Meditations and Further Reading on Fear

“Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I feel so alone in my fear. How can I be sure that someone else will understand my fear?” “Try to visit the idea that we share a universal set of feelings and needs. As described in “The 5 Categories of Fear,” we see that we share a set of universal fears. Connecting with our inner fear allows us to empathize with others who share that same fear.

“Okay, I’ve made it to the end of this very long section of reading. I’ve learned about fear, gained tools, and read a bunch of inspirational quotes. I still feel unprepared. If I could cultivate one thing to face fear, what would it be?”

Love E ​X ​P ​A ​N ​D ​S ​our growth zone and makes the boundary between these two zones more porous, allowing easy passage between the two zones. We are not constrained to one zone.

When we meet our needs through love strategies, our eyes are open to more possible strategies to meet our needs.
Example: A walk in the park lovingly chosen to meet the need for movement opens up the possibility of the walk also being a strategy to meet the needs of discovery and play. When we approach the world and ourselves (including our fear) with love, we are more capable of joining available
strategies to needs. Everything becomes a potential strategy to meet many needs.

“When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance…Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” – John Lennon

Fear ​C​ ​ O​ ​N​ ​T​ ​R​ ​A​ ​C​ ​T​S our growth zone, making the jump between comfort and panic shorter.
Fear makes the boundary between these two zones more rigid and unbending, and one cannot move freely between the zones.
When we meet our needs through fear strategies, we readily identify all the things around us that won’t meet our needs and ignore the things that do, thus limiting the strategies for meeting our needs.
Example: If we avoid a conversation for fear of being confronted, we also limit our opportunity for connection and clarity. When we choose fear, we assume that available strategies will not meet needs. Without any acceptable strategies, needs go unmet.

“To him who is in fear, everything rustles.” – Sophocles

Further Readings in Fear

Listed below are resources for further readings, videos, and contemplations. ​Fear will be a constant companion in your life. Why not get to know it?

Books

Short and easily readily book by Zen monk on the origins and effects of fear, and how learning to sit with fear brings acceptance and courage.

Book by Buddhist nun on how we already have what we need to change and heal. Clear descriptions of how to engage with harmful stories of suffering, accompanied by simple techniques to begin to break the cycle. Her suggestions can be easily practiced by anyone at any time without meditation training.

Well-written guide to working with fear productively, give lots of examples. “7 Fear Stories” adapted from this book.

Argues that grief, fear and despair are not pathologies to be medicated away but emotions that help us grow psychologically and spiritually. Takes from psychology, Judaism, and Buddhist philosophies.

Instructive manual on overcoming fear of flying through cognitive-behavioral techniques. Features education about airplanes, breathing and thoughts techniques, and success stories.

Choosing joy over fear to open up a life of empowerment and connection. Author of ​The Four Agreements
​ .

Plenty of statistics and anecdotes from media and psychology about the internal biases and processes that contribute to our culture of fear.

Text by Buddhist teacher on the fears associated with meditation and presence.

Videos

Beautifully-made black comedy exploring some of life’s common fears: fear of the unknown, failure, rejection, and death.

Dance performed to a poem about the possibilities and meanings of fear, based on this poem by Jon Jorgenson

An original poem about fear by Jon Jorgensen

Interviews with American entrepreneur, author, and public speaker Seth Godin about creativity, productivity, the fear “bucket” and kaizening your way through scary moments.

Joseph Ledoux explains the source of fear in our brain and why it matters.

Lead vulnerability researcher talks about the science and emotions behind vulnerability. #3 top TED talk of all time.

New research suggests that stress may only be bad for you if you believe that to be the case. McGonigal urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to an unsung mechanism for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

How to use fear as an indicator of a valuable path to take. “Take the analytical frameworks, the capabilities you have, apply them to old fears. Apply them to very big dreams.”

In English, fear is something we conquer. It’s something we fight. It’s something we overcome. But what if we looked at fear in a fresh way? What if we thought of fear as an amazing act of the imagination, something that can be as profound and insightful as storytelling itself?

An excerpt from the film “Defending Your Life” portraying a bureaucratic afterlife in which one must justify their actions and be placed for reincarnation.

“Fear is like a giant fog. It sits on your brain and blocks everything: Real feelings, true happiness, real joy…
They can’t get through that fog.
But you lift it and, buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life.”

The main character of “Defending Your Life” sits before a panel of judges to defend his deeds in life.

Podcasts

“Choosing Curiosity over Fear,” 7 July 2016. On Being podcast. http://www.onbeing.org/program/elizabeth-gilbert-choosing-curiosity-over-fear/8786 (51:00)

Conversation with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (2016) about how creativity, which she defines as choosing the path of curiosity over the path of fear.

“Fearless,” 16 January 2015. NPR Invisibilia podcast. http://www.npr.org/programs/invisibilia/377515477/fearless (56:48)

What would happen if you could disappear fear? We’ll hear about the striking (and rare) case of a woman with no fear. Also explores how the rest of us might “turn off” fear.

Movies

Defending Your Life (1991), Dir. Albert Brooks. Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp6qkZkPBhY

A dead man makes it to the afterlife only to discover that he must defend and justify his lifelong fears in order to advance to the next phase of existence; or be sent back to earth to do it again. He balances fear with love as he tries to justify his former life in order to transcend to a higher existence.

Clips: https://youtu.be/eQmJl1CQx2o; https://youtu.be/QzCfDdJirg4

*Inside Out (2015), Dir. Pete Docter, Ronnie Del Carmen. Trailer: http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/disney/insideout/

Oscar-winning animated film about the five dominant emotions guiding a young girl. A fun, thoughtful take on emotional maturity and the inner world of our psyche. Movie was influenced by Dr. Paul Ekman, see “The Atlas of Emotions” below.

Many horror movies!

Readings

Brain Surgery to Remove Amygdala Leads to Woman’s ‘Hyper Empathy.’” by Bahar Ghollpour. 13 November 2013. Huffington Post.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/13/brain-surgery-hyper-empathy-amygdala-remove-epilepsy_n_3920770.html

“Want to be fearless? Get rid of amygdala neurons in the brain.” by James Maynard. 1 November 2014, Tech Times. http://www.techtimes.com/articles/19283/20141101/want-to-be-fearless-get-rid-of-amygdala-neurons-in-the-brain.htm

“What Are You Afraid Of? Cultivating Fearlessness in Buddhism.” by Rev. Zesho Susan O’Connell. 8 November 2011. Huffington Post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-zesho-susan-oconnell/what-are-you-afraid-of_b_1079091.html

*[Website] The Atlas of Emotions by Paul Ekman. http://atlasofemotions.org/#actions:fear

Very cool visual representation of the five common emotions, states, triggers, and moods. The creator, Paul Ekman, was a consultant for the Pixar film Inside Out.

“Why Do Some Brains Enjoy Fear?” by Allegra Ringo. 31 October 31. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/10/why-do-some-brains-enjoy-fear/280938/

“Give Up These Habits Immediately to Become a High-Achieving Person” by Thomas Oppong. This article focuses in on the ways fear holds us back, and encourages releasing specific fear habits for higher achievement.
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“The Practical De-escalation of Worry” – a fun, short blog post from Seth Godin about choosing our reactions to fear intentionally.
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