Unnecessary Self Protection (the Fear Response)

Explore fear's origin in the mind, not reality, and learn to discern between fear and actual danger. Discover the role of fear in personal growth, and uncover the deep-seated beliefs and imaginary monsters that prevent embracing opportunities and self-love. In this insightful exploration, Tiger Singleton offers profound wisdom on transcending unnecessary self-protection, acknowledging the struggle as part of the transformative process, and learning to confront fears authentically.

Quote: “Moving beyond an old version of yourself can be terrifying. It’s like a form of death for a version of ourselves that no longer serves us. That old self will do whatever it can to avoid being left behind and it knows all the right buttons to push to make you afraid of moving forward.”

 

Fear is an interesting phenomenon. We commonly assume that fear arises because of what happened, is happening, or is about to happen. Additionally, we assume that fear is part of our identity, as in, “I am afraid,” rather than, “fear is present;” fear is personalized.

Fear is an intriguing phenomenon. We often assume that fear emerges due to past, present, or future events. Moreover, we tend to personalize fear, thinking of it as part of our identity, saying, “I am afraid,” rather than, “fear is present;” Do you notice the difference here in how fear is identified with and personalized?

These two common assumptions, as understandable as they might be, set the stage for a difficult path in dealing with fear and making meaningful progress in our lives.

In this InSight Letter, I will explore three main points of inquiry that can help you remember what is real and true beyond the experience of fear. By doing so, my invitation is to deepen your awareness and prevent fear from dominating your life. This will support and invite you to not miss out on beautiful experiences such as meaningful growth, intimate relationships, and the joy of consciously participating in life.

The Inspiration

The inspiration for this exploration comes from my conversation with someone I’m supporting. In part, she is feeling paralyzed by fear. This paralysis is (possibly) resulting in the abandonment of an opportunity that, logically, seemed like the fulfillment of something she has desired to experience for a long time.

The fearful mind is searching for numerous reasons to avoid or sabotage the opportunity, all in an attempt to protect itself. However, upon closer examination, it becomes clear that the fear is not a response to reality. Instead, it is a conditioned response or a trauma response, attempting to shield her from stepping out of the old, perceived-as-safe identity and embracing a new version of herself that aligns with her desires and new experiences.

Stepping out of our old selves can be terrifying for that former version. It’s like a form of death for a version of ourselves that no longer serves us. So, that old self will do whatever it can to avoid being left behind. The fear within this old version is genuinely and sweetly trying to protect us, but it lacks the deeper awareness to see that there is nothing to fear.

The curious and fascinating thing about this is that the old version knows you well and knows exactly what buttons to push to paralyze your system and prevent you from moving forward. The old version wants to scare you in an effort to protect you. It is, without a doubt, an act of love. However, this act of love is confused about what is real and true, and is operating from assumptions that are not based in reality.

Disclaimer:

My exploration is not meant to assert that this is what you are going through, or that this is precisely what is happening for you. Instead, this is my personal playful inquiry into my direct human experience. You may find some resonance with it, or perhaps you won’t; both are perfectly allowed.

Even when supporting this personal speak of, I realize that my understanding of her experience is filtered through my own interpretation. Therefore, supporting her is actually an opportunity for me to reflect on my own experiences. I cannot truly know what she is going through. All I can do is create a safe space, which may or may not involve sharing my own reflections based on my personal and direct experiences. However, it is important to acknowledge that these reflections may or may not be relevant to her situation.

Three Main Points of Inquiry

To gain a deeper understanding that allows you to perceive reality and your experiences more clearly, there is a process of uncovering and shedding layers of misunderstanding and false assumptions. As we navigate through life, we acquire beliefs and assumptions about ourselves and the world around us. These beliefs are often our way of making sense of things, as we strive to survive and maintain a sense of sanity.

Five hundred years ago, people used to tell fairy tales and spiritual stories to explain things that were not yet understood. Since we lacked knowledge about how things actually worked, we would resort to storytelling as a means to maintain our sanity and find solace in comprehensible narratives. The point wasn’t so much if they were true; they were true enough for the time.

If you were to go back in time and bring your smartphone, or any other piece of current technology, the people living in that time would not be able to comprehend your explanation of how it worked. Their likely conclusion would be that it is some kind of magic or witchcraft sponsored by the devil. This lack of understanding could easily lead to fear and mistrust towards both you and the seemingly magical powers you possess.

With a deeper understanding, fanciful stories fade away, revealing clarity and simplicity. Ultimately, through heightened awareness, you realize that fearful stories are unnecessary.

In relation to this inquiry about seeing beyond our unnecessary self-protections and understanding the fear response, here are three main points to explore. These points might help you gain a clearer understanding of your own experiences.

  1. Fear Responds to the Mind, not to Reality
  2. All Growth is… Less Fear & More Love
  3. It’s Not Supposed to Be Easy

 

Now, let’s dive in.

Fear Responds to the Mind, not to Reality

Whether it’s easy or difficult for you to see, human beings do not fear anything in reality. This means that in reality, in life, there is nothing real to fear. What we fear is actually the mind’s interpretation of things. In other words, what we fear is our imagination of something to fear.

Now, with that being said, it’s important to understand that I’m not suggesting that fear is incorrect, misplaced, or lacks value. Fear is a natural part of the human experience, and it plays a crucial role in our personal growth and development.

The obstacle here, in believing that fear is a response to reality, creates the assumption that we are separate from reality (separate from what we fear), and that something we are separate from has power over us to make us afraid. This puts us in the position of being a prisoner to that which is “out there,” and opens up a perceived vulnerability that is not an accurate reflection of what is happening.

When we assume a fragile vulnerability and succumb to our fear of something external, we relinquish control of our lives to something separate from us, hoping it won’t instill fear. This is how manipulation becomes possible. If I can convince you that I have the power to make you afraid, then I can offer you relief from that fear, but only if you do what I want. “Be my slave, give up your sovereignty, and I promise to love you and not make you afraid.”

Fear vs. Danger

There is an important distinction between Fear & Danger.

When we encounter dangerous scenarios where our life and well-being are in harm’s way, there’s a natural biological response of alertness that helps us be vigilant and more present. However, fear clouds our decision-making ability. The more you are afraid of the dangerous circumstance, the less you can respond rationally and in a productive way.

A helpful example that I often use to demonstrate how fear is a response to imagination is by looking at the experience of being afraid of the dark. At first glance, when someone is “afraid of the dark,” they genuinely believe that it is the darkness or the nighttime itself that they fear. However, in reality, what they fear is their own imagination when it’s dark.

When we are unable to see what lies ahead with our eyes, the imagination takes over and conjures up images of the worst-case scenario, complete with monsters. It is obvious that they are not afraid of reality or the darkness of night; rather, they are afraid of their own imagination.

In reality, when in dark spaces, if you were to turn on the light, what you would see is that there’s nothing there in the darkness that isn’t also there in the light. All imagined monsters instantly disappear when the light comes on.

If we believe in imaginary monsters, we will frantically run around in the darkness, injuring ourselves as we bump into unseen objects. However, when we become aware that what we fear is not real, we can find a sense of calmness. Instead of running away from the imaginary, we confront our fears and realize how unfounded they are. This is where monsters dissolve, and where we transcend fear by understanding that there is nothing real to be afraid of.

We are illuminating the light of awareness, and as we do so, our fears dissipate into the vast emptiness.

All Growth is… Less Fear & More Love

If we analyze our “perceived” lack of growth or areas where we are not making meaningful progress, it is likely due to fear. Similarly, when we consider opportunities for growth and connecting with our desires, the reason we hesitate to take action or necessary risks is because we fear the possibility of failure or potential harm in the future.

Even when learning new skills, starting a new career, or entering into a potentially meaningful relationship, there is always the potential for fear to arise. This fear may conjure up imaginary monsters as a way to discourage you from moving forward and stepping into the unknown.

The conclusion is that it is not safe. Furthermore, the conclusion could be to stay in a harmful and misaligned situation in order to avoid the risk of something worse happening.

I invite you to explore any form of progress you’ve made in your life thus far and see how it required you to walk through fear. Recognize how you were invited to step into something that was unknown, letting go of what was known (but also wasn’t serving you well), and your mind created monsters to fear in the future unknown space.

These monsters were urging you to stay put (or run away), to avoid taking risks and stepping into unknown territory. However, deep down, you knew that taking the risk was crucial if you wanted to have the opportunity to connect with something that truly resonated with your heart and soul.

Maybe you have noticed an opportunity to honor yourself and your life more fully. It is a chance to embrace the deeper authenticity of who you are, which is undoubtedly more important than remaining in a situation that does not honor your more true self. This, of course, involves opening yourself up to more love. You are becoming more aware of your own worthiness, realizing that you deserve the love you yearn for. However, the old version of yourself still holds the belief that you are unworthy and seeks to keep you safe – safe within the confines of what it perceives as the reality of your unworthiness.

Comically, but tragically, you’ll see monsters such as…

  • “You don’t deserve this.”
  • “You’re not ready for this.”
  • “You’ll end up failing and be even more unworthy.”
  • “You’re stupid for even thinking this is possible.”
  • “You’re not smart enough to succeed.”
  • “You’re too old to start something new.”
  • “You’ll embarrass yourself if you try.”
  • “You don’t have the skills or talent to make it happen.”
  • “You’ll never be able to overcome your past mistakes.”

 

This is the voice of an old version of yourself that does not see the deeper reality of what you are. Yet, something in you has touched upon a deeper awareness that is starting to see the fallacy in the beliefs of this old version. Even though the old version is trying to protect you, what is recognized is that this old version is not operating from what is real and true; it’s operating from a fearful place that genuinely believes in its fear.

Less Fear allows for More Love

This path of transformation or growth, “less fear equals more love,” is the foundation of spirituality. Spirituality is an invitation to get in touch with reality on a more fundamental level; to see reality more clearly, which is also to see the fundamental truth of things.

As we see reality and ourselves more clearly, the natural unfolding is to also recognize that there is less to be afraid of than we originally assumed. Where there is less fear, it opens the door to experiencing more love.

Love is hindered and unable to freely flow due to the confusion that believes in fear. This fear simply states, “it’s not safe to love.” This, also, could be the old version’s interpretation of love, and for that specific interpretation, which is mixed with fear, it might be perfectly reasonable that it’s not safe to love.

Believing in this fear will not only have cognitive effects on you, but it will also have biological and physiological effects. Your body can effectively shut down as a protective mechanism. The older, fearful version of yourself would prefer you to be paralyzed and inactive rather than facing the risk of getting hurt again or stepping into the unknown.

For the sake of clarity, I am not suggesting that we should disregard our body or ignore our fears. In fact, what I am advocating for is a more genuine and authentic way of listening to our heart, body, and mind. I am encouraging a discernment that can listen from a space of detachment, rather than reacting solely based on fear, unconsciousness, and identification with our circumstances.

Similar to meditation, we can enter a state of stillness that allows the mind to calm down. This creates a sense of spaciousness within us, enabling us to see the situation more clearly and with less fear.

It’s Not Supposed to Be Easy

I used to hold this false assumption that because there is a profound simplicity to the truth of life, it must also mean that life was supposed to be easy for my human experience. Oops, that hasn’t proven to be true at all.

In this assumption, I was afraid of struggling, so I tended to adopt an avoidance strategy instead of embracing and welcoming the struggle. Deep down, I hoped to avoid confronting my fears and insecurities, and wished that what I desired to experience would magically come my way.

There is a balance here. It is true that we often make things unnecessarily difficult due to unconscious beliefs and patterns in our minds. However, if we want to experience more ease and flow, we must confront and overcome those difficulties, which is not always an easy task.

Things become easier when we are willing to do the hard things, just like building a muscle. Initially, lifting a particular amount of weight may be difficult, but with time it gradually becomes easier. To become stronger, we must be willing to face challenges and confront our apparent weaknesses.

It is my older self that wants to protect me from difficult situations. This is because facing challenges forces us to let go of the past and embrace something new. When we embrace something new, it poses a threat to what is old, and as a result, the old often fights for survival. The unknown poses a threat to what is known. However, it is often observed that what we “think” we know no longer aligns with what is actually true. Therefore, we strive to obtain a more accurate reflection of what is real and true.

This is the process of letting go of what no longer serves us and opening ourselves up to receive more of what does serve us, as it relates to our journey of conscious evolution. Pain and struggle are simply the contraction that precedes expansion, and you cannot have expansion without contraction. You cannot have the appearance of progress without the appearance of its opposite.

Why does this Matter?

This is significant because our resistance to the current state of things prevents us from receiving the gifts that it offers. It matters because when we push away what is challenging, we also push away the ease and flow that we desire. By rejecting pain and difficulty, we are also rejecting their counterparts. Moreover, when we cling to the idea of only wanting ease and flow, we inadvertently invite more difficulties and hardships.

The invitation here is to breathe.

See how everything goes together, how it’s not against you and not “in the way.”

Give equal value to both the in-breath and the out-breath. Be still, let the breath be the breath, and let life be life.

There’s something that occurs in this space, in this state of allowing, when we don’t reject one side of the coin and don’t cling to the other side. Maybe, we acknowledge that Life understands what it’s doing, that Life has already figured this out; Life knows what I need even before I have the thought of what I believe I need.

Opening up to life creates a deeper willingness to face the unknown and discover what is real and true. It allows me to have faith in the process, trust life, and let go of my resistance against it, which only makes things unnecessarily more difficult. It also means embracing the present challenge at hand, which may be tough, as an opportunity to confront and overcome my fears, one small but significant step at a time.

Final Thoughts

You know, even after writing all of that, my conclusion is… “yeah, but I don’t really know.” It’s like I understand that the words I’ve used don’t quite capture what I’m trying to express, and I also realize that the profound truth in life cannot be comprehended by my mind or conveyed through these mere words.

At the same time, I’m still genuinely fascinated by it all. What fascinates me is just how “out of touch” my mind can be with reality, how much my mind can imagine obstacles and fears not really there. Behind all that noise, behind all the assumptions, what I do know is this stillness that’s untouched by it all.

It’s almost as if, or rather, it’s exactly as if, Life is creating a space for me to simply have my human experience. This space is held with love and care, without any fear of what I might be going through. It understands that there is nothing to fear, so it fully allows me to experience fear. Such is the nature of real love.

Thanks for following along as I share these reflections which inspire me to live with more love, compassion, and freedom. Your attention is appreciated.

Do you desire more direct support in shedding this old version of yourself, and stepping into something that’s more in alignment?

I’m offering one-time quick consultations to figure out your next step and also to optionally explore in what ways (if any) I might be able to support you more directly in making meaningful progress.

Answer these three questions:

  1. Where are you?
  2. Where would you like to be?
  3. And, what seems to be in the way right now?

 

Then, schedule a time to connect with me, and we will figure out what should be the priority and focus for you to truly move forward.

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