Someone asked me once: would it be possible to avoid fear if you were to live as a hermit, far away from modern society? This is a very beautiful question, and the person who asked it clearly knew exactly what real fear is. Otherwise, for sure this question would have not come up. Only someone who has experienced pure fear directly knows the real nature of it. Before going through the answer in detail, let me explain to you, in one sentence, what fear really is. Fear is a survival mechanism, hardwired in our physiological and psychological circuitry: a natural, inborn mechanism that exists to protect and preserve life. This is the real definition of fear. Let’s now try to understand why it so difficult to be fearless in the modern society.
The desert island
Imagine for a moment that you decided to escape from society, somewhere on a desert island, far from civilization and all alone with the caressing whisper of the sea waves and the mellow sounds of birds tweeting surrounding you. Certainly, you would get rid of all the man-made, fabricated negativity. You won’t hear of murder, war, terrorism. You wouldn’t know anything about any new lethal epidemic or a new taxation system that will cut down your finances. In fact, you wouldn’t know anything at all about what is happening in the distant world far away from your small island. Also, you will be completely alone; therefore you would be able to get rid of all negative emotions that are associated with relationships, such as jealousy, envy, guilt or shame. Being alone for some people can be scary or even inconceivable, but for some others would be just fine. And, let’s face it: if someone decides to be a hermit, they probably already know what they had signed up for. Hence, in this hypothetical scenario, I’m assuming that you would not be the kind of person that cannot be alone, or that at least wouldn’t be okay with this situation after a while.
But being alone is not the point. Even if you are alone – and perfectly fine with it – you won’t be free from those emotions that are deeply rooted in your biological mind and body. One of those “congenital” emotional states is fear. But there are others. The good news is that congenital emotions, perhaps unsurprisingly, are necessary for life; consequently, there is absolutely no need to get rid of them or, in some cases, to control them. The bad news, though, is that society has cunningly engineered a number of mind tricks aimed to imitate those inborn emotions. These mind tricks are then processed by your brain and perceived as real emotions, even though they are actually artifacts.
The true nature of fear and why it’s about sex
First let’s take a closer look at the true nature of fear. Fear is, in a way, very similar to sexuality. It is equally inexplicable, equally necessary, and equally powerful. Without sexual energy, life would not be possible. It is said that sexual energy is the most powerful energy that there is on this planet as its force is essentially what moves all forms of life on Earth. Sex is where we come from; Sex creates life, and therefore sex is directly connected to life, more than anything else in the world really. But how is sex the opposite of fear? Essentially, fear and sex are two opposite poles of the same powerful source of energy. Fear is, ultimately, fear of death, and it is directly connected to death. This is why every time you experience fear, you actually fear for your life, and this powerful sensation gives you a pinch in the stomach, Have you noticed how similar this feeling is to the one you get during sexual arousal? Both feelings seem to react with something in the belly, producing a clear “movement” down there. And yet they are opposite in nature. When you are in fear, there is vasoconstriction: your stomach feels cold as blood moves away from it in order to flow to vital organs such as the heart and the bronchi. When you are sexually excited, there is vasodilatation: blood flows towards the lower belly and the sexual organs, giving you a “warm” sensation in the stomach region. In both cases, the belly is the center of the feelings network.
This is because the source of consciousness, the “hara center”, is located around the belly. This is why in Vipassana meditation practice it is common to find techniques involving focus the attention on the navel or around the belly. And this is why powerful, inborn emotions such as fear and sexual excitement make your belly tingle. Is the very center of life inside of you that is pulsating with these vibrations. This sensation is beautiful, and has to be protected. You should never try to suppress it, let alone trying to get rid of it. Instead, you should become more sensitive to it, and only then you can realize its beauty and power. And the more sensitive you become, the more this sensation will become apparent, and you will start to feel the vibrations gradually expanding, from the belly throughout the entire physical body, moving from the inside out like ripples when you drop a pebble in a pond. This is true for both fear and sex. Fear, especially fear of death, is an emotion naturally hardwired in our body and mind, and it is a great device for our survival, much like sexuality.
So, when there is real fear, for example because of a real, concrete and present danger, fear totally. Fight, if necessary, but fight with all your body and soul. Let this vibration pervade your body freely, and transform its energy. Don’t be lukewarm, be a flame. But typically, whenever people think that they are in fear, they are not even close to experience real fear. They might even get the stomach-pinching sensation, and feeling it diffusing all over their bodies, but it is just their mind playing tricks, producing a fear-like emotion. This sensation is caused by a shift in your perception of reality that mimics a fear-generating danger. It is like having a very realistic dream, and experiencing the emotions from that dream and their effects as if they were happening in real life. This type of fear you have to learn to let go of.
The unfamiliar is scary
Studies have revealed the most common fears in both the physical and mental sphere. With respect to the physical sphere, the fears that were found more common are fear of flying, fear of heights, and fear of insects. None of the types of fear in the physical sphere can be unequivocally attributed to social conditioning, as there is always a natural component to them, which makes them a pure form of fear. Fear of flying, for example, can be easily considered an inborn type of fear, and it is not as irrational as you might think. There simply is something extremely wrong in being stuck into a pressurized aluminum tube, sometimes for hours, 30000 feet above the ground. It is not human, not natural. Humans are supposed to have their feet on the ground, not on some flying tube up in the sky. Our bodily functions and our hormonal equilibrium are altered when we are on a plane. This is because environmental factors important for our physiology such as pressure, oxygen levels and humidity are not optimal inside an airplane. I am not saying that flying is not safe, I am just saying that fear of flying is completely natural. Fear of heights is also not irrational, for similar reasons. Exposure to heights requires adaptation of certain neurological functions such as sense of balance and perspective, which is not necessarily straightforward for everyone. Not everyone is born the same, so it is not unreasonable for some people to experience fear of heights. Moreover, fear of heights is strictly associated with fear of falling, which is a perfectly natural, inborn form of fear present in most mammals.
Fear of insects is a little different. Here we are already entering the realm of externally-created fears, although fear of bugs still preserves a certain natural component. It is worth spending some words on this type of fear. Modern fear of bugs is a manifestation of psychological ignorance about the world, and is essentially fear of the unknown. These little, funny-looking creatures are so different from us and from other animals people are more accustomed to, such as mammals. In addition, bugs are considered ugly and dirty, which generates repulsion and, consequently, justifies fear. And yet, a two-year old baby seeing an insect for the first time would likely not experience fear. If anything, the child will be curious and will try to touch and play with the bug. But when this happens, the mother reacts vehemently, and immediately pulls the baby away from the bug, or by eliminating the bug. The mother’s action, repeated many times, will shape the baby’s emotional response to insects, which will be soon felt as a repelling and dangerous.
Some insects are indeed dangerous, and thus this type of behavior could be considered not completely artificial. Fear of dangerous animals is a tool handed down by evolution, passed on through family’s conditioning or direct experience. In other words, fear of bugs is not innate, although it becomes so when the right conditions such as real danger are present. When the insect is dangerous – and it is perceived as such only through prior experience or knowledge – you will feel the real fear, which will help you to get out of danger. But in an ignorant society anything that is not familiar is considered a potential danger, even when, in fact, the danger is insignificant. You fear what you don’t know well enough, or what society thinks is not pleasant to see. Those hairy little bodies with big strange eyes… how repugnant. But it is enough to become accustomed to them, to their shapes, features and colors, and fear fades away. You may even be able to see the beauty in insects. After all, they are just another expression of life, perhaps in a more primitive form than us or other animals. How can you see the beauty in a kitten and not in an insect? Why is a kitten cute and an insect ugly? Free your mind from the definitions that others have created in your own emotional world. Do not allow anyone to interfere or to dictate within you. Be free of preconception. You will then realize that there is a certain beauty in everything. Beauty will live in your eyes constantly, like a perpetual glow sparkling with tremendous joy.
Hell is other people
With respect to the mental sphere, people most fear humiliation, rejection, and failure. Funnily enough, fears belonging to the physical sphere, however absurd, are far more authentic than those belonging to the mental sphere. Humiliation, rejection and failure cause a type of fear which is very different from that of the physical sphere. The first difference is that mental fears have little or no inborn component. Surely, sometimes certain psychological susceptibilities are being carried through evolution, and become “carved” in our genes. However, this can be easily bypassed if someone is never exposed to the factors triggering the fear, or if they learn how to get rid of the fear itself. And if these psychological forms are eliminated, you may also modify your genes so that those susceptibilities will be excluded from your existence and from that of your children.
The second difference is that the mental types of fear depend strongly on relationships. Fears in the physical sphere are more individual, more personal. Mental fears cannot exist if you are alone. Mental fears are the kind of fears you would be able to get rid on a desert island. There will be no one around to humiliate you, and no one around to reject you. And how can failure exist with no one to judge who you are or what you do? Actually, on a desert island you would only fear failure when you fail to fulfill one of your basic life needs such as food, water or shelter, and in that case you are just experiencing a totally natural form of fear. It does not depend on anyone, and it is totally individual. But if you are not alone, you will fear failure simply because you are afraid of other people’s judgment. “What will my friends and family think if I fail?” “Will my wife think I am stupid?” “Will my father be disappointed?”
Fear is desire
People are not free. They live locked away in the invisible prison that other people have created. You can easily unmask those mind tricks disguised as fear. The invisible prison is a mind trick originating from society’s effort to keep people in line, to control and manipulate people. Those in power want to hang on to their power, and to do so they need to control people through fear. This system is subtle and cunning and acts through generating desire. Desire drags you into pursuing goals unnecessary for your life. If you cannot achieve them, you’ll be confronted with humiliation, rejection or failure. Desire generates false fears by creating false needs to replace real needs or by tricking your mind into thinking that these false needs are as important for you as basic life needs, such as food, water and shelter. Desire is a great imitator. Basic needs are the only type of need necessary for life and, therefore, the only type of need that justify the rise of real fear when unmet. Any other type of unmet need has been fabricated externally and it is actually a desire, which will generate a false kind of fear when unfulfilled.
Desire is not naturally present within you such as the need for food, water or shelter, but it can be created artificially by society. To need food, water, and shelter cannot be considered a desire, because it is a fundamental part of your whole being. It is exactly what it is: a need, an essential necessity, a prerequisite for life. What people experience as “fear” these days has nothing to do with the fear of losing their access to food, water and shelter, or with a real, tangible threat to their lives. Without food, water and shelter you cannot live, therefore a real danger does exist when these needs are taken away. Next time you feel “in fear”, just ask yourself this question: is my life in danger right now? If the answer is no, then you are not in fear. Almost certainly, you are victim of a mind trick that imitates danger: an artificially created need that when unfulfilled, generates fear. If you want to live free from fear you have to learn how to break away from desire. Desire creates fear. Just let go of desire, and fear will vanish with it.
Congenital fear is necessary for life
If you were alone on a desert island you’d still be in fear, because your basic needs such as water, food and shelter will be unfulfilled, and that will naturally generate fear for your life. You cannot change this, and it would actually be dangerous for you to do so. In such a situation, you have to be in fear to survive: it is the very life inside of you demanding you that! Fear will help your brain, muscles and nerves to be active in a situation of stress, and can eventually help you through real danger. So you don’t want to get rid of this type of fear, because it is a beautiful and useful type of emotion. Similarly, would you be able to suppress your sexual attraction for someone? Even if you try real hard, you know that is impossible, because this type of emotion is also congenital and it is necessary for life. We can’t rationally decide whether we are attracted to someone or not, or whether we are in fear or not. It just happens. It is your very nature, your instincts, your biology, and if some god from the skies made us this way, there must be a reason.
Hence, just accept the fact that fear much like sex is a key natural element of our life force, and without it we would probably be dead or akin to some empty robots. Through accepting the natural presence of this useful emotional device, you will reach a deeper understanding of it. You will realize that fear only happens when you are afraid of fear itself, and you are not ready to accept it as it is. It is like you are anticipating fear by creating the expectation of it. If you want to live free from fear you have to learn how to break away from desire. Desire creates fear. Just let go of desire, and fear will vanish with it.