- Posted: Saturday, July 17, 2004
- 3660 words
ED: Hello. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Welcome to a Fireside Chat with bestselling inner life author, Guy Finley. During a number of our chats, we've talked about negative emotions, and I thought that this time we would hone in on a particular emotion that is a great problem to many people, if not everyone, and that is fear. Guy, there are many different types of fear, and people react in different ways, but is there one underlying basis to all fear?
GF: The answer is yes, and we can look at it as closely as you want to. Why do you think public speaking is so scary?
ED: Because I'm exposed.
GF: Because I think I'm going to die. What do I think is going to die?
ED: My image of myself?
GF: That's it. Ultimately, fear has only one root, and that is discontinuity. Self fears its own discontinuity, and at the root of that fear is floor after floor of things that one can look at to understand it. I think the best thing to do though is to keep it very, very simple so that we can start to recognize where it is that we run into what we fear.
For instance, maybe a man is at his office, he has taken on a new kind of responsibility, and he is sitting and looking at what he has to get done. Or, maybe a woman is planning a family, and as she starts to think through the situation, she runs into all of these "no's," "can't do," these impossibles. What produces that fear -- that incidentally always turns the person away from that which is meant to develop them -- that is meant for their fruition?
The simple answer is that "I'm not sure what will happen to me. I don't know who I will be on the other side of this meeting. I'm afraid to go into this meeting and do what I'm supposed to do, and I've prepared as best I can, but what if I flop?" The fear always has to do with thinking about a future event. Negative imagination. And in this instance, negative imagination belongs to a part of us that conspires (in the truest meaning of the word) to keep us from not changing the kind of human beings we are.
All of life is intended to keep us in a kind of constant stir. There are no exceptions to this. In fact, the truth is, all of life is in a constant stir, and we are not apart from this constant stirring. You and I are meant to always be stirred. Now, some people listening may think, "Well, I must be succeeding because I'm constantly stirred up!" That's not the kind of stirring I'm talking about. By being stirred, I mean that we are supposed to be involved in life as a participant in it. In the intimacy of the moment, I start to recognize that I don't want to try to solve this problem. I don't want to start thinking towards what I have to think towards, and the reason I don't is because I actually feel like I won't be able to succeed. So, naturally there is fear, isn't there?
Can we look at that moment where I feel like I'm not going to be able to succeed, and understand that dynamic? Because until I can recognize whatever it is in me that comes to a conclusion that I'm not going to succeed, or if I do try this I will have absolutely no idea who I am and what is going to become of me in it, then we can't start to understand what causes fear -- the root of it.
ED: Why are we so filled with this feeling that "I don't know if I'm going to be able to succeed?" I'm thinking of a baby learning how to walk. It doesn't care whether it succeeds... it just keeps going.
GF: This is deep. If you can't understand the actual words, do try to see the pictures that I'm going to try to put into your mind. Our present nature, Ellen, the way it works -- the dynamic of our psychology and all of the constituent parts -- literally requires a constant image in front of it in order to define it. I think about where I am. To think about where I am at this moment, I have to form an image that I think about, because thought cannot analyze or think about the whole of something. It has to take things apart. It has to have parts. This thought nature doesn't exist without that which it is thinking about. There is always me, who I don't take as just being a thought, because I think I am separate from the thinking that I'm doing. But the truth is much different than that.
This is the essence of what it means to be a divided human being -- to live from a nature that only exists to itself as itself as long as it looks at and holds in its mind an image from which it derives a sense of self. This image that this nature holds, that it thinks about, is necessarily the past. It is necessarily a conditioned aspect. I can't form an image about something that isn't already behind me, so to speak.
ED: And it's always some kind of a comparison.
GF: Yes. So now here I have another fact. This me, my sense of self, my sense of security and the way I think and feel about myself, is intimately tied to what it holds as an object outside of itself, my relationship with you: "How is she treating me? She doesn't treat me well, I fear."
This object that the mind says it holds isn't really an object at all. It's quite subjective. It is made up of what I think the moment is made up of. There's a divided man, a divided mind, and that which it knows itself by belongs to who I was and what I did, and all of the experience tied in it. I'm only comfortable moving through life with this image in front of me. If you say to me I'm going to have to do something for which I don't have an image yet, then the self that only exists as long as that image does, starts to tremble and shake because it doesn't have a mirror in which to see itself and to know itself through its own past.
That's why when life changes, or a moment comes where a person is asked to do something new, they think they're going to die. The reason they think they're going to die is because there is nothing they can look at in their own mind that has yet quantified their experience by which to be a self that knows it is safe.
So, last point: In that instance where I'm faced with something I don't know how to do, and I start to feel fear, it's because this mind has not yet generated a path that it's going to walk by which it knows what it's doing.
The most amazing thing, Ellen, is that at work I'm supposed to know what I'm doing, but when it comes to life, we're not supposed to live knowing what we're doing. That's not what life is meant to be about.
Don't you see that if I walk into a moment with anyone, if I know what I'm supposed to be doing, there's no room for anything real, no flexibility, no fun, nothing to creep up and be surprising? Why? Because fear keeps it all closed into a system that I can walk through and know myself safely in.
ED: As you were saying that, it made me think that I have a very strong image of myself as being a fearful person, not liking new situations, and from what you're saying, that image of being afraid is actually something I cling to because it gives me a sense of myself. It's a painful thing.
GF: That's exactly right, because I would rather live in some form of suffering over a fear than not know who I am in the moment. It's the most extraordinary thing that a person -- in order to find a way to feel confident and secure -- will produce the means by which they are afraid, because what if my idea about life suddenly isn't sustainable because life itself changes, and I'm left here thinking, "Oh my God, now what?"
Everything we do to protect ourselves, by building this pathway of mirrors so to speak, turns out to be the antithesis for us of why we did it. It isn't until a person begins to recognize some of that, that a person begins in some small way to test things, to actually find out: "I wonder what would happen if I did something different from allowing my usual mechanical behavior -- preparing the way I do -- to take over?"
We try to get things all set before we talk to people. In this world today, God help us, we're actually taught that we should rehearse our relationships. I cannot tell you what a horror that idea is, nor how intimately that idea is related to the sudden onset of this anxiety disorder and all the other things that are becoming so rampant in our culture where we have to use drugs. Why do we have to use drugs to protect ourselves from human relationships? Because I'm so sure how it's supposed to go, that if it doesn't, I start to fall apart. Then I start thinking about myself relative to what didn't work, and the next thing you know, the whole thing has collapsed in front of me. It's not meant to be like that.
ED: We judge ourselves, we hate ourselves because things don't live up to our image, and it's all just a problem that we have created because we're not willing to enter life without those crutches.
GF: It's essential that a person begins to remember (in an active sense) that they are not on this planet to continually feel as though they are a captive of this life. There is no satisfying fear, Ellen. Fear cannot be sated. Fear drives us to find ways to protect us from the very dynamic in this mind, this divided nature, that produces the fear to begin with. So you have this very viscious, downward cycle.
ED: The more we give into it, the stronger it gets.
GF: Essentially... but we have to be careful, because we don't want to separate out this idea from ourselves. I want to go back and say this again. We started by asking, what is the root of this fear? The root of this fear is that I am only comfortable in myself as myself as long as I have "something" outside of myself to reference myself to. But I cannot reference myself to anything outside of myself that I haven't first formed a concept about, and the concept that I form about what I say is outside of me is itself a construct of my own past. So, everything I meet in life by which I judge myself, trying to figure out what to do, is all based upon a projection of my own divided mind coming up with what it says life is about in order for me to feel like I know what I'm about, and then trying to control all of that (and there's a big element of fear in trying to control) so that I will feel safe and confident. The more I get in place to try to feel safe and confident, the more fear I feel because I cannot keep hold of it.
We do not control the world that we live in, Ellen. We're not intended to control the world that we live in. We are intended to be conscious participants in a living world that has no fear in it whatsoever.
ED: So, it's actually possible to go out and face life without expectations?
GF: Absolutely. People often say, "Well, what would happen if I didn't have expectations, goals... if I didn't try to hold my life together? What would happen to me?" Well, let's think! What would happen to me? Maybe for the first time in my life, I would have some freedom. Maybe for the first time in my life I wouldn't have to serve every human being like I do now, even though it's unseen, on my hands and knees: "Please don't mess things up. Please don't take something away from me. Please don't disturb me. Please give me everything I need to remain confident that I am who I imagine myself to be." And I am not who I imagine myself to be, although in a twist from that, I actually suffer from my own imagination about myself.
ED: I'm afraid that if I give up my fear, I'll be afraid, and I'll have to face a life where I'll be afraid.
GF: It's crazy!
ED: Sometime back, you gave a marvelous talk where you said that there is always a relationship between desire and fear. Could you describe that again?
GF: First of all, there is a difference between need and desire. Say that I desire to have a new car, a bigger house, or a better job. All of these ideas by which I have a desire to fulfill myself through something outside of me, have their roots in a certain sense of being insufficient, inappropriate, not enough of myself. Therefore, I need some new image that is larger so that when I get it, I'm as large as that which I have acquired. I desire this in order to free myself of something that I'm not happy about in myself.
The very fact that I now desire this and begin to derive a sense of pleasure even before I get it, makes me dependent upon that desire. I must get that or not only will I not become a larger person, but I will actually be sentenced to remain this inferior person that I am. But no one thinks of themselves as being inferior; they think of themselves as needing something superior. But the inferiority and the superiority are linked; they are opposites, and they are part of this divided mind that I'm talking about.
So, this desire always produces fear, because should I not get what I've desired, I will have to "remain" who I imagine myself to be. And if I do get what I desire, I must not ever lose it, or I will be relegated to returning to who I was. We live in this nightmare trap, that incidentally is of our own unconscious making. No one is doing this to us. This is all part of an uninvestigated mind, participating in its own dynamic and the darkness that it produces in its relationship with that.
ED: It's because I'm trying to create myself instead of letting something higher let me be what I am.
GF: Basically that's right, Ellen. One day -- and may God hasten the day -- a person just has to get sick and tired of having to create themselves. We are not created to be self-creating that way. We are made to be participants in the perpetual creation of ourselves which is a living dynamic. It's going on right now while I'm talking to you. I must be willing to enter the fire -- this furnace of the present moment -- which means the fire of living without thinking about myself, without trying to protect myself from an imagined enemy. The fear that I will fail is an imagined enemy. So is the outcome of that failure, should it happen, an imagined enemy. All of the effects of having failed are imagined enemies, even if everything I imagine actually happens to me.
Once we gain a little understanding, become a little conscious of ourselves, and work at being present, awake, aware, watching ourselves, we can be one day sitting someplace and actually come to a moment where we feel the pressure of: "Oh God, what am I going to go? Because if I don't, I'm not the person that I think I am!" Then, for the first time in our lives, we catch these opposites -- this self that is sure that it has to have what it imagines in order to feel real and confident and secure -- and in that split second, we deliberately, consciously bear the whole movement of our own mind without participating in one part of it except as the observer of all the movement. And for the first time, we will feel the sensation of pleasure of trying to be someone, and we will see the pain that is relative to that, and the pressure and anxiety of trying to keep it in place, and we will stand inwardly in the center of the galaxy of our own unconscious life as a conscious entity, observing the formation of planets and suns, all of which are taking place inside of us. We never had to do one thing except be the observer of it to enjoy the entire sphere of energy and everything connected with it.
ED: This reminds me of something from the Bible that you often repeat: "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness."
GF: We're so sure that we have to protect ourselves. There is so much power in the sensation behind it, that it virtually never occurs to a human being to ask from what is it that I must protect myself. Oh, what a day when that comes, when a person is feeling this pressure, this fear, this worry, and they recognize: "You know what? My whole life, I've served that." That doesn't mean I won't do the best I can do, because that is just throwing the baby out with the bath water, but I will not participate in the punishment of it, and I will not forward myself through it. And if the time comes where I have to walk into that battle and I don't have a sword, I don't have a shield, armor... I've got nothing... then I walk into it anyway, to find out for myself whether my life is rooted in a fearful universe or a true universe whose goodness is dedicated to my development, and to find out that there was never anyone there by my name that had to fear a thing.
That's the truth, and you can find it out for yourself, but only if you're willing to take the actual spiritual walk -- not talking about it, but giving something up. Not because I am superior and I am giving it up, but because I see that it's got me, and I won't give myself over to that.
There's a certain spiritual intolerance that is born in a person when they're sick and tired of being sick and tired, and in that moment, something can change because they don't care what they lose anymore. For the first time, they know they have nothing, which is why so few people ever really change. You don't want to get to the point where you see that you really have nothing other than that which fear produces and drives you to cling to so your sense of self remains intact.
I tell you a spiritual truth: you have nothing because you are nothing, but the nothing that you are is everything as in that universe I was just talking about.
ED: This requires individual work. Nobody can tell you this. The only way one can know for oneself is by letting go and seeing what happens.
GF: We are naturally free. We are naturally meant as human beings to be explorers, not people sitting back going, "Oh, no! Oh, no!" We're meant to dive into things, Ellen, and that's what we don't do, because our own mind projects the negative outcome so that this self feels confident and secure in its own limited imagination. That's not how we're meant to be.
ED: How did we get so turned around?
GF: It doesn't matter. It's of no consequence. What matters is here, now, all the time, working to be awake... working to be awake.
In one of my books there's a story about the way the old miners used to find gold. The smart ones would walk with the sun behind their backs as they walked along the stream, because if they were fortunate, that light would catch the glint of the gold, and they would know where to go. It's the same thing with fear in a human being. We should always have the Light behind us, in a manner of speaking, so that the minute I see the glint of anything that I fear, the moment that I think I'm going to lose something, I go right towards it, not away from it. I go right towards it to find out whether or not it is true. The gold that I put in my pocket is that I always find out that the fear was a lie.
ED: As you say, dare it to do its worst.
GF: That's exactly right.
ED: You've really already answered this question, but just in the few remaining seconds, is it possible for a person to live a fearless life?
GF: It is possible for a man or a woman to understand so much about fear that it never is their god anymore.
ED: Thank you, Guy. This has been a Fireside Chat with bestselling inner life author, Guy Finley. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Thanks for joining us.