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Yoga Psychology | Overcoming Fear

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Fear arises with Life, for all that is born will surely die. A star, a planet, a human or a tree, all of these have a life expectancy upon the expiry of which period, they all succumb to the opposite of life, death.

The most primal fear, that of not-being, or death, is shared by all manifest objects in the Universe. In Yogic Psychology terms, this primal fear-emotion is said to be concentrated in the Mūlādhāra Chakra or the Root-Identity Consciousness.

a sculpture of Ganapati, the deity of Muladhara

4 Parts of Fear

Physical Fear

Primal fear is, in the human, to be seen in four parts. The first part Physical Fear, deals with the physical body wherein pain and disease, lack of physical fitness, are some of physical fear’s causal factors. Second is Emotional Fear, or fear of certain pain causing emotions which are felt to be overpowering, and beyond one’s control. Thirdly is Mental Fear, or fear of the unknown. This fear dominates particularly decision makers and others who define their own self-identity in predominantly intellectual terms. Lastly is the After Life Fear, or the fear of the unknowable, the state following organic death.

Together these four fears, aspects of Primal Fear, cause the greatest disturbances to the body-mind complex’s homoeostasis. Fear and fear based stress or aggression, usually referred to as the body’s ‘Fight or Flight symptom’, by constantly disturbing the Pituitary-Adrenal mechanism of hormonal regulation leads to systemic degeneration, quicker rates of cell apoptosis and lack of inner vitality or joie de vivre, the very basis of life.

The effect of hormonal disturbance is felt over a period of time in the cardio-vascular system and the muscles of the heart. By causing the Sino-Atrial Node, the hearts pacemaker to be over-activated, leading to arrhythmical heartbeat sequences, fear causes wear and tear of the heart and the malfunctioning of its pacemaker system. Hypertension, which is also mental fear based, can further lead to stenosis and arterial contraction, thus leading to early arteriosclerosis and the onset of conditions conducive to seizures, strokes and myocardial infractions.

Fear, all four forms of it together decide most of our actions-what we often consider our desires or ambition arise out of the necessity to escape from deep fears. So, we are usually running toward something only to escape from something else. Contrariwise, were we to control our fears, we would be able to have a totally different perspective, as concerns our ambitions and desires.

Fear closes the psychological heart and forces us to believe we have limited choices, if we wish to attain success, security and love. The conundrum here is that the very definitions of success, security and love, are usually generated by the fear principle.

And the opposite of fear being freedom, the seeking out of freedoms for oneself and granting the same to others becomes an imperative for those who would like to move towards an open heart, and a physical body-mind complex in a peak state of homoeostasis.

The very first of the four basic fears, the Physical Fear is to be overcome through active full body exercises, such as swimming and running, as well as hiking in the wilds, and where possible one should practice full contact sports such as boxing or wrestling.

The beautiful skeleto-muscular architecture of the human body is not meant to be wasted behind a desk, and it does not need to be considered old and fragile past the age of 50. Rather, regular maintenance of the body keeps it in a state of ideal fitness and athletic lightness that only undergoes degeneration after 80 years of age.

Emotional Fear

The second of the four basic fears, Emotional Fear is to be overcome by first reducing, and then terminating altogether, the types of associations we have generated between some emotions and specific memories. Though the memories were not under our control as the perceptional or sensory experience that produced the memory was not under our control, we attach to each experience an emotion or a group of emotions, over which we do have complete control. Needless to say, in normal circumstances we do not seem to have this control and the experience seems to almost come with an emotion attached to it, as if it was the situation or the other person who was responsible for the emotion and not us. It is this lack of control and reversed accountability that must be corrected, in a retrospective and prospective method, if we are to evolve ourselves and a progressively polarizing society.

Mental Fear

The third of the fears, Mental Fear can only be overcome by the method of combining the opposites. What is meant by that statement is that when we have a certain thought and we then set up a train of connected thoughts behind this thought, and the whole thing starts chugging along, it tends to get its own, if mental, momentum. The very force of this ‘train of thought’ then tends to justify its own reality or ‘truth’. The problem with this is that there is no way of knowing if the train of thought is in the station of truth or not.

It is ironical, but it is by such force of thinking that a person becomes a fundamentalist or an ideologue, ready to war with nations, commit ecocide, condone genocide by nuclear weapons or do jihad by blowing themselves up.

To therefore, prevent ourselves from falling into the Mental Fear driven traps, we must counter our own thought processes with other thought processes that might run completely counter to our own well established ones that run along our well defined reference frame. This then allows us to get to a constantly progressive mental framework, where new thought processes and understandings are being consistently created by the voluntary cognitive dissonance engendered by the collision between our normal thoughts and their counters.

Fear of Afterlife

The last of the four fears, or the Afterlife Fear, is instinctive at the most primal layer in all manifest beings-even a stone. That is why a stone resists through its mineral structure, any change, and possesses inertia, the quality shared by all manifest beings. Everything that is not, wants to be. Everything that is, wants to continue being, but all are destined to lose their being, in death. In short, there is no death, only if there is no birth, but there is always ‘life’ or to put it more succinctly, there exists only the continuity of experience, which is compartmentalized and categorized by us as birth, life, death, after life, rebirth, etc. Knowing this and abiding within this knowledge, the greatest of the fears, that of not-being, is overcome and transformed.

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