Afraid, are we?
Updated: Mar 8, 2019
We live in a society gripped by fear. Such a reaction is quite natural given the current political climate and national events. If it can happen there—whether it’s Parkland, Las Vegas or Thousand Oaks— we warn ourselves, it can happen here.
Fear is among the most primitive emotions. Our deepest instinct, embedded in the core of our cerebral hard drives, is survival. A threat to our survival evokes a primitive response, one to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
It is important that we are triggered to react in such a way, because without it, the human race would have become hors d’oeuvres for carnivorous beasts.
Yet allowing fear alone to guide us can lead to over reactions. As a wise teacher once said, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering” (Yoda in The Phantom Menace). Instead of building bridges of understanding, fear leads us to isolate and defend ourselves from anything we perceive as a threat.
Human beings evolved to develop higher level processing functions of rationality and intellect. We have the ability to over-ride those primitive circuits. Yet it takes effort. While the fear reaction is instant and automatic, it takes more time for our cerebral cortex to observe, analyze and respond to external stimuli. Integrating the rational response with fear reaction takes awareness and intention.
Rick Hansen in his book Buddha’s Brain relates a Native American elder’s story that we have two wolves in our hearts, a wolf of hate and a wolf of love. The one that comes out is the one that we feed.