challenge is not to deny the instinct, nor allow it to inhabit a major part of our consciousness, but rather to transform its energy into an overarching perception of the unfolding reality and use it to skillfully weave our way through our interaction with the world.

Combined with the expression of a loving heart, we deflect much of the daily harmful energy.

Molly Brogan said...

From my
experience, I can tell you that the longer I treat fear as a signal to
feel my total connection to life, and have faith that what will happen
next will be in accordance with my highest potential, the less fear I
experience. Things that triggered fear 5 years ago do not now. By
not allowing the feeling to become emotion, dragging in memories of
other fearful experiences or dread of future difficulties, the fear is
quelled. What comes up more and more now instead of fear, is a mild
interest, sometimes amusement, but always faith that what is occuring
is reflecting to me what I need to recognize in the moment.

kab625 said...

I think our need to dominate nature is a huge factor. Instead of worrying about things, I agree that caution is in order. Why not slow down and ask "permission" before we destroy natural areas and other species. Can't we leave instead of intruding? If something doesn't feel right, trust your natural instincts; we have them; we were born with them, we know what is right, but we're conditioned to ignore the fact that we are part of nature; that nature is intelligent and supportive. I'm convinced our troubles stem form our total disconnect from nature, so I agree with you Molly - once you feel your total connection to life fear is lessened.

Vamadevananda said...

First thing first : Fear is never about the other ; it is about ourself. It may be occassioned or induced by the other, but the fear
only points to aspects within ourself.

Depending upon those 'aspects' within ourself, one could be seized with fear or be completely free of fear.

Pat said...

Without intending to be terribly pedantic, I reckon plants don't
experience fear; so, there is definitely life without fear. The
question is "Can 'life without fear' be a part of the human
experience?". I would say yes, but it takes a deep understanding of oneself and the universe at large. Fear originates from within. It doesn't enter the body from the outside, like food, for example. And there are many triggers (perceptions) that can set it off--fear is an emotional response to our perceptions. But one must understand that, from a physics point of view, space-time comes as a continuum, that is, the entirety of the past, present and future are already a part of the whole of space-time. The future is as much fixed as is the past
BECAUSE the entirety of time is encapsulated within our space-time
continuum.
So, while that is true (and it is always true), one 'knows' that our future is inescapable. We will do what we will do. So every event that occurs to us has been set up since the beginning of time and any event that you 'choose to fear' is as inevitable as any event you 'choose NOT to fear'. So, why fear anything, as every event--
irrespective of whether you view that event as beneficial or terrifying or simply inconsequential--is equally inevitable. Fear is an emotional response to perception; but, armed with the information above, one's perception of reality is altered such that it is easy to see that all events are, with respect to their being unavoidable, equal. If all events are, in that sense, equal, then one can realise that there is no point in fearing anything as there is nothing one can do to avoid the events that will happen to you.
Fear can then be recognised as largely a 'choice'. Now it may
seem hypocritical to say it is our choice--implying free will--whilst
maintaining a fatalistic viewpoint. But the free will behind that choice is a natural part of the illusion of space-time in that, through our memories, we can access the past but have no such projectory capability towards the future. So it appears, due to our lack of exact knowledge of the future, that we can alter the future by acting. But the fact that we can only ever act in one way at any one time leads us back to realising there is only ever one way forward and we WILL move in that direction. Ultimately, we realise that we have one of those illusory choices about whether or not to fear any known or unknown aspect of any event. So why go out of one's way and choose
to fear?
That said, I wouldn't classify myself as completely fear-free. Although I had made the above rationalisation quite some time ago, I certainly felt fear last June when involved in an automobile accident in which I 'thought' at the time I might die. However, since that
experience, by NOT dying, it has reinforced my faith in space-time,
demonstrating to me that, if it isn't my time to go, it simply won't happen, irrespective of my perceptions at the time.
Also, we have to mitigate the above rationalisation with the fact that it's very difficult to switch off our genetic coding and I'm pretty sure that we're coded to experience fear given certain
perceptions, such as a life-threatening event. So, while one might be able to generally rationalise fear away, that doesn't mean that the future won't hold that you will experience a perception that will set
those responses off. In other words, no matter what the 'truth' is, I can't guarantee any given individual (including myself) will always be able to remain completely mindful of the facts under all circumstances. But, armed WITH the facts, it should, at least, be easier. ;-)

Neil said...

Fear disappears when adrenaline comes rushing in - I used to feel
great foe weeks after a hairy car chase. Fear was part of the thrill for homosexuals trying to dodge cops in their cottages and the rest. We used to refer to fear as the half-a-crown sixpence experience. I've had the unpleasant bowel movements. One can tough out the traumas involved, but they get to you later. PTSD is long-term and
can arise from very small events of fear, becoming very real and
horrible later.

The question as to whether we can live without fear is a good one - it should ask us to look at what really makes us scared, what in this can be good and what is bad. I think we have yet to realise we do not live as free people, and are still held in slavery by religion, tradition, ignorance and a money system in need of reform. What kind of life might we have if employers really had to compete for us, rather than being able to play on our security needs and so on? Would motivation disappear in such a system leading to its collapse?

Fear is often irrational - there is no face at the window, or as in
one of my nightmares, no golden-clawed lobsters under the bed (I don't eat lobster so find their 'attcks' on me highly irrational!). There never were any demons to slay or pay off with virgins outside the city gates. Yet some people are truly horrible and 'evil' - there is real stuff to be scared of. One might laugh at Lee's term 'feral youth' here - fear of this is surely as bad where there is none of it as
where it is a real problem. I know people who have been terrified close to suicide by youth gangs and crap policing of it.

Fear causes stress and this cannot be countered without removing the
causes from people's lives. One can reduce the amount by some
introspective methods, but the real problems are out there in the
world. This is a world at odds with itself and highly irrational. I don't think we can live without fear, but we could live without social mechanisms that use it to subdue us and render us to docile bodies.

Neil said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
John said...

I think that love is the antidote to fear.

Anonymous said...

Fear is woven into the very essence of our being. It was given to us by our ancestors and is hard coded in our DNA. Its sole purpose was our survival. Either you control fear or it controls you, its as plain and simple as that.

There are some people who live without fear, they are called autistic:

Achuthan S. Nair said...

It is indeed a significant truth and very powerful truth.

If you chart the hystory of mankind along the path of its evolution or even the growth of a human being along the life line in a life time you will clearly see a pattern of FEAR also moving along in different manifestation and intensity,be it the premitive man or the mordern metro man!!The "your estimation" of FEAR and how one copes with it or manages it(Mankind as a community/country or an individual) largly determines ones success or lack of it,in life, relationships, communication etc.This is significant.


As for the underlying concern for "boundries".True this is an
excellent reading of a significant part of human physic where lot of
energy is discharged to cope with.


But imagine the energy spent when the fear of "Boundaries" disappears!!!

How much of energy peace could release for the good of Beings.

Peace, peace, peace unto all !!!!!

Molly Brogan said...

I think that there are many, many feelings to feel other than fear.
Can we look at starving people and feel compassion? Can we look at
that which we judge to be selfish and crap and see people on the road to awakening... and feel compassion? Then love would be the antidote to fear, I suppose. Fear is easy. We feel it as children and hang on to it because it is "known" and fear of the unknown is worse than fear of the known. I know one thing, it is hard to find harmony in our
lives when it is filled with fear.

Jim Murdoch said...

Fear comes from the unknown future. Usually fear comes from an imagined outcome. One fears what might happen if this or that is done or said. We fear making decisions because we fear the decision may not turn out well.

Fear can be overcome, not necessarily eliminated, by knowing where you are going. Know your purpose, why you are here and decisions are easier to make, and thus the fear easier to overcome. If what you do is on purpose, then you can't go wrong. Even if what you do doesn't work out as desired, you learn from it and move on.

Can we live without fear? Perhaps not, but we can live beyond it.