Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Another great, integrally-informed article from Robert Masters.

If you are looking for genuine transformation, you need
look no further than your fear.

In it there exists not only an abundance of trapped
energy, but also the very testing and challenge which we
need in order to live a deeper, more authentic life.
In entering our fear, we end our fear of it...


As simplistic as it may sound, fear often is just excitement in endarkened
drag. If we are excited and then we contract, fear arises; if we are fearful
and then expand, excitement arises. Same energy, different context.
This is not all that difficult to recognize when we consider our fear
in its physical/physiological dimensions, but not so easy to recognize
when we consider our fear in its mental dimensions (chronic doubt, for

One form that excitement can take (for better or for worse) is anger.
Not surprisingly, fear and anger are biochemically all but identical. Same
adrenaline, different directionality — fear retreats, anger moves forward.
Same adrenaline, different intentionality — fear avoids, anger engages.

Fear disempowers, whereas anger empowers, so long as it is not allowed
to mutate into aggression. When the fearful get truly angry, they are not
afraid any more, but just angry. Not that getting angry is the solution
for fearfulness — but the arising of anger can really empower us, in
contrast to the arising of fear.

Fear comes in many forms — worry, anxiety, panic, paranoia, angst,
terror, dread, doubt — but fundamentally is just apprehensive selfconstriction,
a contractile aversion that takes shape as a mildly to deeply
unpleasant gripping feeling that announces, compellingly and viscerally:
I am not safe; or I am threatened; or I am in danger.

This message — scrawled in our own blood — may often be impervious
to cognitive intervention. Consider the following example: If we suffered
a particularly difficult birth, with our vital signs having accelerated for a
significant amount of time into zones of extreme danger — so that our
biological survival was clearly at stake — we obviously didn’t mentally
reflect on our situation (our brain not being developmentally capable of
doing so), but rather automatically reacted by “doing” whatever most
quickly and effectively reduced the danger, like going neurologically
limp or “depressing” our vital signs.

Later in life, when in the presence of danger (real or imagined), we may
then not only get afraid, but may also revert, beyond any mental countereffort,
to what originally had “worked” to save our life — withdrawing,
shutting down, turning off, getting depressed, whatever does the job.

Many relationships are ruined or kept in the shallows by such reversion
(which is not always a result of birth trauma!) — the “depressing” of our
vitals signs both “saves” and debilitates us, making us all but incapable
of sustained intimacy.

However it manifests, fear very easily undercuts our rationality. Fear
that’s allowed to infiltrate our mind doesn’t waste any time generating
thoughts that support and amplify it.

Animals get afraid — demonstrating the physiology and characteristic
behaviors of fear — when actual danger is present and registers; the
electrifying biochemistry of fear immediately enables them to flee or,
less commonly, to freeze.

Humans, however, are usually far less practically inclined, at least after
infancy, getting afraid not only in the present, but also projecting
fearfulness into the past (as in guilt, which is shame injected with enough
fear to keep us small) and the future (as in worry or anxiety), generally
keeping ourselves not only chronically afraid, but also overcommitted or
enslaved to whatever most successfully keeps us sufficiently distanced
from our fear.

Fear can be adaptive or maladaptive. The rush of fear we feel when we
are getting too close to a precipice is useful, immediately alerting and
readying us for needed action (like stepping back). Worry, on the other
hand, is far from useful — when we permit it to gnaw at us, and to enlist
our cognition in its service, we’re only keeping ourselves off track, bound
up in a too narrowly framed view. Worry — which is socially acceptable
anxiety — keeps us spinning in a cranial cramp, until we leave for more
life-giving territory (perhaps after having “worried our head off ”).

To journey into, unguardedly feel, and directly relate to our fear (instead
of from it) requires that our usual distancing strategies, cognitive and
otherwise, be exposed and disarmed — assuming, of course, that it
is timely to do so. Our fear can then be touched and known from the
inside, and eventually divested of its power to shrink, misguide, or
intimidate us.

Our smaller fears, unpleasant as they might be, are not usually very
difficult to temporarily escape or sedate — we know what we are afraid
of; we are perhaps even oddly comforted by its uncomfortable or edgy
familiarity; and we know when to throw it a piece of meat and when
not to. We know it well enough to know how to take the edge off it,
through positive thinking, sex, food, drugs, intense exercise, electronic
fixes, and other such distracting preoccupations — such strategies give
us some sense of control, regardless of what they cost us.

That is, when our fear has a concrete, everyday object upon which to
focus or fixate, we are on miserable yet dependably familiar ground,
seemingly far from the quicksands of our deeper fears. Thus do we
tend to prefer the burdened beasts of depression to the monsters of
the deep.

And so thus do we tend to cling, however indirectly, to our everyday
fearfulness, focusing on its mental content much more than the raw
feeling itself. We then leave the nature of fear out of our inquiry,
settling instead for explanations for why we are afraid. It’s easy to use
our reasoning powers to distance ourselves from our fearfulness, yet
even from the loftiest and most seemingly safe neocortical towers we
are not entirely out of the reach of our core fears.

Until we move toward our fear, we will be bound by it.

The key to working effectively with fear is to get inside it.

This means, among other things, that we need to have a clear knowledge
of all the ways in which we have learned to get away from fear, so that
when one of them shows up, we’re capable of looking at it — rather than
through its eyes — and, to whatever degree, saying no thanks. Getting
inside fear means getting past its periphery, past its defining thoughts,
past its propagandizing sentinels. Entering the dragon’s cave.

Once we’re within fear, under its skin, with our attention scanning our
surroundings like a miner’s headlamp, we can begin acquainting ourselves
with its features, particularly those sensations and beliefs that together
make it into a something we label “fear.” The closer we get to it, the
better we can see it. However, we need to learn not to get close too
quickly, not to move so fast that we can’t keep digesting and integrating
what we’re experiencing.

When we remain outside our fear, we remain trapped in it.
When we, however, consciously get inside our fear, it’s as if it turns
inside out. Getting inside our fear with wakeful attention and compassion
actually expands our fear beyond itself. Once the contractedness at
the center of fear ceases to be fueled, fear unravels and dissipates,
terminating its occupancy of us.

In entering our fear, we end our fear of it.

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