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Letting go of fear

nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

A co-worker made a remark today that highlighted one of my flaws. He told me not to be so afraid of making mistakes. This, and other kinds of fear, are a common thread in my life. I'm afraid of losing my job, getting sick, being criticized, my house falling apart, financial ruin, etc. ad nauseum. It seems to really constrict my life. Believe it or not, I've actually made some progress with this, but it still seems to dominate my actions.

So what advice did the Buddha have for those afflicted by fear? Was it simply to let go of attachments, or did he have a more specific antidote? Clearly if I'm not attached to something, I shouldn't be afraid of losing it, but since it's such a common theme in my life, there may be more to it than attachment to a given object.

EarthninjaJeffrey

Comments

  • EarthninjaEarthninja Wanderer West Australia Veteran

    To be honest, I know this may not help others or be seen as negative but I don't mean it that way. When faced with these fears I often think about my own death.
    I know I'm going to die and that day is unknown, could be today.
    It helps let go of attachments and if something like a fellow employer says something bad about me... Well both he and I are going to die so why worry? Haha.
    It helps me with letting go anyway.
    I'm sure others her could provide a more sane approach haha.
    Hope you are well mate.

    nakazcid
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    Thanks, @Earthninja. My co-worker meant it as constructive criticism, and I took it that way. As far as I know, there was no ill-intent on his part.

    As for death, yes that's the great equalizer isn't it? Seems kind of morbid to run around all day thinking about death though. I have heard of Tibetans using "death awareness meditation", though.

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @nakazcid -- First of all, if it's any consolation, you've got plenty of company, one way or another. At a bare minimum, consider the fact that many, if not most, fear and shun death although death is clearly part of life and thus to fear death amounts to fearing and shunning life... while simultaneously proclaiming a desire to live life to the fullest.

    It's no biggie.

    There is plenty that can (and probably will) be said about "attachments" and "expectations" and various other contributing aspects to a fearful outlook. OK. But as a practical matter, I think there needs to be some acknowledgment that there is no escaping this fear and running away doesn't work. If running away doesn't work, the only other option I can think of is turning around and facing it. If you can't get out, then go in.

    Meditation practice is a good antidote to fear. Bit by bit, the fears come up and drop away, come up and drop away, come up and drop away. There's nothing holy or wise about it -- it's just what actually happens and meditation allows the student to examine and embrace what is just a segment of this life. No, fear doesn't clear up over night like a case of acne. But with practice, what comes and goes just comes and goes.

    You're already endowed with patience, courage and doubt, the tools well-suited to addressing fear. A little meditation every day probably wouldn't hurt.

    FWIW.

    nakazcidlobsterDavid
  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I'll tell you one thing I once heard the infamous Dr Phil, once say (or words to this effect)...

    "So many people ask themselves the 'what if....' question... 'Gee, what if I lose my job? What if my spouse leaves me? What if I get sick...? What if my house falls apart? What if someone criticises me? What if, what if, what if....?'
    "Well, one great way to quit your head being filled with fear, is to answer the damn questions!

    "So, What IF I lose my job? Work out a strategy now!
    What if my spouse leaves me? Let's find out why that would be first, shall we?
    What IF I get sick? Well guess what? I'll either get better, or I won't. Let's wait see, shall we?
    What IF my house falls apart? Unless I live in F'risco, or tornado alley, how likely is that to happen? Keep up with the maintenance work and let the home insurance do the rest!
    What IF someone criticises me? Are they right? Act on it! Are they wrong? Ignore it!

    "What if, what if, what if....? Answer the question. You'll pretty soon come to realise there's no point using energy to be scared of something you ain't even thought through yet!"

    Just something which resonated with me....

    rohit
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @federica said:
    What IF my house falls apart? Unless I live in F'risco, or tornado alley, how likely is that to happen? Keep up with the maintenance work and let the home insurance do the rest!

    Here's the thing though - what if I have to choose between paying the mortgage and house maintenance? No brainer - pay the mortgage. But eventually that catches up to you, and the house starts falling apart.

    But I do agree, making a plan (and sometimes thinking about the worst case scenario) can help alleviate at least some anxiety.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @nakazcid said: Here's the thing though - what if I have to choose between paying the mortgage and house maintenance? No brainer - pay the mortgage. But eventually that catches up to you, and the house starts falling apart.

    Er...pardon me for raining on your 'what if'... but usually a mortgage will INCLUDE house insurance. The loan company doesn't want to see their investment falling apart any more than you do... If you have a mortgage WITHOUT insurance, speak to your broker about including it and making it part of your re-payment plan.

    But I do agree, making a plan (and sometimes thinking about the worst case scenario) can help alleviate at least some anxiety.

    And why not attend a course on basic maintenance? My cousin did. The works. Bricklaying, carpentry, electrics, plumbing. Took a year, but at the end, we now have a family expert who is on call to give advice, if not assistance.
    She does pretty well for herself, and her home (360-year-old lakeside villa in Italy) is a Jewel in the crown of the Laveno-Luino highway....

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @federica I'm thinking there must be a difference between home insurance in the UK and US. In the US, homeowner's insurance covers fire, flood, theft and (some) liability. To the best of my knowledge, it does NOT include maintenance or repairs. That's the burden of the homeowner.

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    If your house 'falls apart' it usually IS down to some kind of disaster. You seem to have those covered...
    Maintenance means either doing the regular work yourselves, and maintaining the upkeep of the house, or getting a regular, reliable, trusted and versatile handyman to come on a regular basis and do the 'odd little jobs' for you.
    My mom has one of those. He's super. Honest, good quality workmanship and as straight as a dye.

    Find one of those and they're worth their weight in gold.

    How do you find one? Word of mouth, mostly.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @nakazcid said: So what advice did the Buddha have for those afflicted by fear?

    One approach is to examine the feeling closely and try to understand it's root.

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @federica said:
    Maintenance means either doing the regular work yourselves

    ...and that's part of the fear problem. I'm afraid of falling off a ladder, getting electrocuted, cutting off a limb with a power tool, etc. I'm also afraid of mucking up the problem worse than it already is, and turning a $50 repair into a $2000 disaster.

    @SpinyNorman OK, I'll give that a shot at my next sitting. So many fears, so little time...

  • federicafederica Seeker of the clear blue sky... Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited July 2015

    "He who deliberates fully before taking each step, will spend his entire life on one leg."

    Do you even walk out of your front door and down the street?

    I'm sorry, I'm not trying to belittle you, but if your fear paralyses you to the extent that everything you MIGHT have to do, is a potential dance with death, I think you need to examine whether some kind of professional therapy may be appropriate.

    so many fears, so little time...?
    If you don't know just how much time you have left, it's kinda counter-productive spending what time you DO have left, rooted to the spot with fright, isn't it?

    What can you practically do to deal with this?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @nakazcid said:

    Just look at one fear. What's the worst that can happen, and how would you deal with it?

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @federica said:
    "He who deliberates fully before taking each step, will spend his entire life on one leg."

    Do you even walk out of your front door and down the street?

    No, I don't. I avoid my neighbors as much as possible. If I do have to deal with them, I do it as politely and briefly as possible.

    I think you need to examine whether some kind of professional therapy may be appropriate.

    I've been in therapy for years. Finally got rid of the depression, but I still have the anxiety and fear to deal with. For the past year or so I've been out of therapy because it's so expensive.

    What can you practically do to deal with this?

    Good question. Meditating is free, and has been a great help dealing with depression, so I thought I'd post here and get suggestions.

    @genkaku So you agree with @Earthninja about comparing the disasters in my head with death? Have you ever heard of "death awareness meditation" and do you know if it's effective for this sort of thing?

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Ven Thubten Chodron's excellent "Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path" has about 15 pages of "Antidotes" to many of the mental afflictions including attachment in general, attachment to praise and approval, sexual attachment, anger, jealousy, pride and arrogance.

    I can highly recommend it.

    I read / listen to them often. In particular the one on attachment to praise and approval.

    Good luck!

  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    @Bunks Thanks for the suggestion. I've read one other book by her that I greatly enjoyed. You mention attachment to praise and approval; I do have that affliction, but the bigger one by far is it's evil twin, fear of judgement, criticism and blame. Does she address that, or would the antidote for praise apply to blame as well?

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Hi @nakazcid - I too struggle with these things.

    In the Tibetan tradition I follow (I consider Ven Chodron my primary teacher at this point in time) the way to overcome all these afflictions is to realise emptiness (the lack of all phenomena existing from their own side (or inherently)).

    As far as judgement, criticism and blame go, if you've actually undertaken an action for which this is deserved, then why fear them? Cop it on the chin, apologise and move on.

    If you haven't undertaken this action then why get upset? You should feel compassion for the person as they are under the influence of one of the three poisons (greed, anger and delusion).

    Easier said than done though hey ;)

    nakazcid
  • @nakazcid - you are not alone on these things, you are and everybody else are very human. Everybody has its shares of fear one way or another. I don't know if this could be of help but every time I fear of something to lose for example. I follow what my favourite teacher in our tradition that says "The glass is already broken" - i always think of whatever I have right now is already gone - one way or another this too will pass. It somehow ease the burden of worrying and attachment.

    Another technique that I learned in buddhism is questioning myself - What is it that I am willing to trade for my peace. Maybe that worry of yours will not or may materialize, but what you learned from the tradition will carry you through, it is the quality of your heart and mind - something will come up to hold you up.

    As @Bunks said - Easier said than done- but keep trying.

    Bunksnakazcid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @mockeymind said:
    As Bunks said - Easier said than done- but keep trying.

    Indeed.

    Thanks guys for me a very useful thread. <3

    Male guys [tee hee] find they are ill equipped to deal skilfully with fear, anxiety, frustration etc. For me this is the cause of my unskillful outbursts of anger. Which is more skillful than my previous efforts all based around socially acceptable forms of 'not dealing' ... :3

    This is why I value so much the female contingent of this forum who traditionally are allowed to have more rounded emotions in some areas, whilst not being traditionally allowed skilful outlets in many cultures, for certain forms of aggression and assertiveness.

    My contribution would be to examine and sit with the physical sensations of anxiety and relax/calm/metta that physical sensation.

    Perhaps some of the led meditations on youtube would be helpful?

    Bunks
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @nakazcid

    The famous French philosopher Michel de Montaigne kindly pointed out "Those who fear they shall suffer-already suffer what they fear!" ......And Sadhguru puts it another way "There's no fear in the 'now'"

    "I'm anxious! and I ought not be anxious! but because I'm anxious, I'm anxious because I'm anxious !" Becoming mindful will break the link in the anxiety chain...

    So I guess it would pay to practice mindfulness daily....on and off the cushion ..After all, it's not as if the mind can only be found on the cushion....

    Here's a link that might help get you on the 'right' track...

    nakazcid
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran
    edited July 2015

    I've come to realize more about my own fears and how overblown they get, since practicing mindfulness. It's not that you should repress your fears, but examine them as they come up. I've found that this really makes them simmer down and before I know it, they've gone from being a big tiger into a little kitty cat in my psyche. I also don't know how good it would be to try and figure out before-hand what you'd do (although there's nothing wrong with making pros/cons list, etc.) about a certain problem that you fear might happen to you. The mindfulness just seems to ratchet down most - if not all my own potential future dreads.

    ps - I wanted to mention a book that I read recently and am reading again, it can really help and it's a wonderful book - true story about a Zen Buddhist teacher who was in a coma and his book, Healing Lazarus, tells all about his experiences in a no holds barred sort of way.

    lobsternakazcid
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 2015

    When I was studying systems theory we looked at scenario planning, considering best, worst, and most likely outcomes. ( I think this methodology was derived from computing where there is best, worst and average ).
    Often we worry about the worst case scenario, forgetting the other two options, which suggests that fear is closely related to a pessimistic frame of mind. So when we enjoy more skillful mental states we're much less likely to be dominated by fearful thoughts.

    lobsternakazcid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    ^^^ Very good post from @silver with her tiger to kitten analogy.

    Settling down. Stilling. Slowing. Being aware of ...

    We duz haz plan! I can feel it in my gut ...
    https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/inner-source/201411/the-gut-microbiome-anxiety-and-depression-6-steps-take

    silver
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @nakazcid said:

    So what advice did the Buddha have for those afflicted by fear? Was it simply to let go of attachments, or did he have a more specific antidote?

    I believe he said to do meditation practice. From The Samaññaphala Sutta.

    Being endowed with noble mindfulness and clear comprehension, and endowed with noble contentedness, the monk resorts to a lonely place: to a forest, the foot of a tree, a mountain, a cleft, a rock cave, a cemetery, a jungle, an open space, a heap of straw. After the meal, having returned from the alms-round, he sits down, crosslegged, keeping his body erect and his mindfulness alert... he cleanses his mind

    Just as when a man is sick and in pain, suffering from a grave disease, his food does not agree with him, and he has no strength left in his body. But some time later he recovers from that sickness; he can again digest his food, and he regains his strength. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart...

    Just as when a man has been thrown into prison, but some time later he is released from prison; he is safe and without fears, and he did not suffer any loss of property. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart...

    Just as when a man, rich and prosperous, travels through a wilderness where there is no food and much danger, but some time later he has crossed the desert, and gradually reaches safely the vicinity of a village, a place of safety, free from danger. And at that he rejoices, is glad at heart.

    Then detached from sensual desires, detached from unwholesome states, he enters into and dwells in the first absorption which is accompanied by applied thought and reflection, born of detachment, and filled with joy and rapture. He enters into and dwells in the second... third... fourth absorption.

    This is another good one. Ahara Sutta: Food (For the Factors for Awakening)

    "And what is the food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen? There is non-stillness of awareness. To foster inappropriate attention to that: This is the food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen.

    "And what is lack of food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen? There is the stilling of awareness. To foster appropriate attention to that: This is lack of food for the arising of unarisen restlessness & anxiety, or for the growth & increase of restlessness & anxiety once it has arisen.

    Another excerpt from here. The Five Mental Hindrances and Their Conquest
    Selected Texts from the Pali Canon and the Commentaries

    Restlessness and Remorse

    Nourishment of Restlessness and Remorse

    There is unrest of mind; frequently giving unwise attention to it — that is the nourishment for the arising of restlessness and remorse that have not yet arisen, and for the increase and strengthening of restlessness and remorse that have already arisen.

    — SN 46:51

    B. Denourishing of Restlessness and Remorse

    There is quietude of mind; frequently giving wise attention to it — that is the denourishing of the arising of restlessness and remorse that have not yet arisen, and of the increase and strengthening of restlessness and remorse that have already arisen.

    — SN 46:51

    "Quietude of mind" I think is of utmost importance! The ability to redirect your minds attention off of things that cause fear. Things like "what if I lose my job?" And redirect it to a point of stillness where there is no attention given to the idea of "what if I lose my job?

    From inappropriate attention you're being chewed by your thoughts. Relinquishing what's inappropriate, contemplate appropriately. Keeping your mind on the Teacher, the Dhamma, the Sangha, your virtues, you will arrive at joy, rapture, pleasure without doubt.

    When a monk attends inappropriately, unarisen fermentations arise, and arisen fermentations increase. When a monk attends appropriately, unarisen fermentations do not arise, and arisen fermentations are abandoned.

    "With regard to internal factors, I don't envision any other single factor like appropriate attention as doing so much for a monk in training, who has not attained the goal but remains intent on the unsurpassed safety from bondage. A monk who attends appropriately abandons what is unskillful and develops what is skillful.

    Appropriate attention
    as a quality
    of a monk in training:
    nothing else
    does so much
    for attaining the superlative goal.
    A monk, striving appropriately,
    attains the ending of stress.

    nakazcidlobster
  • mmommo Veteran

    It might also be helpful to look at what make those worries appear on your mind. Sometimes, we get too attached unrealistically that we forget the true nature of things. Buddha taught annica, dukka and anatta. I just remind myself. Also, Ajahn Brahm also said 'fewer you have, the higher you can fly'. So I try to keep things to as minimal as possible. May be a small manageable house.

    avoid becoming “connoisseurs,” the kind of people who are so used to luxury and exoticism that they lose the ability to enjoy the simple things in life

    nakazcidlobster
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    @genkaku So you agree with @Earthninja about comparing the disasters in my head with death?

    @nakazcid -- In general I do not agree with this approach since all it does is add another element to fret about. It may seem serious (it's death, right?) but since, in all honesty, no one knows what death is, it's still a matter of "what-if" and "maybe."

    Yes, psychological help can be pricey, but I also think, there are counselors out there who, if you lay out your financial difficulties, would be willing either to lower their price and/or work out a payment schedule with smaller increments. Talking to someone one-on-one -- without the intervention or camouflage of something like the Internet -- is the healthiest thing I can think of.

    Also, I can imagine a small daily regimen -- maybe five minutes -- when you took the time to notice all the things you did without disastrous results. Eg. I turned on the water faucet and ... the pipes didn't burst; I boiled some water and did not scald myself; I picked up my socks and put them in the dirty laundry basket ... which turned out not to be concealing a venomous viper; I tied my shoes; I said good morning to my neighbor and crossed the street when the light was green .... just do a small laundry list of things you may already do without disastrous effect. Every day ... just five minutes.

    Just thinking out loud.

    silvernakazcidlobster
  • nakazcidnakazcid Somewhere in Dixie, y'all Veteran

    Thanks for the advice and encouragement. I've reached out to my old therapist to see if he'll take me back. These fears and negative attitudes did not develop without a cause, and will take time to unravel.

    In the meantime, this popped up completely at random, or maybe it was Google sniffing my cookies:

    I really do want to control things to minimize my suffering. The other takeaway: my life is not mine.

    Bunkslobster
  • Here is how I approach such fears.

    Remembering my mortality and those around me is often the strongest antidote.

    Through meditative approach, questioning this "fear" experience. Who is it that is afraid? Where is that fellow exactly? What is fear itself, a flow, a squeeze, an energy? Try to observe it as an outsider. This requires getting out of my head and into my body - just the skill that is acquired in many types of meditation.

    Also, what I am afraid of now is not quite what I was afraid of yesterday and not quite what I will be afraid of tomorrow. Seeing changeability of emotional states and the erratic nature of the mind that manufactures them is also quite therapeutic.

    Good luck and never stop trying.

    nakazcid
  • 0student00student0 Explorer

    @nakazcid

    Good luck and healing to you.

    nakazcid
  • I'm pretty sure everyone deals with this to some degree. We all have such seemingly busy lives. If you're a lay practitioner, you probably have family, friends, jobs, quotas, appointments, events, etc etc etc. We have attachment to all of these concepts, these people.

    I have the same fears about my job, my family, sometimes public speaking for my job. But my daily practice has helped immensely, and thus far, being consistent with it has helped even more. I would suggest consulting a teacher and seeing what they suggest if it is something that you're currently reflecting on and it bothers you.

    Best wishes!

    nakazcid
  • Socratic questioning is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) questioning one can learn to practice on oneself ...
    http://integrativecbt.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/dont-believe-everything-you-think-power.html

    might be useful :)

  • KarikoPuppiesKarikoPuppies Veteran
    edited August 2015

    if you are open to the possibilities of greatness power of mysterious dharma of buddhism ( I tried to make it sound intriguing )
    I would like to give you something to think about if I may suggest without offending or making anyone uncomfortable. ( to do that I'm gonna just simiplify as much as possible since my english really sucks and I cannot find all the words I need to explain this. )
    I would like to point out that this is not my own opinion nor I made this up ( I am too stupid to think of this my own!)

    1. we are all miniature cosmos
    2. there are 10 spiritual realms composing our cosmos ( just like the real cosmos )
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_spiritual_realms
    3. the first 4 realms are baddies, the more of those, less happy we are
    4. rests are goodies (for example, more Heaven, the happier we feel )( more Bodhisattva, more loving we are) ( more Learning, more talented ) so on and so forth...

    5. through proper buddhist practice we can adjust these realms ( hard but possible! )

    our subconsciousness mind is based on previous lives' experiences and karmic result.
    we do not know what exactly causing your fears but through buddhist practice you can adjust your spiritual realms , which will minimize 4 baddies and increase 6 goodies instead.
    I am not sure this will help you but its something you can think about.
    hope you will get rid of the fear soon!

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