Fear and Spirituality
What is Fear and how does it affect our Spiritual Development?
To be awake is to see the world for what it really is so we can fulfill our purpose in this life as it was meant to be fulfilled, however, most will live out their lives in fear, projecting their fears outwards onto the world and allowing their fears to control their lives like puppets on a string.
What is Fear?
Fear can be a very strong emotion reaction to a perceived threat, either in the present moment or in the future, whether real or imaginary, and depending on the severity of the perceived threat this reaction can range from minor anxiety to a ‘knee jerk’ reaction of fight, flight or freeze as adrenaline is released into our bloodstream. We all know how fear feels, it is not a nice feeling and so it comes as no surprise that most people will avoid this feeling if at all possible.
Fear is a natural human condition we all experience throughout our lives. Without this basic instinct to protect our physical form we probably wouldn’t live long enough to achieve anything meaningful in life…we wouldn’t bother looking properly before crossing the road and we would lack the mindfulness to navigate the countless other hazardous situations we might face…a little fear can sometimes be useful, however, fear plays a much deeper role in our lives…the fear of damaging or even losing your personal or social identity.
What is Social Identity?
From a very early age we start to develop a sense of self and our place in society, we start to identify with being a boy or a girl, who our family and friends are, what school we belong to, what town or country we grew up in, our race, colour, sexual orientation, religion, ideologies, the car we drive, how much money we have, our beliefs and points of view…the list is almost endless. We invest most of our lives building up our social identity, and we come to believe that this identity is who we really are, and so the mind will see any challenge towards our social identity as a very real threat and it will, in most cases, not distinguish the difference between the threat of physical death and the threat of ‘social identity’ death and it will react the same way in both cases. It might not always feel like fear so consider this…what if you identified yourself as being a fantastic driver with the fastest car on the road, and then somebody drives past you going slightly faster? What part of you will feel threatened by this?
Individual and Group Social Identity
A good example of how a threat can be perceived towards personal identity is public speaking, studies conducted show that this is one of the most common fears, people when asked reported that they fear public speaking as commonly as physical death. The reason being is that they fear being judged and having their social identity ripped apart.
On a global scale we can see countless examples of how different groups who share the same social identities or ideologies come together, something as simple as a uniform can strengthen a person’s group social identity and make them feel safer, and history has shown us that any perceived threat from an opposing group can lead to disaster. This type of behavior is divisive and makes humanity vulnerable.
So what does this have to do with Spirituality?
Now that you have a deeper understanding of fear you can start to be more mindful and notice when it starts to bubble up into the conscious mind, rather than being unconsciously triggered and controlled by fear. Also consider this, if one person can be terrified of spiders but another person not, then it must be all in the mind. In fact, 99% of fear is pure imagination created by the mind, you may never fully escape or transcend fear, but you can either be in control of it or it will be in control of you.
You have come into the world with a purpose, and your mind is an awesome tool to help you achieve this purpose. But when it comes to spiritual development, your fear will hold you back. It will prompt cognitive bias in your thinking and what you direct your attention to in order to support your social identity, you will fail to see yourself for who you really are and the world for what it really is.
Click here to read more about ‘Fear and Fearlessness’ and how it affects your personal mind and your Spiritual Development.