Know thy enemy they say, and fear certainly feels like our enemy.....except fear isn't our enemy, that is simply how we have framed it for our entire life. But we certainly do need to know fear intimately if we are to find any freedom from it as the demon we imagine.
We have learned to fear fear itself. Yet like our relationship to almost every objective experience, those where we frame our 'self' in relation to 'another' , the object is always mistaken to be the cause of our experience.
We have talked in our sessions about this often. For example chocolate may be imagined to be a source of pleasure but eat enough chocolate and you will feel sick - it becomes the source of your suffering instead. A shiny new car may be the imagined source of joy but tied up in that purchase is a huge amount of anxiety around it being scratched, damaged or stolen.
Likewise the perceived source of our fears have no inherent 'fearness' about them. You might be terrified of heights but end up becoming addicted to the joy of skydiving out of planes of base-jumping from tall buildings. - life is an odd thing.
It is not the external objective experience and it never has been, whether that be a spider, a fear of leaving the house, a fear of looking foolish or fear of missing out.
But the feeling of fear is tangible, very real and is what we actually react to.
Our past history, life experiences, culture, family and so on have caused us to perceive certain things as a threat. Whether that threat be a direct threat to our physical life or an indirect one to our imagined sense of self.
Lets take a look at a few examples:
Firstly we have to explore this very reaction, not by reading endless books on it - that might expand our knowledge but not our understanding.
What is your experience of fear? What does fear feel like?
A tightening or a clenching of the body somehow? Shortness of breath, a pounding head?
We all have a somatic sensation to the things we are averse to. However our great mistake is to attribute the fear to the external object when in fact we are simply averse to the unpleasant sensation in the body itself.
So before anything else we must become familiar, intimately familiar with those sensations, for only when we do this can we start to break the illusion of what we are reacting to. We see the truth of things rather than the illusion.
So that will clear up some misunderstandings and with enough observation and presence of mind we may start to break this chain of reactivity; eventually we might even un-condition our conditioned responses. However this takes a great presence of mind, effort and alertness.
There is a bigger question though and maybe it guides a different approach. Why does this fearful response arise at all?
The short answer is that it arises because we mistakenly imagine ourselves to be separate from the world. The notion that there is 'us' and there is 'other' separate to us - at least to our thinking mind.
This brings us to a second and one might say more fundamental way to deal with our fear; that is to abolish the misunderstanding of a separate self. To move away from our obsession with thinking, because it is thinking that imagines a separate self and instead to see that we are always and only ever, pure awareness or consciousness. That is our true self, not this ever changing, transient physical body and mind.
Again this is a topic that we have explored in detail, so if you have missed that then please go back and watch some of our past group sessions on the website free resources page.
So from this new paradigm, when fear arises, we might first see clearly the experience of fear, but then we are awake to the fact that it is simply an arising experience within our pure awareness. There is absolutely no need to reconfigure it, move away from it or resist it. In fact we actually 'lean into it' fully, being fully present with it as an arising within the field of awareness or consciousness. We see that it in no way affects, colours, stains or alters awareness - how could it - and that in fact it is of no more significance than a passing sound, sight or any other thought. There is no distinguishing property of fear that makes it any more important than these other experiences.