You Can’t Out Run (or Run Out of) Fear

Spiritual Growth and Self-Realization: The Beauty and Brilliance of Fear

We can’t escape fear, not the hungry bear type of fear, but the end-of-days scenarios that hijack our minds. The separate self’s ego mind will never deplete its fear reserves.

We receive a small commission from Amazon links on this page.

“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” 
Paul Atreides, the Bene Gesserit litany against fear, Dune

  • What are the connections between neuroscience, depth psychology, meditation, microdosing, object relations theory, and fear?
  • What is the relationship between fear and reality?

A more comprehensive understanding of the various factors contributing to the experience of fear might help us to work with it and improve the quality of life. 

We need to examine the importance of having the courage and curiosity to explore fear experientially, with the support of trained professionals when necessary.

ego mind fear

Fear, the Fundamental Ego Emotion

What are fear and emotion?

  • Emotion: a complex experience of consciousness, bodily sensation, and behavior that reflects the personal significance of a thing, an event, or a state of affairs.
  • Fear: a strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.

Can fear be worked with to improve quality of life and support spiritual realization?

Fear is a universal human experience. Whether it’s the fear of failure, the fear of rejection, or the fear of the unknown. Fear can be overwhelming and significantly impact our sense of security and well-being. The complexity of fear extends beyond just the emotional experience of it.

These are three critical points to consider when exploring fear:

  • Biological Fear – The human organism relies on biological, objective fear for survival.
  • Psychological Fear – Once cathected to and identified with the body, the psychological self projects fear from the past onto present experience.
  • Understanding not-knowing and space discriminates the indestructible from the impermanent.

Evolutionary origins of the brain’s response to fear

  • The brain evolved to better identify and respond to potential threats for survival.
  • The emergence of the amygdala is a key development in the evolution of the brain’s response to fear. It processes emotional information, particularly fear, and triggers the fight or flight response.
  • The fight or flight response prepares the body to respond quickly and efficiently to danger by releasing stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which increase heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate.
fear neurons neuroscience

The Neuroanatomy of Fear

  • Fear involves many brain regions and pathways in addition to the amygdala.
  • The hippocampus processes contextual information and encodes fear memories, which can influence our response to fearful stimuli.
  • The prefrontal cortex modulates the amygdala’s response to fear, allowing for more rational and controlled responses to fearful stimuli.

The second point above speaks to projecting the past onto the present. The third point tells that fear can be worked with from within the psychological realm.

Neurotransmitters and Fear

  • Neurotransmitters are chemicals that transmit signals between neurons in the brain.
  • Dopamine is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating motivation, reward, pleasure, and fear.
  • Increased dopamine levels can reduce fear responses in the amygdala.
  • Serotonin is a neurotransmitter involved in regulating fear, and low serotonin levels are associated with increased anxiety and fearfulness.
childhood fear

The development of Fear in childhood

  • Fear is a complex process influenced by genetics, environmental experiences, and parenting.
  • Traumatic events in childhood can have long-lasting effects on fear regulation and increase the risk of anxiety and fear-related disorders.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by fear and anxiety symptoms and can result from traumatic events such as abuse, neglect, natural disasters, or witnessing violence.
  • Parenting can also play a role in children’s fear development, with an environment where fear is regularly expressed, increasing the risk of fear-related issues.
meaning of life

Just realize how much fear there is in being a separate individual. Realize how much longing there is for that fear to disappear. Realize how much you do in your life to try to deal with that fear and that longing. What if it isn’t true that you are a separate individual? If it isn’t true, then everything you do is pointless. And it is not only pointless, but it perpetuates the dilemma. – Diamond Heart Book Three, ch. 9

Depth Psychology and Fear

Depth psychology is a psychoanalytic approach that emphasizes the role of early childhood experiences and relationships in the development of the self and the formation of interpersonal relationships.

The development of fear in childhood can also be understood in the context of the core of the ego being fear. Children learn to navigate the world and form their sense of self with a fundamental concern for survival. The ego develops as a series of adaptive strategies to survive.

Object Relations Theory and Fear

Object relations theory is a psychodynamic approach that emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships in the developing sense of self. According to object relations theory, negative internalized representations of significant others are a primary source of fear and anxiety.

By working with object relations theory, individuals can explore and understand the negative internalized representations contributing to their fears and anxieties. Through introspection and self-exploration, individuals can identify the patterns that produce the fear response.

Exploring early attachment experiences is also essential in working with object relations theory. These experiences can impact the development of fear and anxiety, mainly if they are characterized by insecurity, neglect, or trauma. By understanding the impact of these experiences on the development of the self and the formation of relationships, individuals can begin to identify and work through the underlying issues contributing to their fears.

The Diamond Approach works with object relations to help challenge the sense of self associated with the object relation. This allows the individual to experience themselves as “not that.” The object relation is seen and experienced as a memory, a mental idea that is not “real” in an existential way.

While fear can be overwhelming and challenging to manage, it is essential to remember that it can be worked with to improve the quality of our lives. By expanding our understanding of fear and having the courage to explore it experientially, we can begin to identify and address the underlying causes of our fears and develop strategies for managing them more constructively.

meditation confront fear

Meditation and Fear

Studies have shown that regular meditation can change the structure and function of several key brain regions involved in emotional processing and regulation, including the amygdala, the prefrontal cortex, and the insula.

Research also suggests that meditation may be particularly effective in reducing the physiological and subjective responses to fear. For example, a study published in Emotion found that individuals who practiced mindfulness meditation were less likely to experience increased heart rate and skin conductance in response to a fear-inducing stimulus.


“The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh, Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm

Another study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that individuals who practiced meditation had increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, a critical brain region involved in emotional regulation when presented with negative images.

These findings suggest that meditation may be an effective tool for reducing the impact of fear and anxiety on the body and mind. Also, the concept of experiencing nirvana or enlightenment in meditation is associated with the dissolving of the self, the one who is afraid of death and annihilation, which can reduce the experience of fear.

laughing at fear

Fear & Breath

Working with the breath can be a significant tool in managing fear and anxiety because of its impact on the body’s stress response. When we experience fear, our body’s stress response is activated, leading to increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tension. These physiological changes are part of the body’s natural response to potential threats but can also contribute to anxiety and panic.

By working with the breath, individuals can learn to regulate these physiological responses and reduce the impact of fear on the body and mind. Deep breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic or box breathing, can help slow the heart rate and reduce muscle tension, reducing the physiological symptoms of fear.

Mindfulness meditation often involves focusing on the breath to anchor attention and stay present in the moment. By developing a regular mindfulness practice, individuals can learn to observe their thoughts and emotions without becoming overwhelmed. This can be particularly helpful when managing the intense emotions that often accompany fear.

Biofeedback & Fear

Biofeedback is a technique that involves measuring and providing information about the body’s physiological responses to certain stimuli to help individuals learn to control those responses. While there is limited research on using biofeedback specifically for fear, evidence suggests that it may be a useful tool for managing the physiological and emotional responses to fear.

A study published in the Journal of Psychophysiology found that biofeedback training significantly reduced anxiety in individuals with generalized anxiety disorder. Another study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychopathology found that biofeedback training was associated with reduced physiological and emotional responses to fear in individuals with spider phobia.

working with fear

“security is not having things; it’s handling things.” ― Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway®: Dynamic techniques for turning Fear, Indecision and Anger into Power, Action and Love

One possible explanation for the effectiveness of biofeedback in managing fear is its impact on the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates many of the body’s physiological responses to stress and fear, including heart rate, respiration, and muscle tension. By providing individuals with real-time information about these responses, biofeedback can help them learn to control them and reduce the impact of fear on the body and mind.

Other significant areas of fear research include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, pharmacotherapy, mindfulness-based interventions, and virtual reality therapy.

Fear & Spiritual Realization

fear fearless

The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.Dalai Lama

Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on, but ultimately all fear is the ego’s fear of death, of annihilation. – Eckhart Tolle

freedom from fear

Leave a Comment