Overcoming fear is sometimes a major project.
Our minds often manufacture fear faster than we can dispose of it. While that's happening, we're often paralyzed emotionally.
Five or six truckloads of books have been written about how to become fearless - or at least how to control the fear. It's a worthwhile project.
Some folks live with fear, day and night - all their lives.
It's a shame - and it's not their fault. Lots of us just step into a state of fear as soon as we learn to walk.
Parents are often only parents by default. It often happens that they're parents long before they're prepared in any way. It can happen to anyone.
If your parents' lives were dominated by fear when you were born, you can't help but be indoctrinated. Fear just becomes normal.
For lots of folks fear becomes a way of life because of terrifying events during their early years.
Regardless of how it happens, fear is all too real for anyone who lives with it.
Fear is not all bad - as everyone knows. Sometimes fear saves our bacon.
Irrational fear or paralyzing fear is the type of fear we're better off without.
Anxiety is a sign of fear. If I'm afraid of some future event, I may develop some strong anxiety which might well have a damaging effect on my health.
Overcoming fear in a very positive way involves understanding fear and recognizing that fear is a normal and necessary response. Fear responses are part of a huge advantage we have as human beings.
Our brains have two structures - one in each hemisphere - called amygdalae or amygdala, the latter being the singular form of the noun.
One of the functions of the amygdalae is providing us with instantaneous abilities to make judgements and produce fear responses appropriate for dangerous situations based on prior conditioning.
About 12 or 15 years ago while Joyce and I were enjoying some leisure time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I stumbled upon a book titled The Feeling of What Happens by Antonio Damasio.
The subtitle is Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness.
Dr. Damasio is extremely well educated.
Reading the book was a challenge, because it was written by a neuroscientist with a sack full of credentials. Sometimes his sentences are 2 or 3 yards long.
But it's an excellent read. Parts require multiple passes through verbage with dictionary in hand while other parts are highly entertaining.
The book is well indexed. So, I can pull it off the shelf, look up fear in the index, and quickly find highly useful information.
In the process of describing how the amagdalae function to our advantage as an integral part of the normal process of generating fear, Dr. Damasio relates part of the story of a young lady who came into his care as the result of having had a seizure.
Her brain scan revealed that both amagdalae were nearly entirely calcified.
I would have had no idea what this meant nor what the consequences would be, except that the author tells his readers that the result was no fear.
That might sound great, but as this patient's personal history indicated, there are serious negative consequences when anyone is unable to make those quick decisions sometimes necessary to avoid physical or psychological injury.
Dr. Damasio tells us this young lady forms romantic attachments quickly and has often been taken advantage of by those she trusts.
Analysis of her situation by Damasio: The fearlessness of her nature, which is the result of the bilateral damage to her amagdalae, has prevented her from learning, throughout her young life, the significance of the unpleasant situations that all of us have lived through. As a result she has not learned the telltale signs that announce possible danger and possible unpleasantness, especially as they show up in the face of another person or in a situation.
Fear under certain circumstances is a highly useful, protective mechanism.
Fear often retreats from a continuous state when you know why it came up in the first place.
It's only a problem when we allow our minds to repeatedly reproduce the fear once the potentially fearful situation is gone.
I know that overcoming fear is not easy for many folks. I also know that it has nothing to do with intelligence. Or maybe it has everything to do with intelligence.
Sometimes those who have the highest intelligence have the most difficulty overcoming fear.
Maybe that's because their brains automatically retain the fear-producing experiences of infancy and the early years which follow.
My guesses as to what goes on are based on reading several books on the mechanisms of the mind relative to fear and memory.
Another book in addition to Damasio is a much less technical work by John Selby, titled Quiet Your Mind.
Overcoming fear sometimes takes years of personal counseling with competent counselor.
Often, though, the realization that the fear responses recorded during infancy and childhood can be neutralized by meditation can save years of time.
Other specific techniques for overcoming fear such as some offered by Selby in Quiet Your Mind can also be very effective.
In a subsection of Chapter 3 titled Reeducating Your Amagdala Selby teaches us how to use imagination to do just that.
Since our imaginations often magnify our fears, using it to do the opposite makes great sense.
There may be psychologists who disagree, but let's consider the possibility that it works well, and how it works.
Here are some words from Selby:
Who wants to imagine the worst? Don't we just program ourselves to have a terrible experience? Aren't we asking for disaster when we imagine the worst happening? And doesn't imagining the worst just condition our minds with more fear?
I thought the same when I did my initial therapy training with Dr. Charles Kelley of the Radix Institute, and he started guiding me into imagining all my worst fears. However, I quickly came to find that as soon as I'd imagined the worst I was somehow set free from the chronic anxiety. The technique works - and works beautifully - to decondition ingrained fears.
Here we see that the author learned first hand. Chronic anxiety - the result of many fears - was effectively overcome by using imagination.
Then John Selby details cases in which he was able to successfully use the technique with others for overcoming fear.
Sometimes our childhoods contain experiences which take us through the same kinds of processes.
If our parents and teachers were too protective, we may have been robbed of the experiences which might have provided the the same deconditioning.
Dr. Damasio discusses what he calls the pervasive tyranny of emotion.
He likes those big words. He might have called it being obsessed by fear or chronic anxiety.
Like many highly trained scientists, Dr. Damasio's answer for overcoming fear is reason.
Another non-medical teacher whose teaching is very helpful for overcoming fear is Eckhart Tolle.
Tolle teaches us that our minds typically run in high gear - generating fear thoughts, magnifying fear and creating chronic anxiety and fear.
The title of his first bestseller is The Power of Now.
In it, as the title suggests, we learn that reality is now, the present moment. Life is now.
The past no longer exists, and when it did exist, it was now. The future does not exist. We can only live in the present moment - now.
If you take time to observe your mind, to actually analyze the stream of thoughts, you find that most of those thoughts have little or no import.
Tolle calls them incessant mental noise.
The compulsive thinker, which means almost everyone, lives in a state of apparent separateness, in an insanely complex world of continuous problems and conflict, a world that reflects the ever-increasing fragmentation of the mind.
Overcoming fear begins when you observe the mind. The raging stream, the mental noise slows down, then stops. You have peace for the first time.
Once I began to understand Tolle's simple words, it was easy for me to follow their instruction - though not easy to enjoy lengthy mental silence. It has taken years for me to learn how to keep my mind quiet.
I still too frequently allow my mind to run away much of the time.
The incessant noises returns - and so do the fears.
I'm lucky, though.
I've never experienced the level of fear that many do.
Joyce - my wife of 46 years - has been reading and listening to Eckhart Tolle for years also. But it's more difficult for her to internalize his teachings.
Her racing mind often keeps her awake at night.
My blood type is O - hers is A.
If you haven't come across Eat Right 4 Your Type by Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo, you're thinking so what? to the blood type info.
Dr. D'Adamo is an internationally known naturopath who has been researching the relationship between human blood types and metabolism for years. Eat Right 4 Your Type was published in 1996.
In 2001 Live Right 4 Your Type was published.
In the third chapter, titled Stress and Emotional Stability, a bunch of information is presented telling us about significant differences in the way we react to stress depending on our blood type.
Most of the studies that record differences in a disease, hormones, or neurotransmitters according to blood type, who a continuum, with Type O at one end and Type A at the other. Usually, Type B and Type AB fall somewhere in the middle.
This book by D'Adamo makes a very good case for the validity of the relationship between blood types and personality tendencies.
Joyce is quite well described by some if not all the personality characteristics indicated for Type A individuals, and I show several of the traits indicated for Type O folks.
We've been using the guidelines from Eat Right for several years, and we have strong confidence in their validity for us.
I think the personality characteristics indicated in Live Right also have credibility.
It just means Joyce will have to keep working on the mind quieting process in order to enjoy more freedom from the tyranny of incessant thinking.
I will have to do the same, but results come more quickly - maybe because my mind is weaker - for which I'm thankful.
Overcoming fear is a huge factor for overcoming additions.Return to Addiction Recovery from Overcoming Fear