Fear and anxiety are the great Ego disconnects. Fearful feelings can cut you off from your feelings of inner contentment in a flash. Joy vanishes, and you’re left with a whole set of uneasy sensations, like dread, restlessness, tension, rapid heartbeat, or panic. It has cousins like anxiety and worry that can plague you for ages. For those embarked on a spiritual path, for those seeking a more contented life full of a sense of wellbeing, it’s very important to learn to manage these feelings.

Let’s be clear that fear and anxiety have a vital role to play. It helps us manage dangerous situations. We need it and it’s useful. It has helped us survive, and survival is what the ego is all about. However, there are also many situations where it may not serve us, where there is no immediate existential threat. It’s not to say that there aren’t matters where we need to be concerned. For example many people today worry about climate change and how it might affect us in the future. However we arguably need to get a balance, where we can be aware of fear, not be driven by it and can let it go and return to a state of equilibrium. It can also be useful to understand the part the ego plays.

Stress and perception

The classic case that you’ve probably heard about is the stress response, the “amygdala hijack”. The brain perceives a threat and it goes through a very rapid knee-jerk response where it bypasses the rational parts of the brain and goes straight to the amygdala which fires off stress hormones and the body becomes fast-equipped for action; to freeze, to fight, or to get the hell out of there (flight). That’s useful where there’s a real threat, but for many people this pattern of reactivity becomes part of their pattern for living, and they experience stress in all sorts of situations. Bottom-line, it’s bad for us, both psychologically and health-wise.

Note the word “perceives” in the last paragraph. It’s how we interpret what’s happening, based on past conditioning. We’re mostly making all this up, a bit like life in general. You may know the mnemonic F.E.A.R.; False Evidence Appearing Real. It’s not who we are, and the data generating fear has gone through our filter systems and sent us where we don’t want to go. The awful truth may be that we’ve created all this. Not only that but fear is often future-related: it hasn’t happened. The situation doesn’t exist, except in our heads.

Fear and anxiety can take over our lives. People can live in a permanent anxiety state. It’s very bad for health and wellbeing and certainly destructive of a state of inner contentment. The two can struggle to coexist.

A key theme of these posts now is how we need to manage our state, to foster a state of inner contentment.

Rising above it

Awakened people often learn to drop it in an instant. I mentioned dropping it in the last post. They also tend to be unafraid of death, which is an underlying driver of fear. They know that we don’t really die in the spiritual sense and that there is so much more to life, both in the present and beyond leaving our physical bodies. They report that they no longer feel fearful.

Here’s where the core awareness skills of breathing, stepping back and witnessing come into play. The fearful self is not who we are.

This is vital when we look at the threats currently facing us in the world right now. This is when we need to awaken and rise above the sweaty little ego and not be driven into dark corners by fear, and by those who drive it. We are so much more.