My premise for this piece is that fear, while it is a normal part of life, is actually unnatural to life. Upon first reading, this might seem like an illogical or contradictory statement to make. You might ask, how can something be considered a normal part of life, and yet be unnatural to it? Let me explain. When I state that fear is a normal part of life, what I mean is that it is a common aspect of our lived experience. If you were to ask most people about something that they fear, you would receive a response. A lot of people fear failure or rejection. Others fear things in their environment, like spiders or an economic depression, and as has been well documented, our most prevalent fears as human beings centre around death and, of all things, public speaking! Fear then is an obstacle that we must confront, and hopefully overcome along this life journey that each of us are on.
An important aspect of evolving along this life journey is confronting and overcoming these fears, and when we do this, we grow closer in our relationship with true self. With this comes an enhanced ability to love, serve and express the wisdom which teaches that fear needs the false ego self in order to exist. A great spiritual truth is that perfect love casts out all fear. This perfect love is the foundation of who we are and what we are ultimately evolving towards, but until the time that we get there, the ego mind will have us relate to the world with an element of fear. Why does it do this?
Primarily, the ego creates the experience of fear as a means of controlling us. Seeking to preserve its influence over our life, the ego teaches us that we are limited in power and vulnerable to the influences of the outside world. As we listen to these messages and begin to internalise them, we live in a way that is disconnected from our spirit, and what we are capable of being and manifesting in its light. Choosing not to identify with this higher part of ourselves, we strengthen our identification with the lower ego self and the negativity which sustains its existence.
An example of this is the fear of taking the steps to follow a calling. Believing that if we take a vocational risk we won’t have the means to sustain a living, or make a meaningful contribution, we deny the promptings of our spirit, and the alignment that it is seeking to effect with our talent and passion. Reasoning with the ego mind that the idea of pursuing our bliss is stupid or far-fetched, we settle for a comfortable existence that conforms to the dictates of our ego identity, even if this brings us great suffering in the form of discontent, regret and self-loathing.
Here, I think it is necessary to challenge the view that fear is hard-wired into us as human beings. The argument as presented is that fear is a natural physiological response to stimuli that protects us from threats presented by the physical world. The essential flaw in this position is that advocates for it have confused a natural survival response with a fear response. For survival purposes we have evolved with this fight or flight response to external stimuli that could pose a threat to our physical existence, but it should not be implied into this physiological response that we are fearful of the external stimuli in question.
If one was to stand on the edge of a tall building, the survival response might cause them to move back from the edge to mitigate against the risk of falling, but it can’t be said that as a result of that movement, the person is scared of heights. Nor is the fear of heights a universal phenomenon. The fact that some people do not possess this fear shows that fear is a learned or chosen response to particular stimuli. I raise this not to start a debate about the subject, but to challenge any beliefs that you may hold about fear being natural to life.
A great quote reinforcing this point comes from actor Will Smith who says that, “Fear is not real. It is a product of thoughts you create. Do not misunderstand me. Danger is very real. But fear is a choice.” With this in mind, think of all the individual and collective decisions made during the course of history that have been motivated by this illusory fear. In spite of journeying in that darkness, we have endured and are still striving to improve the quality of life on this planet. Such is the natural light and power of the human spirit which inspires hope, and cannot be dispelled by the inferior force of ego.