Fear Is The Mind Killer
In Frank Herbert’s Dune, he preached that “Fear Is the Mind Killer“. I can’t think of a better way to put that thought into words. Fear prevents us from reaching our full potential. Luckily, we can use mindful awareness to understand how fear grips us and holds us back.
Our senses are always cataloging our environment, taking in everything happening around us. This is a survival mechanism that is on auto-pilot, but that pilot is often drunk. He/she has the helm, but keeps playing with the fight or flight button like a toddler with a remote control.
While we were in the jungles, this was great. Everything WAS a potential threat, and we were faced with life and death situations pretty often, just as animals in the wild are. Watch a feral cat and you’ll see it play out beautifully. Every move they make seems to come from fear.
Humans, on the other hand, are faced with these life or death situations far less often , although our egos would LOVE us to keep believing that we are. In truth, we’re not in that situation most of the time.
Fight or Flight
If you’re unfamiliar with what this fight or flight response is, that’s ok. Most of us don’t know exactly what it is until we are faced with it in a hardcore situation, and then, only when we become mindful of it. Like when someone cuts us off on the road with barely an inch of space between cars. We first become acutely aware of the situation, then we feel the rush of adrenaline, we tense up, clench our fists, and immediately look to either engage or run away and get out of there. Our hearts begin pounding, and in extreme circumstances, we shake. This usually subsides in us after the perceived threat is gone.
The problem arises when the fight or flight response doesn’t subside. These events get stored in our memories, and reinforced over time. Once those thoughts are in our minds, they are there every time we become aware of a threat, almost like classical conditioning. The interesting thing about this is that the threat doesn’t even have to exist. We can walk around all day inventing scenarios that keep us locked in fear, or fight or flight.
Our minds are great storytellers, whether we believe it or not. We can craft stories out of anything. Some people tap into this and write novels and movies, while others keep journals, or write songs. Most of us, however, just create these scenarios in our heads. Our bodies don’t know the difference, and when we do this, our fight or flight responses kick in.
Our stress levels go berserk during more aggressive episodes, and we can become quite irrational. Watch the news any given night to see this play out. All kinds of horrible and stupid things can happen as a direct result of our reactions to perceived threats, whether real or simply imaginary. When we lack control over our fight or flight response, we can really get into trouble.
Therefore, learning to practice mindful meditation techniques, or just mindfulness, can go a long way in easing or completely neutralizing the runaway fight or flight response, and enabling us to be “cool under fire”. We can return ourselves to calm and rational states at will, and don’t have to be slaves to our primitive survival instincts.
The next time you start to feel worried or anxious about something, do this:
- Sit down and begin to breathe slowly.
- While inhaling, count to four, then while exhaling, count to four.
- If you feel comfortable doing so, pause for a count of two at the top of the inhale.
- Feel free to use any numbers that you feel comfortable using.
- Go slowly and steadily, and do this for a good few minutes.
- Stop when you become calm again.
This is a simple mindful breathing technique.
From here, you can make much better decisions in life.
I hope this helps.