During his first inaugural address at the height of the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!” The suggestion was that fear is primarily an internal issue, not an external one. During the same period in history, Edgar Cayce was giving readings that stated exactly the same thing about fear. We have all experienced fear, and it can be anywhere from annoying to unpleasant to downright paralyzing. Most of the time, it is an invisible influence functioning as a destructive paradigm that forms our misperceptions, misunderstandings, and maladaptive responses. By distracting us from our resources, sometimes it can bring about, paradoxically, the very conditions over which we have worried so much.
The Cayce readings suggest that one of the leading causes of individuals failing to achieve and live out their soul’s purpose was fear and not dealing with longstanding patterns of fear. After studying and working with his father’s material for many years, Hugh Lynn Cayce concluded that fear was humanity’s biggest stumbling block. In his book, Edgar Cayce on Overcoming Fear and Anxiety, he described the main sources of fear that had prompted individuals to seek his father’s help. These sources were physical conditions, thoughts of death or the unknown, unconscious fears remaining from childhood, fears associated with religion or God, and fears that were connected to past-life experiences.
We distinguish fear from anxiety. Fear is the adrenal fight-or-flight response to the perception of imminent danger. Most of the time, the fears that affect us exist in our minds—a virtual danger rather than a literal one: the anticipation of danger, the possibility of danger, or the conditioned response to past danger. Such manufactured fear is nevertheless an effective disabler. Most fear active in humans today is of this anxious, conditioned sort, as most of us lead lives that are predominately safe from physical harm. Even if it is virtual danger that provokes it, fear is nevertheless a significant inner condition that can prompt both internal and external response patterns.
The best reason to be concerned about fear itself is that it kidnaps our abilities and holds them hostage, disguising its crime with various rationalizations assembled with half-truths. One of the first things we can do in response to fear is begin to recognize if we are coming from a place of fear and then decide what it is we can best do about it.
If you are feeling angry, you are coming from fear. If you find yourself being in a hurry, you are coming from fear. If your friend is talking to you, and instead of listening carefully, you find yourself thinking about what you are going to say in response, deep down you may be motivated by fear. If you are envious of someone’s success, there is some underlying fear around that topic. If you are overly obsessive about the pure food you eat, you probably are coming from fear. If it is easy for people to “push your buttons,” somewhere there is fear. If you are finding it difficult to be patient about something, fear may be to blame. If you know you shouldn’t, but do it anyway, fear may have you hypnotized.
With practice, we can begin to tell when the fear paradigm is active in our thoughts and planning. Begin by exploring the difference in how your body feels when you think “Yes!” in contrast to when you think “No!” Can you tell the difference between how it feels when you have an “open” mind versus a “closed” mind? Explore the difference between seeing the glass as half full in contrast to seeing it as half empty. In each of these contrasts, there is a definite shift in the body sense. It could be the difference between tight and loose, tense and relaxed, or pessimistic and optimistic.
After encountering so many examples of fear in the lives of individuals (as well as in his own life), Hugh Lynn Cayce created a list of eight approaches to working with personal fears, all focused on becoming cognizant of where an individual places her or his mind in the present:
1) Set and work with spiritual ideals.
2) Focus the mind on constructive thoughts.
3) Use the mind to influence the body (and work with the body through relaxation and massage).
4) Cultivate the systematic control of thought.
5) Use inspirational reading.
6) Watch your dreams as a means of observing your real attitude.
7) Use pre-sleep suggestion (or for long-standing fear issues, consider hypnosis).
8) Develop your sense of humor.
The use of ideals is important, because they help to create an ongoing focus for the mind in terms of what the individual is trying to create. Things like, “to become more loving,” “to be at peace,” “to embody Oneness,” and “to be more forgiving” are all examples of possible ideals (more on working with ideals can be found in Chapter 6). The key to working with spiritual ideals is simply to train the mind to focus on attitudes and thoughts that cultivate that spiritual ideal and then to follow through on activities (doing for self and others) those things that will enable you to experience and maintain that positive attitude.
In terms of constructive thoughts, influencing the body with thought, and controlling thoughts, the readings repeatedly counseled individuals that if they desired to overcome their fears and anxieties, they needed to change their mental attitudes. Many individuals may be aware of a slogan from A Course in Miracles: “Love is letting go of fear.” The origin is the Biblical verse, “perfect love drives out fear” (John 4:18). The implication is that fear and love are incompatible frames of mind. With this in mind, one possible approach to try when fear arises is to think about something you truly love or truly enjoy doing. What is it that brings a sense of well-being, joy, or fulfillment to you? It is possible to switch from fear to love, and when that happens, many other derivative qualities switch as well. For some, it is a matter of switching from head to heart. For others, it is a matter of switching from a cold, hard heart, to a warm, soft heart.
As we meditate on the bodily felt experience of shifting paradigms of love and fear, we might realize that fear is our response to the perception of separation, while love is the experience of oneness and connection. If you can shift your perspective from separation to oneness or connectedness, you have a chance to shed the fear. In this way, we learn how to recognize fear and use that mindfulness as an opportunity to affirm once again our kinship with the Creator.
Excerpted from Contemporary Cayce: A Complete Exploration Using Today’s Science and Philosophy, by Kevin J. Todeschi and Henry Reed.