Thursday, July 24, 2008

Overcoming Fear

A few months ago when I was browsing at the bookstore, I came upon a book that intrigued me by Susan Piver, who has been trained in Buddhist practice for ten years, is a graduate of a Buddhist seminary, and is an authorized meditation teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist lineage.

In the introduction to her book, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy, she writes: "Each of us is born seeking a meaningful life. We have a natural ability to sense what is significant, live in peace, and surround ourselves with love. We come into this world wanting these things and only these things. No baby (that I know of) ever wished for a cooler car seat, hated her thighs, or doubted a mother's love.

"From the moment we arrive, we are instinctively drawn toward warmth, closeness, and acceptance. When the world doesn't provide what we seek we're shocked. The rejection is completely unexpected and we withdraw.

"Once we have met with a negative reception, our initial response to new faces and first-time experiences becomes fear, not love. At this point we have lost touch with reality, not the other way around, because to live in fear is a delusional state. When we are fearful, we simply can't see who or what is in front of us--all we see if our fear, and that is what we react to, plan for, and anticipate.

"Fear can be conquered. We can meet any situation, important or trivial, old or new, surprising or predictable, with self-confidence, gentleness, and elegance. And we don't have to change one thing about ourselves to do so. In fact, we already possess all the courage we'll ever need, and it--not fear--can animate the way we think about ourselves, others, and the world. The ancient practice of meditation can show us how."

Question: What do you think about what Susan Piver has written? Does anyone do meditation or engage in some similar stress reduction or spiritual practice? How has it helped you?


Gianna said...

I completely agree with the's funny to read this now when I just responded to another post about how I woke up scared!

I found this comforting as I do so much of Buddhist philosophy. Buddhist philosophy (I am not a Buddhist, but a student of all religion) and meditation is a huge part of my wellness program...

Mindfulness is the art of bringing meditation into every moment of our lives and feeling completely and acknowledging those feelings is healing.

In the excerpt you printed she doesn't really talk about how meditation helps one deal with fear, but in my experience it's through acceptance and surrender. Which are both Buddhist concepts...I am sure there is other language to speak about the process of healing from fear as well.

KJ said...

I am so glad you wrote about this. I had an experience last week where I felt very strongly one way about a situtation and Joe wanted a different way, but because I was so afraid that my not relenting would send Joe into a depressive episode I conceeded my position. I find that through prayer or meditation I can relieve stress in most situations, but I continually live in fear that Joe will go through a severe depressive episode and so in those occasions I am unable to get out of fear and panic and do more than make knee jerk reactions.

Bradley said...

I practice Buddhism and try to meditate on a daily basis. I am happy to say that it has helped me tremendously.

The studies are what truly helped me, however. Learning that wants and fear, etc are illusions that get in the way of enlightenment (I'm referring to living in enlightenment, not some place you go to when you die.)

By studying the Dalai Llama, I have learned to overcome much of my fear, though I do have a long, long way to go.

Wellness Writer said...

Thanks for commenting. Tomorrow, I'll write about how she uses meditation to conquer fear.

Yes, I can see how you would awaken "scared" given the circumstances. But I'm rooting for you, and know you can handle all this.

I just wish I lived down the block and could help you with all this!


Wellness Writer said...

I'll write more about Piver's method tomorrow. I think the point is that Joe's the one who needs to meditate as well as you.

It's not really fair that the spouse of someone who is bipolar has to "back down" on everything so her husband (wife or partner) won't slide into a depression.

Actually, and I know this will offend some people (but I've had more depressive episodes than anyone I've ever heard of, so I feel comfortable expressing my own opinion), I do believe we are responsible for our own depressions. And this is a huge reversal in thinking for me.

By that I mean, I used to think I had no control to stop a depressive episode if it was triggered by someone else's behavior. I'm not attaching blame; I'm just saying that stress, disappointment, or anger frequently triggered these episodes.

But, I've worked really hard to change the way I respond to triggers, and it rarely happens any more.

Still, this is a huge topic, and I'll write more about it next week, but thanks for your comment KJ. It's a really important topic.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bradley,
That's very encouraging! Thanks for sharing.


Gianna said...

I think taking responsibility for our feelings is extremely empowering. We ARE NOT at the whim of others unless we let ourselves be.

No one can make us feel anything. This is a hard lesson to learn and one I'm still learning, but I heartily agree and I know I've read it in many Buddhist books.

Buddhism above all places all responsibility for our feelings, behavior, square on our own shoulders and gives us the tools to take responsibility of them in safe and lasting ways.

You don't have to be Buddhist to take advantage of the teachings and more and more there are teachers who teach these methods who are not strictly Buddhist...I like Buddhism, but some people find the more traditional explanations difficult or too foreign.

Of course there are now so many schools of Buddhism that people can find something palatable...

ACT and DBT are grounded in Buddhism...all the stuff on mindfulness in them...are completely secular...

Wellness Writer said...

All good points. I've read a lot about Buddhism, but I don't practice it. I've also read a lot about mindfulness meditation. And I've read about neural path therapy--which is the way I've learned how to stop the triggers. I wrote about it awhile ago. But basically, I use breathing to stop the triggers.


Mariposa said...

Hi Susan...another beautiful and meaningful topic you have!

I totally agree with her...fear can be conquered, yet to do that, we have to understand it, embrace it and befriend it! Most of our fear comes from the unknown...and anticipation of of some pain...could be something we saw, experience or imagined! I read one nice essay before, and that author wrote this striking line - "Pain is beautiful when one can rise from its depressing power." I think the same with fear...once we have elevated ourselves beyond it...we will restore balance within our lives...and surroundings.

Yes, I do practice meditation...I do yoga...I talk to friends...I blog...I read blogs...and I pray. I believe there are so many ways to conquer to fear...and like anything else, we just have to take it, a step at a time.

I'd love to hear more about this book...I will try to look for a copy of that here.

Happy Fearless Thursday! :)

Wellness Writer said...

What a great way to think about pain! And I agree--all the wellness activities we do, whether it's playing music, praying, gardening, breathing and so many more--enable us to deal with our fear and overcome it.


marja said...

I used to have social anxiety disorder - a dreadful fear of talking to people I didn't know, speaking up in class at school, etc. Some people would call that shy, but it is a fear. Now I'm a mental health activist, am outgoing, and am confident speaking in front of groups.

I think what brought me to this point is the encouragement I received was from my faith and from godly, loving people. I started turning around when I started believing in God and that I was made for a purpose. Having strong purpose - doing something you believe in - will eliminate a lot of fear. You also have to trust someone greater than yourself.

The Bible says "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear..." (1 John 4:18) When you can love others and when you're supported by people who love you and when you believe in a loving God, a lot of fear is eliminated.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
Because this is a secular blog (and I'm Jewish), I usually don't print comments that quote scripture, but I'll make an exception--just this once--for you, because you're my friend and I know how much your religion means to you!

And the rest of your comment should be motivational to others.


H said...

I too am in agreement with the author that our answers are within.
Having become truly aware of how much fear limits our lives I am developing a website about the subject. I think there are other methods too of overcoming fear and I have written about those that have worked for myself and others. I use visualization more than anything else. I enjoy reading about how other's are finding a path to self-confidence, leaving limitations behind. Thank you for sharing your experiences.