Tag Archives: Fear

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fear-1Quietly sitting in a meditation group, a question was posed by one of the members. The question asked what significance fear has in our lives. At first it seemed like a simple question but upon deeper consideration I realized that it held tremendous influence over the way I and others felt. This led me to attempt to, first, define the feeling.

Most sources defined fear as sensing and reacting to danger. But now this led me to search out the meaning of danger. The earliest meaning I could find comes from the 12th century French dangier meaning “the power to harm, mastery, authority and control.” So, essentially, fear and perceived danger are a sense or belief that we are somehow out of control or in a Fight or flightposition where life and others have power over us. Why would being out of control evoke such an intense feeling? Granted, fear is a primal feeling and involuntary reaction innate to our animal natures. But that only relates to the immediate and impending physical consequences of survival. We as humans know fear as having a much wider and more powerful influence over our daily lives. So, where then does this power come from? I believe that it is trained into us beginning with our earliest ability to think.

As children and before our metal capabilities to think are developed, we have not yet developed the discrimination between self and other so what we feel deprived of or  assailed by only seems to register as a feeling of pain or discomfort to which we simply react by crying. At that point the fear response, other than concerning our primal survival, has not yet formed as we need to have the experience of pain or discomfort, pair it with the perception of a threat coming from outside of ourselves and then create a retrievable memory of it. Memory is solely a function of the mind existing in linear time. Until we develop the capacity to think, that dimension has no relevance to us yet and hence no memory. Yet, at that age, having the experience of pain or deprivation creates a future trigger response in our animal natures to its next occurrence. Once the mind is formed and time is perceived, fear can now have a solid perceivable reference point for which it can generate feelings about future circumstances. So what are we actually saying? That animals gain an instinctual bad-feelingfear through the experience of immediate circumstances and that humans gain this too but we also develop ability to project far into the future and create fear based on “wouldn’t it be horrible if” through the power of our minds. In short, animals can feel fear in immediate circumstances but we humans have also learned to project it way into the future.

Our next question, logically, must be “how and why would we learn to do this?” I believe that our tendency to do this comes from being trained to believe that we must control ourselves and our circumstances if we are first, to stay “safe,” and, second, keep our personal world in a static state through the belief that circumstances can remain unchangeable. Even in light of the fact that we honestly know that security is an illusion, and this is still an unconscious knowing for most of us, we still consciously hold an irrational belief that the world can be animal masteryheld in a static state and that we should be able to control the rest of the world and others in it. But now, we have to ask “where did this irrational belief come from?” The answer is that we’ve been taught by our parents to expect to be able to control our circumstances. As children, how would have been able to know any different? At that age, we simply accept it as fact because our parents tell us it is so. What’s sad and disconcerting is that many of our parents still believe that this is so as they were taught to believe this by their parents.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself what fear has to do with eclipsing the heart. Right? To understand this we must first recognize that the heart uses feelings and intuition as its medium of exchange for communication. We first feel and intuit and then thinking is used to put it in a comprehensible form we can recognize, explain, create a judgment about (preference) and then commit it to our memory. What we think is an afterthought. While feelings and intuition are innate to humans, thinking, or our mental facilities, are all learned. This occurs after we are born through our exposure to the physical world within the landscape of time (past, present and future). In other words, we come into this life with feeling and intuition fully in operation already but skill in thinking must be acquired and developed before it can be used.

Feeling and intuition, the heart’s non-descriptive form of bringing our attention to something, is forever delivering us urges and impulses that are neither comprehended nor explained until they are subjected to the separative discrimination of the mind. Feelings arise in a moving wave and intuition occurs in a flash. It is not until the mind springs into action that they become “solidified” as a judgment of preference specifying whether we’d like to approach or avoid the experience expressed by them.

strategy-1As our mental capacity develops more and more and our childhood physical world begins to take dominance over who we are and what we pay attention to, our feelings and intuition slowly become submerged under the monumental weight and emphasis on thinking. Thinking gradually becomes the strategic and dominant force determining virtually all the choices we make. When our mental functions change the channel to fear, it short circuits all of our considerations for how we choose to act…or not with “wouldn’t it be horrible if.” Our feelings and intuition no longer even have the opportunity to have an influence other than the fear generated by the mind through “wouldn’t it be horrible if.” In this way fear totally eclipses the heart. Other feelings and our intuition are still there but essentially crushed under the weight of our fear invoking mental gymnastics.

Granted, the fear that’s triggered by fight or flight encounters (innate animal survival instincts) is essentially unavoidable. But the fear that’s generated by our “wouldn’t it be horrible if” is something that can be reprogrammed. Remember, it’s only a mental perspective that has been trained into us. It can also be replaced by reprogramming ourselves to say and feel “wouldn’t it be great if.” All we have to do is consider the beneficial aspects of whatever circumstances we feel intimidated by. It’ll take work and time but in the long run the physical and emotional benefits far outweigh the tension, anxiety and stress triggered by the “wouldn’t it be horrible if.”

Everything youve ever wantedWith every action that we initiate or participate in we will approach that action from a perspective that will set the stage for how the resulting circumstances will present themselves and play out. For most of us we will choose either for the completion of something or for having an experience of some kind. For the western mind, the goal is usually comprised of a resolution of some concern or an arrival at some anticipated place. Since we are, essentially, a problem solving culture based on practicalities and material concerns and governed by tangible validation, a resolution or destination almost always becomes the intended purpose of our goal. With the influx of other cultures and with the progressively expanding spiritual movement, the journey as opposed to a destination has been taking on much more importance. More and more of us are accepting that choosing the importance of the journey over the destination is becoming the most appropriate perspective for our approach. However, there is an even more subtle dynamic that sets the stage for what circumstances we draw to ourselves that altogether goes unnoticed. The manner in which we approach that journey or destination defines whether we end up aligning with the best focus for making the energy applied supportive for our assumed objectives or if we align with setting up our own resistance thereby preventing our objectives from coming to fruition. This agrees with the principles of the Law of Attraction.

CrushedCulture_ForbesThe difference is quite obvious to those of us who are aware of how energy operates. If we focus on what blocks our way to being successful, we add momentum to the force impeding the accomplishment of our intention. If we focus on what is needed to manifest our intention, we almost invariably accelerate conditions leading to its accomplishment, sometimes, even with an advantageous twist in our preferred outcome. This often seems counter intuitive to us.  It seems like focusing on what could be is irrational in light of the fact that we are predominantly so materially directed. Not wanting to risk being irrational or seeming to look impractical to others, we almost always focus on what is there rather than what could be. To us, what could be is judged to be Pollyanna like. That is, our contemporary culture assumes that a what could be focus rather than what is focus is immature, irrational and impractical. This is simply a function of our having been trained into always attending what is already present rather than on any potential beyond our observed limitations. Over emphasis on this is often a lethal hazard to what we wish to accomplish through having been ingrained in our childhood training and supporting a materialistic view on things. It exemplifies our modern day obsession with needing to be and feel practical. Our culture has been deceived into believing that we must behave like scientists by putting our trust and faith only in what we can see, feel, smell, touch or hear. Unfortunately, the result is the sacrifice of any viable vision that only exhibits potential without supporting evidence for the assumed guarantee of the accomplishment our goal. In this view we are blocked through paying intention only to what is rather than what is needed or possible. Even you, the reader, now would most likely also align your trained belief with a practical approach believing that it must be used to be successful. But problem solving, the idiosyncratic obsession of our western culture, The Outsideralmost always focuses on what is and in the way of what we want, often focusing on what prevents our success rather that what accelerates it and prepares us for its arrival. But this approach always fails us and flies in the in the face of how energy naturally and universally operates. The truth is that energy follows thought. It is mindless. It simply goes where we direct it. If we direct our attention (energy) toward limitations, it accelerates their strength and momentum. If we direct our energy toward our vision and what would, conceivably, manifest our intention, momentum is built toward creating it. Again, a principle primary to the Law of Attraction.

The crux of what we’re speaking about boils down to whether we believe that circumstances control our fate or our own will and intentions do. In this, we have to ask ourselves which is stronger, what is or what could be? To which do we give our power and expectations over to; the actions of the external world or our own will and intentions? Which moves us? Which perspective holds dominance with us? Are we the controlled or the controllers? Are we the creators or the created? If we are predominantly the created, we will spend the rest of our lives Odd man outdoing and being what we’re told. We’ll feel snug, secure and like we have a prepared and secure place in the world (dictated by others). If we are predominantly the creators (dictated by our own heart), we might feel insecure about our place in the world and are likely to be shunned and ostracized by those who are afraid of growth and change by having to readjust the way they relate to us. We will have little support and even less feeling of belonging. An independent path often starts on a lonely road…until we attract those of similar interest and those who have also developed the courage needed for independent choices and action.

There needs to be a balance between our heartfelt actions and intentions and what the world sees as our place in it. We need to have a modicum of both perspectives in order to maintain our momentum toward our personal growth while maintaining our ability to integrate what we’ve learned with the world of what is. Others will see us as their external world and they are compelled to make the same choice for balance as we do.

Please understand that I am not promoting anarchy, simply more of an even balance between what we want and what is expected of us by the world around us. Our culture has become so over weighted with evidence based values based on our assumed expectations of what is that we have been trained into and all but forgotten that each of us have just as much a right to pursue what we want without being accused of being selfish through ignoring what the world attempts to bully us into believing. We are not scientists. We are human; a combination of what is and what we could become. Do you want to keep repeating the same old patterns producing the same results? Relative to world changes, it is vital that we include more of what could be rather than only repeating evidence of what is…our past. Great dreams are all based on what could be…the future. They are the driving force for expanding our awareness and evolution as a species. Don’t be bullied into believing that the world knows best for us. Don’t contribute to the Peak-Successfear and ignorance of the “sheeple.” The world around us simply shows evidence of what has already been tried. Be curious. Be playful. Be creative. We are also part of that world that determines how our growth will progress. We participate in both directions. Listen to your heart first, then synthesize it with the world and its need for security in maintaining their status quo. Balance your dreams with the practicalities, yet, still follow your dreams. Look at them in terms of potential and preparation not as a measure of prevention for what we’ve learned to believe we might lose if we step outside the envelope.

emotions-1Just about anyone we talk to interchanges the meaning of feelings and emotions. However, if we ask directly, most people will equate feeling more with being in the moment and emotions as if they’re talking about feelings but somehow a little more distant or removed connecting to other people and events. In asking, most people would assert that there is little or no difference. The only exception might be someone who is very tangibly oriented and relates the senses as being feeling and emotions as being something else. My take on them is a bit different than most.

If I were to describe a feeling (not related to the physical senses), I would define it as a movement of energy within us that arises involuntarily and elicits or imparts a “flavor” to the experience or person to which we’ve connected. An emotion is something much more that includes a “pairing” of the same rising feeling, having the experience but with an applied mental judgment that we commit to our memory so we may be prepared with a response or course of action the next time we repeat the same experience or one that is similar. This may sound somewhat convoluted but you must understand that we’ve experienced feeling as an infant long before our mind came into play enabling us to create words to describe it. From that perspective we can easily see how feeling can be involuntary. Emotions contain more of a voluntary component in that if we change our thoughts and judgment about the feeling it will trigger a different response from us with the same or a similar experience. Notice that the feeling remains the same but we apply a different meaning to its “flavor.” All emotions or “composite” feelings are derivatives of the six Elementary Feelings.

6-feelingsThe work of Dr. Paul Ekman has been dedicated toward expanding the work of Charles Darwin who postulated that animals have six elementary expressions based on what they feel. Remember, we are still part animal. However, we’ve learned to hide that fact from ourselves through social training and programming. Dr. Ekman has refined the feelings in humans to include happiness, surprise, sadness, disgust, anger and fear. These six on their onset do not include any mental or mind generated component. They can be viewed on our face almost instantaneously in what he calls micro-expressions occurring in one tenth of a second. Then, in humans, our mind quickly recovers its control and replaces them with the socially expected and appropriately trained expressions. Micro-expressions are a key tool in determining whether someone is lying or not. Many of us have this ability innately, don’t recognize it and simply attribute it to being instinctive (an animal characteristic).

Each of the six Elementary Feelings rest on a scale which extends from feeling the most comfortable and in control to feeling the least comfortable and out of control. When I speak of feeling in control or not, I refer to a psychological term called locus of control. An internal locus of control is when we feel we are in control of our life circumstances and an external locus of control is when we feel that our life circumstances are controlled by outside influences. The six Elementary Feelings embody qualities of both in different degrees. On the furthest of the internal side of feeling the most in control we have happiness. On the furthest of the external side where we feel others have control is fear. The other four range between the two extremes at varied points. The following are my perceptions of each of the Elementary Feelings and how they relate to our feeling in control or not.

6-happyHappiness – For most people happiness is a feeling of being free to be able to be and do what we want with little or no interference from the outside world. And if there is any interference, it is something that is so unimportant or irrelevant that we barely perceive it. It is the feeling in which we feel the most in control.

6-SurpriseSurprise – It is very similar to happiness on the scale but with an element of outside play or influence making us feel that we’re not quite as free or in control as we might have thought or liked. Usually, its occurrence is not of our own doing. However, it usually has a minimal dampening effect on our feeling in control.

6-sad-Sadness – In sadness we acknowledge that there are also some circumstances in the world which are beyond our control. But, we do mind them being so, however we do not need to resist or challenge the experience knowing that we cannot change it. We also do not feel trapped in the experience and we know that we have other options to feel free and mobile if we choose not to react.

6-disgustedDisgust – Disgust is similar to sadness but with more of an active component. The repulsion of disgust resonates with our Shadow which we refuse or deny and consequently project on others. The rise of disgust feels less in control of our environment and circumstances than with sadness but with enough of a feeling of control to still push it away as our Shadow. Here we refocus on other options that present more of an opportunity for self-determination. Unfortunately, in this case the balance between feeling in control (internal) and feeling out of control (external) leans a little more toward the out than the in.

DeterminationAnger – Anger holds much of the same impetus as disgust, does but there is much more of an urge to pursue the object of our anger with the intention of either eliminating the cause or changing the perspective of the person who, besides us, creates the tension. Anger is where we feel the flow of our energy blocked and counter the blockage with our own resistance. This resistance gains its power from our perceived immobility resulting in our failure to refocus on an easier path by virtue of our continued belief or assumption that external circumstances have more power and influence over our chosen path or direction than we do.

There are varying degrees of anger that we can feel which depend on how free or blocked we may feel. The more blocked we feel, the more intense the anger. The anger itself is powered by the hope or belief that an impasse can be moved beyond with force, the right intensity or the right external manipulation.

6-fearFear – Fear is a lot like anger except that its intensity is consequently turned inward as a result of the belief or assumption that the external environment is totally in control and that we have no option or ability to refocus other than to simply withdraw from, avoid or escape the situational consequences. It is the feeling in which we feel the least in control. It is also the feeling of fear is often tightly paired and interwoven with depression and helplessness in that its most common effect is immobility, either out of fear of losing the self (physically, emotionally or egotistically) or of losing or having lost an important person in our lives. Again, we feel totally out of control. Helplessness is a primary contributor to the manifestation of fear and depression. It is the most dominant factor in perceiving that our life operates totally from an external locus of control.

Apathy – This is the last feeling which is not included in Ekman’s pantheon of Elementary Feelings. I hesitated in assigning it a position in the range between feeling in control or out because its flexibility allows the dynamic to be activated anywhere along the internal/external continuum depending on our resiliency and fortitude in processing the other six feelings. Let me explain.

6-apathyWhen we think of apathy most of us perceive someone who doesn’t care or appears to have no feelings about a situation. To this day we idolize characters like Dirty Harry who appear to be immune to circumstances that would have ordinarily triggered fear, anger or any other feelings or emotions in the average person. But we know that this type of projected persona is simply a ruse. We know that they are actually experiencing the feeling, but being “brave” or “tough” to cover the evidence of it.

But, when the dynamic that occurs with a person who has received a traumatic physical or emotional injury happens as a result of that trauma, we go into shock. The body shuts down. Our awareness of pain is turned off. It is my belief than anyone who has had a trauma eliciting the intensity of one of the Elementary Feelings beyond their tolerance and personal limit can also shut down to the point where their feelings couldn’t even be perceived through micro-expressions. When the feelings are involuntarily blocked in this way, any feelings below that level are also masked or muted. So, if we shut down at anger, fear, helplessness and depression would psychiatrist-2also no longer be perceived, yet, we would still feel their effects. I believe that this is why so many of us are depressed and don’t even realize it; not necessarily because we have all been through a trauma but that any pressure or influence over a long period of time has the effect of desensitizing us to where we no longer feel those same stresses and pressures. We become automatons going through our daily routines unaware of the stresses we have let imprison us. The sad part is that as we desensitize ourselves to the hurtful influences, the empathic, compassionate and loving influences fall into the same chasm.

It has been said that the depth of our love can be measured by the depth of the pain we have experienced. If this is so, where does this leave us in allowing that empathy, compassion and love muted or diminished through desensitizing ourselves to our pain? This is truly a sad and paradoxical conundrum.

I have given you this list of Elementary Feelings and their correspondences to feeling in control because I want you to look at your close relationships and determine which of the six Elementary Feelings you feel most frequently when you interact with them. In this way you can see how much you feel in control of your life or not through keeping them in your circle while, freedom-1at the same time, expecting emotional support from them. When you realize that their influence on you rests on the bottom or close to the bottom of the emotional scale it will let you know which of them you would like to begin to minimize your contact with. In maximizing your contact with those on the top or near the top of the emotional scale you will begin to increase your feeling of being in control which will, in turn, start to reverse what you have desensitized yourself to. This will have an overall effect of lightening any depression or helpless feelings you may have been “plagued” with. Recognizing that we may be depressed is the first step toward lifting it.

So, the next time someone asks you what you’re feeling, perhaps, you may think a bit more deeply as to the “flavor” and whether it has arisen in you involuntarily or if it is the product of a past experience to which you have attached a changeable judgment or a preference. Either way, I don’t think you’ll look at feelings and emotions the same way ever again.

Please note: There is a companion workbook available for the self-work presented in the book ENERGIZING SELF TRUST: 7 Steps for Reclaiming You Power. Its cost is $10 plus postage. Contact me if you wish to receive a copy. Also, a two day seminar is being planned for Sarasota, Florida for mid-November.