OPINION

MENTAL HEALTH MATTERS: The original of fear

By Jim Runnels
Special to the Herald Democrat

“The beginning of freedom is the realization that you are not the thinker.” Eckhart Tolle

Virtually, everyone hears a voice or several voices, in their heads all of the time; that involuntary thought process that you don’t realize you have the power to stop. Continuous monologues or dialogues of thinking. So much time spent thinking about our problems, daydreaming, recalling memories, envisioning the future, monitoring the environment, and thinking about the intentions of others, and so on.

The mind is a superb instrument that has allowed humans to evolve from small independent groups, hunting and gathering, to billions of humans in a state of complex societies. Over hundreds of thousands of years humans developed the ability to problem solve, to make plans about the future, remember the past, to perceive and interpret other people’s emotions, to develop empathy, and concepts of morality, just to name a few.

While these abilities have allowed us to become the ultra-social animal, thinking now has become a disease. Not a disease in the sense of a sickness or illness but, rather, in the sense of things getting out of balance. Prehistoric man used thinking in the service of survival, developing language, social order, mathematics, a complex sense of laws, engineering, which have allowed humans to live together in larger and larger numbers.

Today, however, most people are completely identified with the incessant stream of involuntary and compulsive thought content of the mind, to such an extent, that we can say they have been taken over by the mind. As long as you believe you are the content of the mind, you are being possessed and controlled by the mind. You may not be aware of the constant stream of thought as much as you are aware of the emotions produced by this thought stream. Your thoughts will always be reflected in the body as an emotion.

Psychological fear is always about something that might happen, not about something that is happening now. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This is what creates a sense of fear. You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future. There is no remedy to an imaginary situation; there is only fear.

It is very difficult to make clear or good decisions when experiencing fear. Thus, it can be very helpful to us to practice learning to reduce fear. When experiencing fear, try to be present as the watcher of your mind - of your thoughts and emotions, as well as your reactions in various situations. Do not judge or analyze what you observe. Watch the thought, feel the emotion, observe the reaction.

During this practice, do not believe your mind, move your attention from the imaginary future situation that your mind tends to create, to the present moment. Accept that those thoughts and emotions are here. Stay present, and continue to be the observer of what is happening inside you. See what happens. It will take many times of practice for the fear to diminish, but if we work to be the observer each time we experience fear, we can begin to reduce the psychological fear that our minds create.

Jim Runnels

Jim Runnels is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor and advocate of evidence-based education and supporter of the health benefits of a whole food plant-based, active lifestyle, to achieve optimal health. He is the administrator of Eat Healthy-Texoma Facebook page. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.