(Part 2) Cutting Off Your Legs – A Spiritual Lesson About Overcoming Fear
Now, about that pesky four-letter word mentioned at the end of this blog post…
That word is FEAR.
Fear is a primitive subconscious response. In the experiment you read about, it was clear that the fear response was triggered in the subject, even though she was consciously aware that she was completely safe.
The implications of this are huge. It means that when we experience fear, what’s really happening under the covers is we are having a biophysical response to our PERCEPTION of reality. Not necessarily reality itself. On one hand, this seems sort of obvious. At a conscious level, most spiritually-inclined people understand that fear is not about what we’re observing, but rather, about how we’re interpreting what we observe.
In fact, there’s some great acronyms for F.E.A.R. that have gone around. For people who identify with FEAR they’ll say “Future Events Already Ruined.” The subconscious mind would have you “Forget Everything And Run.”
And most positive minded people will remind themselves that FEAR is just “False Evidence Appearing Real.” Or as Mike Dooley writes in Infinite Possibilities, it’s “Failure to Experience Actual Reality.”
In light of the experiment, that latter definition is the most useful and probably the most accurate. Fear is a subconscious response when we are not perceiving reality as it actually exists. For the purposes of this conversation, we are not referring to present-moment reasonable fearful situations like you standing on the train tracks and a train is coming.
What we will look at is how we became fearful of everyday experiences *before* they actually happen. In other words, fears of the future. How did we get a fear of failure? Fear of rejection? Fear of inadequacy? Fear of lack?
These are the fears we deal with each and every day, in big ways and in little ways. They aren’t fears of what’s happening right now. They’re fears about what we believe will happen in the future. How did we get these fears?
In the past we had an experience where we didn’t feel safe. Maybe we were criticized or rejected. Perhaps we received the message that we weren’t enough or didn’t have enough. Whatever it was, we had an experience. And during that experience, in that present moment, our bodies generated a biophysical response. Our subconscious then associated with biophysical sensation with our experience of fear.
Then, whenever any experience in our present moment (real or imagined) resembles that previous fearful example, our subconscious *remembers* the biophysical response and repeats that biophysical response in the present moment.
In other words, whenever we are feeling fear about something that is not an immediate danger, we are re-experiencing our past sensations. This is a natural instinct to prevent us from actually re-living the same experience which we previously perceived as threatening to our survival.
And as the experiment demonstrates (and your own personal experience knows), even when we consciously know we’re living in the past, it doesn’t stop that biophysical fear response from happening. That’s because it’s subconsciously written into the fabric of our minds and bodies.
This can seem pretty disheartening at first. After all, if fear is subconscious, AND, your subconscious can actually over-ride your conscious perception of reality, how can you ever overcome fear? Is it even possible to learn how to be un-afraid of experiences in which you’re normally used to feeling fear?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. And since this blog post is already pretty long, stay tuned for a future blog post.