“The first part of looking at our fear is just inviting it into our awareness without judgment. We just acknowledge gently that it is there. This brings a lot of relief already. Then, once our fear has calmed down, we can embrace it tenderly and look deeply into its roots, its sources. Understanding the origins of our anxieties and fears will help us let go of them. Is our fear coming from something that is happening right now, or is it an old fear, a fear from when we were small, that we’ve kept inside? When we practice inviting all our fears up, we become aware that we are still alive, that we still have many things to treasure and enjoy. If we are not busy pushing down and managing our fear, we can enjoy the sunshine, the fog, the air, and the water. If you can look deeply into your fear and have a clear vision of it, then you really can live a life that is worthwhile.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh says we must acknowledge our fears if we are to control them or get rid of them. This makes sense. In psychiatry they say that recognizing that you have a problem is the first step in curing it. Trying to pretend we don have fears only allows the fear to stay with us and control us in many ways we are not even aware of.
Source of Fear
Hanh, as well as many psychiatrists, say we must root out the cause of our fear if we are to get rid of it. While that may be the ideal solution, it isn’t always possible. It can also be very time consuming. Sometimes, things may have happened to your mother while you were still in the womb, and her fears came through to you where they became yours. Other things may have happened when you were a baby that caused you to develop certain fears. The chance of digging through you memories and finding that cause is slim. But there is an alternative.
I worked for many years as a professional computer programmer. I know that sometime the solution to fixing a program that doesn’t do what you want it to is to simply replace it with a new program. You don’t have to find the faulty code, just replace the entire program. The same can be done with fears.
Dealing With Fear
I used to ave a moderate fear of heights. It didn’t bother me until it prevented me from doing some things my friends were doing. I felt I had to do something about. As usually happens when you want something worthwhile bad enough, I came upon a possible solution. I saw an ad for a program called Psych-K. It uses Applied Kinesiology to help people get rid of phobias and bad habits. I read the paperback book about it and decided to attend a weekend seminar being held in my area. By replacing my fear of heights with more positive images of heights and activities I could enjoy in high places, my fear program in my subconscious mind was replaced. I can now go to high places without fear. In 2014, I walked all over Machu Picchu with friends, and didn’t feel the fear at all. I can’t say that everyone who uses this method succeeds is removing the unreasonable fear, but many do.
Not all fear is unreasonable. Sometimes fear can be healthy. It is only when it becomes inflated to the point where we start letting our fears control us instead of the other way around.
Hanh says we can learn to manage our fear by thinking about all the things we can enjoy anyway. This is another good approach. You might be afraid to walk through a field because of a fear of snakes, but if you concentrate on enjoying the wildflowers and other pleasant things, you can push the fear aside. Another approach is to introduce yourself to those things you fear in small doses or in a controlled environment. You might visit the reptile house at a zoo if you fear snakes.
Fear of Unknown
One of the most common—and most harmful—fears is fear of the unknown. In some cases, this fear makes sense. We don’t want to be the person in the horror movie who steps outside the cabin when hearing strange noises outside only to have their head removed by the creature. But some such fears are not reasonable.
One of the common ones is fear of death and the afterlife. We hear many tales of what the afterlife is like. Many of those tales conflict and we don’t know what to believe. But there is a simple solution for this. What we are really fearing here is the spiritual worlds or dimensions. We think we can’t really know them until we die. Not true! We can start now by awakening our spiritual faculties—the spirit and soul—while we are still trapped in a physical body. Once awakened, they can be developed until they communicate regularly with those higher dimensions. So in this case, the solution to the fear of the unknown is to know it and love it.