Art by Dylan Wayne. Chalk on blackboard. Photo by Gary Smith.
... intense experience and suffering instruct us in ways that less intense emotions can never do. - Kay Redfield Jamison
I believe that fear, for example can save your life if you are in true danger, motivate you to react quickly and effectively to real danger, and so, it is as high or valid an emotion as can be! No other emotion can possibly be higher when confronting real danger. Feeling humility, when confronted with real danger, is going to get you dead, so what is the high value of humility then. - participant in Emotional Mastery forum on Tiny Buddha site
A long-held and common view says that all emotions are valid and as Kay said, "... intense experience and suffering instruct us ..."
I agree with my mother, who used to say, "Emotions are neither good or bad, they are just emotions." Of course, I would not suggest that guilt and shame are healthy responses to so-called dark emotions. Good, bad; positive, negative; higher, lower — none are the most useful labels. Emotions are just emotions.
When it comes to emotions I choose, fear is not among them at any time or in any situation. A key characteristic of emotional mastery/maturity is being able to choose my emotions. We are far away from this, I know. Correction: Emotional mastery and the capacity of humans to skillfully and wisely choose our emotions already exists. It only appears to be far removed, because the mind fabricates that story and conditioning and society reinforce it.
I am writing ahead to what is possible, to actualizing the fullest potential of the original design. I am challenging the old, stuck, commonly accepted ways of seeing which have held humanity back from its potential and kept it in a cycle of intense suffering over ages.
What else than fear would save me when confronting real danger? How about heightened awareness, alertness, confidence, courage? Do those not sound more self-empowered than fear? Would they not actually be more useful?
Fear is the great tool of religion and other authoritative institutions to keep people small so they can be controlled. It keeps the masses dependent upon the pharmaceutical industry, on the healthcare system, on consumerism, on employment and the media by creating a false sense of security. It gives power to the controllers. Take the chemical medicine or you will die. Listen to your doctor or you will suffer. Submit to the educational system or you will fall behind. Buy more or you won't be successful. Stay in the job you hate or you will be destitute. Read the news so you will be informed and safe (and in more fear.) Repent, believe (and tithe) or you will burn in hell for eternity. Now, when social systems are collapsing and chaos is imminent, there is a window of opportunity for those who take the challenge to arise with something wholly new.
I see each human as an autonomous, self-contained, individuated expression of the one being of universal consciousness and each person as their own leader.
After writing the above, I felt a flickering of self-doubt. Can any of what I say about this be substantiated, or is it just a stubborn opinion? Searching brought up mostly the old, traditional thinking. I found support for a core piece of 'my theory' on the Psychology Today site. The quote marks around 'my theory' mean it is neither mine nor a theory. Neither is it a message. It is a universal truth ready to be proclaimed.
"Fear is an emotion we all experience at one time or another, and its effects are important to understand when talking about disasters. As soon as you feel fear, the amygdala (a small almond-shaped organ in the center of your brain) sends signals to your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which then has a wide range of effects. The ANS kicks in, and suddenly, your heart rate increases, your blood pressure goes up, your breathing gets quicker, and stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released. The blood flows away from the heart and out towards the extremities, preparing the arms and legs for action. These effects served us well millennia ago, in situations where we were faced with beastly animals that thought they had found dinner.
"In modern times, however, bodily responses to fear can be detrimental, especially since the most important one is a negative one: the brain basically shuts down as the body prepares for action. The cerebral cortex, the brain's center for reasoning and judgment, is the area that becomes impaired when the amygdala senses fear. The ability to think and reason decreases as time goes on, so thinking about the next best move in a crisis can be a hard thing to do. Some people even experience feelings of time slowing down, tunnel vision, or feeling like what is happening is not real. These dissociative symptoms can make it hard to stay grounded and logical in a dangerous situation. Essentially, the body's response to fear or stress can be stressful in itself.
"Wow, since most situations require us to think first, and then act, the body's response of preparing itself for action while shutting down the brain is not a good thing! So how can we gain better control over our own physiological responses in disasters? The best advice is this: learn to breathe. Yep, this may sound like an odd statement, but gaining conscious control over your breathing is the best thing you can do for yourself. Practice deep, even, controlled breathing when you aren't scared, and you'll be prepared to breathe this way when you do feel scared. Slow, even breathing helps to slow down your heart rate and lower your emotional arousal level. It can also make you feel more like you are in control of the situation, which can help block some of the effects of stress.
"In addition to deep breathing, meditation is another thing that people can practice in preparation of dealing with a disaster. Studies show that people who meditate daily have a thicker brain tissue in the prefrontal cortex, which is a part of the brain that handles working memory, attention, and emotion regulation. In short, if you want to get prepared to deal with your body's response to a disaster situation, practice breathing, meditate daily, and be confident in your ability to deal with the tough stuff! Good luck!"
I resonate with the essence of this article and offer alternative ideas to some of its points. It is not needed to diligently practice a time-honored system of meditation. That also can hold one back from their full potential, making dependent on a solidified system which does not allow what already is, to unfold and reveal itself.
Fear is the great deceiver. Emotional mastery and the capacity to skillfully and wisely choose our emotions already exists. They only appear far removed because the mind fabricates that story. All that is needed to live from a place of mastery and maturity is to let go of what hinders and embrace what supports it. What hinders and supports emotional maturity is the subject of the next post.