Fear

By Jim Selman | Bio


In “A Course in Miracles”, there is an aphorism at the beginning of the book that says “Nothing real can be threatened and nothing unreal exists.” Although I have never formally studied the program, I have read the book and it is a beautiful and compelling insight in the realm of spiritual wisdom. For millions, the Course has given access to a higher power or transformation of their relationship to the world. What I found for myself was a clarity and simplicity that is rare in the sometimes arcane world of philosophy and our desperate desire to understand the Universe. Specifically, that when it is all said and done, our experience rests on either Fear or Love, and fear is an illusion in the first place.

This is a message that I find in lots of philosophies, religions and spiritual practices. In Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy distinguishes “mind” as the source of all that is “unreal”. Buddhism teaches us that through “mindfulness and detachment” we can find truth in and experience “oneness”. I try to show that while I don’t think that the world is an illusion, whatever it is always occurs within the context of some interpretation or another. These are all ways of attempting to resolve the Cartesian dualism that drives us crazy and keeps us trapped in a state of perpetual conflict and even suffering.

There are all kinds of fears from mild worry to chronic anxiety, compulsive obsession with what ‘might happen’ to well-grounded concerns for our health and wellbeing, or the sheer terror we experience when watching horror movies. What all fears have in common is that they are moods that can become all-encompassing and frame our relationships with the people in our lives and our circumstances. Moods can be understood as the kind of automatic ‘triggered’ background conversations along with associated feelings that we have about just about everything—they become the “filters” through which we relate to the world. Moods come and go most of the time and if we learn to just acknowledge them and “let them be” then they tend to dissolve quickly. If we resist, suppress or control them, then they have more power and persist. One of the most common ways to resist our moods is to become fixated on trying to understand ‘why’ we feel the way we do and then ‘explain’ ourselves constantly to other people.

The starting point for mastering moods is to recognize that they are a phenomenon and, as with any other phenomena, we don’t control their occurrence. Our choice is how we relate to them. The second point is to notice that while moods occur for each of us personally—for example, “I” am angry or afraid—moods are a social phenomenon. Moods always appear in the context of our relationship to the world— something” is causing me to feel this way. When we can ‘own’ whatever we think is causing our moods, then we can begin to release its power over us. Actors, for example, may feel stage fright, but they typically reframe the fear as a source of energy and power and let their commitment to a performance drive their actions. Once in action, most moods will disappear automatically.

Many people are afraid of growing older or are in a variety of other negative moods related to aging such as anger, resentment, and denial. But our fears of losing our looks, our assets, our loved ones, our competencies or our health (or even our mental faculties) tend to top the list for most of us. Interestingly, my research has shown that ‘fear of dying’ is not an issue for most people as they mature into their 70s and 80s. The number one fear I’ve noted in conversations with older people, at least in the United States, is fear of dying without having made a difference or without having been able to ‘leave behind’ some of what they’ve learned in life.

In the coming weeks, I am planning to write more on fear. Imagine if our last 30 years of living were totally free of worry, anxiety and fears about the future. What if what the Course in Miracles and the Beatles say is true—that love is all there is and all we really need?

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

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