Since living in persistent fear (dread, terror) spoils life, what can be done about it?
There are two kinds to be set aside, namely, those (i) due to an unhealthy brain and those (ii) that are justifiable.
(i) Even if you don’t suspect that your terrors have an organic cause, it may be wise not to rule out having a physical examination. If it’s available to you, why not?
(ii) Like physical pains, terrors can have good consequences. If you break your leg, your body should use pain to signal you not to walk on it until it heals. Similarly, if you live alone and are awakened in the night by the sounds of someone breaking into your house, your terror should cause you to take appropriate action.
Be grateful for this kind of terror. Like other emotions, it evolved to assist you in surviving and reproducing. If you are living in a war zone, it’s appropriate to be terrified.
Let’s here focus on the kind of persistent fear that is neither due to organic causes nor is justifiable.
Except for loud noises and falling, all terrors seem to be learned. If so, that’s good news because it means that they can be unlearned.
Suffering due to terror is, sadly, normal. Furthermore, we often lie about it to ourselves as well as to others.
Do you dread any of these? Failure. Rejection. Pain. Death. Dying. Looking foolish. Poverty. Illness. Confusion. Loneliness. Mutilation. Old age. Success. Small animals. Insecurity. Confinement. Meeting new people. Public speaking.
The more you focus on something, the more it grows in importance. This general psychological law applies in this case.
What happens when you are unable to stop focusing on something you dread?
Trust is the absence of fear. What happens when you lose trust in life itself?
Suicide may become an even more viable option. When terror obstructs us from doing what we want to do, life appears no longer worth living.
The usual way to overcome something terrifying is this: to master it, force yourself to do what you most fear doing and keep doing it until the terror dissolves.
Suppose, for example, that you are in sales and you understand that your product or service might benefit others; nevertheless, you are afraid to contact people because you fear rejection.
This is not difficult to cure.
Tom Hopkins says: simply repeat the following every morning and as frequently as necessary throughout the day: ‘I am not judged by the number of times I fail but by the number of times I succeed, and the number of times I succeed is in direct proportion to the number of times I can fail and keep on trying.’
Essentially, this involves replacing one (bad) thought with another (better) one.
When you fail, instantly reframe the failure: Rejection is not failure; it’s only a lesson in how to succeed. Rejection is not failure; it’s only the negative feedback I need to improve what I’m doing. Rejection is not failure; it’s only an opportunity to practice my techniques and perfect my performance. Rejection is not failure; it’s only a game I must play to win.
You’ll be on the way to becoming a master of selling when you stop taking rejection personally and begin to see it for what it really is, namely, an opportunity for mastery.
Notice how this involves letting go of egocentricity.
Objection: this usual way doesn’t always work. Sometimes, fearful thoughts are not so easily replaced. What should I do if I continue to suffer from them?
Reply: Replace thought with simple awareness (no-thought).
Here’s the key to liberation: the more realization, the more fear dissolves. The word ‘realization’ here refers to spiritual awakening or enlightenment (kensho, satori, identification with True Self).
Realization comes in degrees. After an initial breakthrough, it is capable of indefinite deepening or expansion.
Sufficient evidence about the dissolution of fear comes from this fact: fully enlightened sages are never afraid.
In other words, ultimately all fear has as its source identification with the egoic mind. If you are afraid and open yourself to identification with Being, your fear will permanently diminish.
Why not enjoy life more? Being afraid is optional.
Yes, it is difficult, but it is also simple: just stop identifying with forms of Becoming by identifying with Being.
As always, if you know someone who might benefit from this post, please forward it.
Related posts: Many of the posts in the spiritual well-being category relate to detaching from the egoic mind.
Additional resources: my How to Survive College Emotionally; Eckhart Tolle’s Living the Liberated Life and Dealing with the Pain-Body (3 CD set); Tom Hopkins’s How to Master the Art of Selling (2nd ed.); G. Butler & T. Hope’s Managing Your Mind.