he Fearful Mind
The human body is capable of many emotions; however, they are all born of two base emotions: fear and love.
One can easily say they have no fear but when fear as an emotion is expanded it becomes apparent that fear exists in some form in every human mind.
The key to a positive attitude and mindfulness is to contain fear and not let it expand.
Fear comes in many forms. Some of these forms include anger, grief, shame, guilt, bitterness, judgment, jealousy, frustration, doubt, and insecurity. This paper is an invitation to “vagus” or wander beyond fear in its many forms.
Fear is an illusion that is created in the chaos of the individual mind. This illusion can be explained in the following way: fear of dying is the number one fear of all individuals; however, one cannot conceive actual death. Therefore, it is the process or pain of dying and the unknown that one fears.
The Indian concept of Samadhi states that one must die to their ego and this eliminates the fear of dying.
A common western perception of fear is that one fears the unknown. The human mind where fear is created and nurtured is largely unknown.
Therefore, this paper will vagus into the mind as well as the bodily systems that regulate stress, anxiety, and therefore emotions. The goal is to create an apocalypse, or unveiling of fear, thereby destroying the illusion that exists within the mind.
Physiological Consilience of Fear
The concept of fight or flight as it pertains to the reptilian brain is known by many. The consilience, or agreement of approaches, of the physiological aspects of the human body can be used as a foundation for understanding fear. The brainstem regulates breathing, heart rate, and alertness. This 200 million-year-old reptilian brain is the source of and is responsible for the fight or flight response in every mammal. However, one’s thinking and questioning must not stop here.
The concept of neuroception, the process by which neural circuits determine whether a situation or person is safe, dangerous, or life-threatening, demonstrates the evaluation of the nervous system to risk via sensory information obtained from the environment. When the nervous system is safe the human being is in a state of optimal performance, a state of no fear. This state of no fear presents a different range of behaviors than the behaviors of one in a fearful state. These behaviors occur because of the emotional regulations that occur when the social environment is perceived as safe by the nervous system.
The brain is constantly seeking and when a safe environment is available the circuits of the brain will seek to nurture and experience social joy. However, when the human brain is out of connection or perceives the environment to be hostile it will seek rage, panic, grief and fear.
These fear motivators will be filed away in long term memory for future reference and will become the building blocks of our emotional self.
The choice this presents is how high does one want to build a wall with these blocks of illusory fear.
These emotional states and the walls one builds with them are the results of the brainstem, limbic areas, and the body working in unison for the preservation of the human under attack.
One must realize the nature of the threat and discern if the attack is real or perceived.
The vagus nerve also plays a role in regulating the expression of these emotions. The emotional feedback between the heart and the brain occurs through the vagus nerve and is independent of the spinal cord.
The Polyvagal theory purposes that the evolutionary development of the brain and the structures that regulate defensive behaviors provide the neurophysiological underlying layer for the emotional experiences of social behavior.
The social behaviors can then be labeled as positive (no fear) or negative (fear). The negative social behaviors need to be examined further now that the consilience of the physiological components has been unveiled and can be understood as simple bodily functions put in place millions of years ago to preserve the human species.
Negative Perceptions and Perpetuations of Fear
Subtle cognitive biases are the brain’s way of tuning into the environment. Negative perceptions build strong neural pathways that can cause enhanced vigilance for fear in the early stages. This speeds up perceptions of a threat, thereby leaving a person vulnerable to stress-related disorders such as anxiety.
Socially anxious individuals make anticipatory judgments concerning social situations and these will be consistent with negative bias. The newly formed negative bias will then increase their social anxiety causing a vicious circle of events.
Early bias to threats will also cause an increase in cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels are found in individuals with neurotic behaviors. Neuroticism affects mood cognition and other neurobiological processes leaving the individual vulnerable to anxiety as well.
Negative perceptions, or illusions, can be the cause of negative bias, early bias to threats, and social anxiety. When the negativity is removed the anxiety-related behaviors should disappear.
However, the preconscious tendencies humans use to process negativity can be associated with physiological responses to stress for almost a year after the events. Therefore, making individuals vulnerable to anxiety and anxiety disorders.
When the negativity is addressed and named by the individual the processes of change can start. A negative mindset can be re-trained using various methods.
Three very effective methods include mindfulness therapy, positive psychology, and the Eastern philosophy of Samadhi. When used together these three practices can tear down the illusion of fear that the mind has built through repetitive negative perceptions.
Moving beyond fear is a complex process. One cannot simply state, “I have no fear.” When asked to define fear it becomes clear that a single definition will not suffice. One needs to look at the behaviors that present from a place of fear.
There are many of these behaviors but four are the most commonly recognized as fear-based. These four are self-criticism, drama, impatience, and nay-saying.
When the individual directs their attention inwards and they become self-aware of their thoughts, emotions, and sensations they will begin the journey into mind-sight. This journey will allow the brain to grow and expand leading the individual to recognize empathy and compassion instead of self-doubt and fear
The first step into mindfulness is to develop a secure, safe attachment within ourselves. The broaden-and-build theory can help secure this level of attachment by using emotional states such as joy, pride, and love to expand a person’s in the moment thoughts.
This process builds psychological resources that can widen the focus of attention, cognition, and action. These enduring resources can then be utilized in different emotional states.
The essence of mindfulness is to become your own best friend. When this happens one’s previous sense of self will be altered, thereby liberating one from their rigid self and dissolving the prison of constantly repeating patterns of thinking.
When the individual has released from this prison their perceptions, emotional reactions, and restricted behavioral options gain clarity. Various forms of top-down memory will no longer restrict one’s way of experiencing their world and themselves.
The intention is the key to achieving mindfulness. The intention is perceived because one knows what will happen next. One can, therefore, practice mindfulness by focusing their attention to intention.
This can easily be accomplished with meditation or breathing exercises. When one is focusing on their breathing, they are inviting their nervous system to become integrated. Once integrated the nervous system is more flexible and stable.
The mindful state will not allow fear-based behaviors such as self-criticism, drama, or impatience. They will instead allow the individual to act with awareness, become less reactive, be non-judgmental, and to self-observe. A mindful society can become a way to bring a secular ethic of health to our otherwise unwell world.
From Fear to Anata
Knowing does not equate to doing. There can be many reasons for an individual to stop at the point of thinking and never complete the process to the end stage of action or doing.
The most prevalent reason for this is fear and lack of tools. The process of going beyond a fear-based mindset requires one to have available, easily accessible tools. Samadhi offers these tools and can be utilized for the duration of one’s lifespan.
Samadhi begins with the concept that humans are timeless in an ever-changing world. Samadhi is realistic and realizes that even after profound insight acquired during meditation it is easy for an individual to fall back into old habits due to environmental influences.
However, one should not closet themselves away because of these influences. Samadhi also exposes one’s true energy and passions that must unfold in the world around them. Samadhi is the vehicle that allows the individual to lead a purpose driven life alongside others.
Through Samadhi the individual will release the need to blame others and realize that they are the only ones responsible for the events in their life.
One must confront the ego. When the ego is confronted there are two options for the individual: change or go mad.
The change one must make is to change from a state of resistance to a state of what is, or mindfulness. This does not mean one must become a passivist and accept everything without question.
When one is in a state of what is, or mindfulness, then one is free to act without being driven by unconscious motives. This means acting with the full force of one’s inner energy.
Everyone perceives events, actions, and words in a different way. One person’s apocalypse may be another person’s blessing. Samadhi will allow one to create a new perspective and allow the mind to be used as a tool, thereby releasing the individual from being a servant to a chaotic mind.
The first step towards Samadhi is for the individual to realize who they are prior to thought and without labels.
This can be accomplished by turning one’s conscious thoughts inward to focus on one’s attachments, emotions, and memories. The individual should determine if the attachments, emotions, and memories are meaningful or not meaningful. These things and their meanings are the masks every individual wears over consciousness and they are built through social conditioning.
Samadhi is this self-discovery process and cannot be taught, however it will lead the individual to remember who they truly are without the mask.
The forgetting or getting rid of the illusion of self will open the door of Anata or being beyond name and form, no fear.
Fear has been introduced, explained, and dispelled as the illusion of the chaotic “monkey” mind. The common circus monkey can be trained and likewise, the human mind can be trained and if necessary re-trained. The end goal, therefore, is to maintain a safe environment in which the nervous system can thrive.
The brain, like the busy, fidgety monkey is always seeking. Every individual has the responsibility to ensure that what is found in both positive and meaningful. The Dalai Lama agreed that individuals need mind training to move beyond loving just family members and similar individuals.
The mind should be trained to be reflective and therefore aware so that a world-wide circle of compassion can be built. Only then can humans be certain that a total apocalypse of fear will happen.