It is the ability of fear to foresee that set the institution of planning in human life.
Have you seen a race of prey and predator? It is interesting to note that most of the times prey win despite their low capability compared to their predator. The reason is the survival mechanism given to them by nature, fear. Fear starts neurobiological chain reaction in the body which releases the chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing, energized muscles and many other things that make them capable to exceed their normal performance. In other words, fear switches the mind of prey from unconscious to conscious state while predator remain in its normal unconscious state of autopilot and could not compete with prey because predator is doing its daily duty. But when predator is really hungry; its survival mechanism is also turned on as a result of potential threat on its own survival.
Fear is not objective reality but perception of one's mind. It is triggered by a possible threat and toggles the mind from autopilot mode to conscious state to take exceptional emergency decisions and act accordingly.
I heard a story about a man who went to learn consciousness from a Sufi saint. The saint had a coconut tree in his garden. He asked the man “if you really want to learn the way of attaining consciousness then climb the tree or leave for your home.” The man thought him mad but had no options. He travelled a lot to find him. As he was a victim of acrophobia, a condition in which a person dreads height, he could not climb but he had one greater fear; fear of calling escaper owing to his large ego which drove him to take a chance. As soon as the man reached height of 10 feet above the ground, the saint started shouting “Be brave for few more moments and you’ll succeed” because he saw the shadow of acrophobia overpowering him. He closed his eyes and continued to climb until reached the top. After reaching the top, he began to climb down but when he arrived at the height of 10 feet from the ground, the saint again started shouting “Be careful”. He finally approached the ground and with tint of anger on his face hurried towards the bench where the saint was relaxing lying down. He yelled at the saint “you ruthless psycho at the height of 10 feet you had much concerns and when I was on the top you were carelessly lying on the bench.” The saint replied calmly “When I first reminded you the shifting from unconscious to conscious was going on and quitting at that stage would have stopped the process. It was my duty to help you attain consciousness. When I warned second time I saw the shifting of mind again initiated as a result of your overconfidence on initial success. At the top you were already in the conscious state due to survival mechanism of fear gifted by nature to everyone.”
Fear is the secret to consciousness. The first experience of consciousness might have occurred in the moments of fear (who knows?). In fact, all the great things human achieved are driven out of fear. The first greatest discovery was fire to protect from deadly wild animals, so was the weapons made out of stones during Stone Age. Huge risk and massive loss of lives might compel the primitive humans to shift to agriculture instead of hunting for their need of food. The first shelter might have made as a preventive measure from potential dangers and still buildings are made as protective measures. It would not be hyperbolic to say that fear is the cause of human advancement. In fact, fear is the nature’s way of teaching. The word ‘fear’ is actually derived from Proto-Indo-European ‘per-’ which means ‘to attempt, try, research, risk.’
Fear is a state of mind which calls upon the faculty of imagination to impose its long lasting impression. Probably, the faculty of imagination might have used first time during the mind state of fear. In fact, fear is itself a form of imagination which draws the mind on extremes of negative situation exactly in the same manner in terms of exaggeration, variety and vividness of mental images. It is found that centers of fear and imagination lie in the same region of brain called amygdala.
Fear is a source of creativity. The fact is acknowledged by famous filmmaker, Shekhar Kapur, who portrayed the story of the great Queen Elizabeth on cellulite screen. According to him, panic is the great access for creativity. It is the only way of get rid of one’s mind and harness the truth which lies somewhere in the Universe beyond mind. He said “In the state of panic, you’re praying to the Universe, because you’re praying you’re going to access creativity which comes from outside yourself from the Universe.” Here, getting rid of one’s mind means coming out of autopilot mode having prewritten answers which have limited scope in the situation that is not going to lead anywhere in significant way. The only solution is coming up with new answers which need consciousness. Nature set up a system in every being for this kind of situation to switch the mind from unconscious autopilot mode to conscious thinking mode, called fear. The switching takes time. It requires courage and patience to stand for those moments. If one looses, the switching stops and flight response is triggered. On the other side, consciousness is invoked and fight response is activated.
The ideology of Karen Thompson Walker, author of the bestseller “The Age of Miracles,” is also in consistent with the idea of fear as spring of creativity. She sees fear as unintentional story telling which characters are we, ourselves. She states that in similar to storytelling, fear has also beginning, middle and end. It comprises all the elements of story such as imagination, suspense and mental time travelling.
What is fiery about fear? Ironically, the known and the unknown. It is the known experiences whether self or shared as well as the enormous possibilities of unknown which onsets the reactions of fear in an individual. Fear of known experiences is conditioned state of mind.
Mark Barad, a scientist of UCLA, conducted a conditioning experiment on rats in which an electric shock was applied to metal floor of rats’ cage along with a feeble noise. It did not take long for the rats to brace themselves for the shocks as soon as they heard the noise. It is because the noise is associated with electric shock deep in their unconscious mind. In the language of neurologist, it is said that their amygdalas paired the noise with the shock, and the noise created a fear response. Further experiments were done on the same rats. This time, rats were exposed to same feeble noise but without electric shock. Habitual hearing of noise without the shock made the rats fearless once again. Similar experiment was done on a little child, Albert, who had no fear of laboratory's test animals to induce fear of white rats in him by John Watson, an American psychologist. Whether it is psychology or neurology, one thing is certain that fear is a mind state and is prone to conditioning.
Fear is nothing but a state of mind. Like any mind state, it could be changed. Familiarity is the key to lock the hazardous effect of fear. Albert Bandura ranked the fourth most-frequently cited psychologist, behind B. F. Skinner, Sigmund Freud, and Jean Piaget, in a survey conducted in 2002 among the 100 most eminent psychologist of the 20th century. He believes taking small steps of exposure to get familiar with the object of fear would cure one from that particular fear. He kept snake in a room and to take out the fear of snakes from subjects. He asks the subject “there is a beautiful snake inside the room. Let’s walk in to see it.” The subject freaks out but Bandura opens the door slightly and shows the snake to the subject through a mirror and makes him comfortable of the sight. He, then, opens the door widely and inspires the subject to peep inside to have glimpses of snake. He, further, arranges the sight from a distance of five feet and slowly cutting the distances to nearly one foot. Now, he takes out gloves from the drawer beside and wears them along with the subject to touch the snake finally. The very moment the subject touches the snake, the fear vanishes. He called the process of conditioning for fear extinction as guided mastery. The subject not only gets rid of fear of snake but his anxiety also reduces in other aspect of life. He gains a new confidence, gets tougher and become more resilient to failure in his life. Bandura called this confidence, self-efficacy and defines it as one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed in specific situations. One’s sense of self-efficacy can play a major role in how one approaches goals, tasks and challenges.
The picture of fear is likely to turn into reality when the emotion of belief is blended in the brew of negative fantasy. In the words of Napoleon Hill “If it is true that all thought has a tendency to clothe itself in its physical equivalents (and this is true, beyond any reasonable room for doubt), it is equally true that thought impulses of fear and poverty cannot be translated into terms of courage and financial gain.”
Nature has endowed man with absolute control over one thing and that is thought. This fact, coupled with the additional fact that everything which human creates starts in the form of thoughts, lead one very near to the principle by which fear may be mastered. On the other hand, indecision crystallizes fear and there is some kind of action for any form of fear. Determine your cause of fear and associated action. Take action promptly. Be decisive.
Fear is not an objective reality but a state of mind. A state of mind is something one assumes. Like any mind state, it is subject to control and direction. There are many forms of fear seen by human’s psyche. The prominent one that encountered in the journey of success are fear of poverty, fear of criticism, fear of ill health, fear of loss of love, fear of age, fear of death, fear of lack of ability etc. In fact, these are not fears but lame excuses for inaction. It is an old proverb that when there is a will; there is a way. In case of fear, one needs to be brave for few more minutes and one succeeds. It is said that success begins after overcoming fear.
Let me tell you some stories that happened in real time, surpassed these lame excuses and licked the taste of success. As far as excuses are concerned all great companies whether Microsoft or Apple were started in garages only with great idea. No one in the history was ever praised by cent per cent; Jesus was crucified and Socrates was poisoned. David Copperfield was penned after the tragedy faced by Charles Dickens in his first love. Socrates once told that one should indulge in love; if accepted, one will be on higher planes of consciousness through love and if rejected then also he will be on higher planes but through philosophy. Excuses of young age could be countered by citing examples of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and old ages by Colonel Sanders who founded KFC at the age of 65. No one is ever in the history is blessed with immortality. So, mourn over inevitable is not justifiable by any means. Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison and many others were initially declined for their inability.
Dhirubhai Ambani, when he was only 16, for a livelihood, started his career as a dispatch clerk with the A. Besse & Co. before becoming the distributor for Shell Products. He was later promoted as a manager in an oil filling station at the port of Aden. Dhirubhai felt tempted to speculate but had no money for that and was still raw for trading. To learn the tricks of the trade he offered to work free for a Gujarati trading firm. There he learnt accounting, book keeping, preparing shipping papers and documents, and dealing with banks and insurance companies. skills that would come handy when he launched himself into trading about a decade afterwards in Bombay. "More than anything else I learnt that nothing big can ever be achieved without money, influence and power and I also learnt that money, influence and power alone cannot achieve anything in life, big or small, without a certain soft, delicate, sensitive, understanding human touch in all one's deeds and words." Dhirubhai was now 26 years,
A young boy born in small district of India lost his father at age of one. His family financial position was very tight. He had to cross a river to reach school for study. There were times when he had no penny to pay for boat. He swam lifting his books above the water. He, later, became the second elected Prime Minister of Republic of India. He was Lal Bahadur Shastri.
John Forbes Nash, Jr., an American mathematician, shared the 1994 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with game theorists Reinhard Selten and John Harsanyi. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia in which a person usually talk with hallucinated characters that did not exist in real life. Nearly 10 years of his life was spent in mental asylum where he was administered insulin shock therapy along with antipsychotic medications. His story was captured on silver screen in Hollywood movie, ‘A Beautiful Mind.’
Stephen Hawking, an English theoretical physicist considered the most talent after Einstein. He was not initially successful academically. With time, he began to show considerable aptitude for scientific subjects, and inspired by Tahta, decided to study mathematics at university. His father advised him to study medicine, concerned that there were few jobs for mathematics graduates. As it was not possible to read mathematics there at the time, Hawking decided to study physics and chemistry. Despite his headmaster's advice to wait till the next year, he was awarded a scholarship after taking the examinations in March 1959. He was diagnosed of motor neurone disease related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) at 21 during his first year as a doctoral student. At the time doctors gave him a life expectancy of two years. The problems worsened he had difficulty walking without support, and his speech was almost unintelligible. Now he is almost entirely paralyzed and communicates through a speech generating device but still working with enthusiasm.
I’ve learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away fear.