Let’s talk about fear. Inner fear. How elusive and arbitrary it can be. We sometimes struggle with fear over the simplest things – talking to our boss, having a routine visit to the doctor’s, or taking an exam. We might be fearful for our health, bank accounts, jobs, or kids. Of course, we can feel legitimate fear, but usually what we fear is not based on our outer reality but rather coming from within ourselves. Assagioli calls this fear a widely diffused psychological poison.
In order to deal with fear effectively, Assagioli urges us to eliminate or minimalize the fear within ourselves. He also warns us of a vicious circle that can occur – the fear within us can open the door to the influence of external fear, and external fear feeds the inner one.
To break this vicious circle, we need to use our skillful will to withdraw our attention deliberately from the psychological poison of fear. The energy that is holding and nurturing the fear will then be released. We can then redirect this new-found energy to do the most good in our lives.
Last year, Susan came to see me because she wasn’t able to become pregnant. She and her husband were both 30 years old and had been trying for one year without success. Susan had a doctorate in biochemistry and knew exactly all the ways the body functioned – and didn’t function. After two of her friends had died of cancer, she was terrified of the disease. She had spent hours visiting various doctors asking for multiple aggressive and invasive tests just to ensure herself that she did not have cancer.
Susan had a very strong will. Through her discipline and hard work, she had managed to win many awards and funding for her scientific research. But Susan also had a “Dread” subpersonality that constantly feared the worst case scenario. Dread and Susan’s strong will drove her to convince doctors to administer every possible costly exam to ensure her that her health was fine. But even when the results were normal, Dread did not believe the report and was convinced the doctors had missed something – the test was not administered correctly or the samples were not correctly collected or the doctor had misread the results or … or … or …
All this fear! No wonder she could not relax and become pregnant. By our fourth session, I suggested that Susan use her strong will to move her thoughts away from Dread (who was now fearing she would never become pregnant) to a beautiful image. Susan kept saying how difficult it was to do that. Yes! I thought. Much easier to run around to doctors! I then asked her, despite all her fear, if anything terrible had ever happened to her. The only thing that she could think of was falling during an ice skating contest when she was 10 years old.
Susan promised to try and use her skillful will to redirect the thoughts coming from Dread toward her favorite image of flocks of birds flying overhead. Meanwhile, we continued to integrate her Dread through guided meditations and talking about her past experiences. I am happy to say that three weeks later, Susan was pregnant! But even more remarkable, a month later after her first ultrasound scan, she learned that she was pregnant with twins! “You should get a job at a fertility clinic,” she said smiling.
Susan’s story illustrates just how much energy was locked up in her fearful Dread. Once she was able to refocus that energy – BANG! Twins! (A healthy boy and girl were born earlier this year.)
Besides personal fears and anxieties, Assagioli writes about “waves of collective fear and panic.” These waves appear daily in our news headlines – natural disasters, epidemics, financial ruin, crime, global warming. These are the external fears that can so easily feed our internal ones. We see this happen all too often in global conflicts that are fueled by racial and religious prejudice and hatred.
Start today to consciously starve your fear. Anytime your fear appears during the day, practice using skillful will to redirect your thoughts to something beautiful and positive that you recently experienced. Once we stop feeding our inner fears with thoughts, emotions, and ideas, we become free to turn our attention and energy to purposively create a joyful life, full of positive constructive acts of Love and Will.
Who knows? Trust and stay open. Your transformed fear might even give birth to twins!