Former US president Franklin D Roosevelt declared in one of his speeches that “There’s nothing to fear but fear itself”. According to Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, “all of us live in anxiety and despair”. He calls it the universal human condition.
‘Fear’ may vary in degrees and types, from fear of death to the fear of the unknown, from realistic fear to neurotic fear, but there is no denying that fear is no stranger to any of us. The Freudian school of thought states that anxiety is the first emotion that we experience. As infants we express our helplessness and despair by crying out loud.
Gradually, when our needs are met with and through care and protection — also known as love — we feel safe and secure and are able to express joy and laughter. As we grow into adults, the responsibility of looking after ourselves and dealing or coping with our problems falls on us. Some problems we are able to cope with but for those, which are beyond our control, we feel terribly helpless. This inability to control the unfavourable events that unfold in our life instils fear in us. What’s worse is that we begin to imagine an iceberg at every nook and corner in our journey of life. Our paranoia gets the better of us.
Our individual nature, which is again something we carry from our past birth, is just as important as our physical hereditary, if not more. The lineage of our ‘karmas’ decide our innate nature (svabhava). And as is our nature so is our relation to our surrounding. Depending on individual karmas, some people have an angry nature, some are calm, some fearful and timid and some complacent.
DH Lawrence writes: “A happy nature is a great asset” (Women in Love). Ultimately our nature (svabhava) controls how we experience our world. For those who are naturally ‘fearful’ and ‘timid’, even a small incident can be a cause of trauma. But timid or brave, fearful or courageous there’s no escaping the sense of anxiety that we humans are accursed with.
When we are overwhelmed by our situation, we respond to it in keeping with our individual nature — we either take counter our problems heads on, or we play the ostrich. Some of us are completely paralysed by our situation and resort to escapism; we either physically run away from taking the responsibility of our mess or worse still look for the final exit.
We look for a superhero, a parent, a guru (a teacher), a friend who’ll protect us from our situation, solve our problems and give us the safety we experienced as children. Because only when we felt ‘cared for and cherished’ were we able to express joy and laughter. As adults, fear becomes our constant companion and robs us of joy and laughter.
Does this mean there is no one to protect us? That the onus of saving ourselves rests on our frail shoulders? And, with no one to care and protect us, our energies are directed towards fear rather than love?
When we are overwhelmed by fear, there is no greater respite than surrender, surrender to the higher power – GOD. It is for this reason that Freud says that “Religion thrives because it offers men who are really children a continuation of the infantile life, lived securely in the arms of loving omnipotent omniscient father.”
The Mother (Sri Aurobindo) says: “To trust in God with all the heart is a great virtue. In hours of trial, when darkness prevails all around and man’s thoughts are confused, there is no other way left except to commit oneself to the Lord and say, ‘Let thy will be done’.” She adds, “”An absolute Faith and trust in the grace is, in the last analysis, the supreme wisdom.”
The perfect antidote to ‘fear’ is ‘trust’ in God because, as the Mother says: “Alone the divine can give us a perfect safety.” And with His safety net, there is indeed, nothing to fear but fear itself.