Bhaya, the primordial fear of material existence, was already described in Rigveda. How does Ayurveda view the feeling of fear and its different manifestations? How does it make use of the power of fear and how does it harmonize fear when it reaches threatening dimensions?
You cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from flying over your head,
but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair.
Showing fear is often regarded negatively in our society. There are the yellowbellies and the cowards – and for men it is not suitable to feel anxious. For women, on the other hand, many scientific studies seem to prove that it is “natural” to show fear. This is more or less tolerated and arouses the male protective instinct. Regardless of the social aspect, the feeling of fear as such is perceived as threatening and negative by the person concerned.
Recognize the positive aspect
Linguistically fear describes restriction and distress – feelings that affect the quality of life. However, liberating fear from these one-sided imaginations and considering fear as what it is, gives us a different perspective: fear is one of the most important basic emotions. It secures the existence and survival. Without fear, living beings would not be able to survive. Fear is the ability to recognize a danger.
Thereof strategies are developed to preserve and secure the individual or a group. If one succeeds in considering and accepting fear as fundamentally positive, the understanding of anxiety changes. It is the driving force of human development whose cause is unconsciously or consciously perceived. Sensory perceptions are inseparably linked with the psyche of man. By observing and reflecting, we come to recognize and acknowledge: I am afraid, what scares me, why does it scare me. Here lies the key to the dissolution of fear.
Train your courage
Another important aspect is training the courage to face the fear and to recognize it in its essence. Uncontrolled fear makes you blind; therefore it is necessary to remove the blindfold.
The memory of a severe mental stress such as an accident, a shock, drugs, anxiety through media coverage or a disease – especially of the nervous system – can affect the distanced sense perception. At the biological medical level, the processing of emotions and the onset of anxiety is associated with the amygdala of the limbic system in the brain. The amygdala processes emotions and memories and is responsible for the development of instinctual behavior. If it is destroyed, for example by diseases, this leads to the loss of vital warning signals and the positive defense reactions.
In many indigenous peoples initiation rituals teach how to deal with fear. In our culture such rituals are missing. The question is whether extreme sports and the drive for risk replace these rituals. While the unconscious perception of anxiety can lead to uncontrolled defensive responses and behavioral patterns, conscious awareness enables the reflection of anxiety and the development of potential solutions on the mental and physical planes. Facing the fear and going through it is like giving birth by leading through the eye of the needle. Perception, courage, will and perseverance are trained.
Does fear make sense?
In the treatment of anxiety Ayurvedic psychotherapy – Sattvavajaya – clarifies whether the fear makes sense or whether it seems to be released from the context of meaning. The syllabus Sattvavajaya already contains the main approach of therapy: Sattva means clarity, creativity, ease, knowledge, insight, understanding, recognition, love, compassion, willingness to forgive. It is about rethinking the old patterns of thinking and acting that we have acquired on our path of life and making a check whether they are still valid. The goal is to change or dissolve them in order to return to our inner and outer equilibrium.
“Fear is one of the most important feelings”
When, for example a child developed certain habits of thinking and reaction patterns through repeated experiences it may happen that he/she continues to use them as an adult without reflecting whether they are still appropriate. If, for example, this child has been excluded from the family association again and again, it may well be that in adulthood it increasingly perceives an “exclusion” and focuses on it – a pattern arises because the experience “I am excluded” is made again and again. The many events in which it is not, are hardly noticed.
There is no clear distinction between normal anxiety and pathological anxiety disorders. Disorders can be manifested by physical symptoms such as palpitations, sweating, weak knees, dizziness and tightness in the chest, or fear of localities, animals, humans, examinations, and activities. If the fear is out of control and leads to a massive restriction of the quality of life, action is required.
Spotlight on Vata
The therapeutic spectrum of the Ayurvedic treatment methods enables a targeted individual treatment of the respective symptoms. Here, the bioenergy Vata – the movement principle, characterized by the elements ether and air, which stands in direct connection to the nervous system – receives special attention. The fine network of the nervous system reacts on the physical level with warning reactions on a strong excitement of the mind which is provoked by feelings of anxiety. Responsible for this emotional chaos, which can cause a fear, are the mental qualities of Tamas and Rajas. These two qualities belong to Manasa Prakriti, the mental constitution, our mental state. It is determined by the three qualities Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
Sattva becomes the principle of stability, purity, alertness and essence; the feeling and the emotions in peace and balance.
Rajas describe the principle of activity, restlessness and dynamic movement. It causes feelings and emotions and is the force that controls all movements of the will and those of the sensory and movement organs. Rajas is also responsible for the interaction of the Gunas, moving towards Sattva or Tamas, the principle of inertia, passivity, ignorance, heaviness and darkness.
The three Gunas Sattva, Rajas and Tamas act in a dynamic reciprocity representing the ups and downs in life. They are interconnected, influence each other and bring people forward in their development: the sattvic force supports all processes of consciousness. The Tamasic power on the other hand darkens our consciousness. In order to bring about the state of balance and healing and to support spiritual growth, special attention is therefore given to the demand of the Sattvic force.
The principle is the same on all levels: Sattva is promoted, Rajas is used for the movement from the dark to the light. This is where Ayurvedic medicine with its Vata regulating treatment methods comes in:
On the mental level, the conversation-oriented therapy accompanies the perception and differentiation of the fears. It provides solution-oriented approaches for the dissolution of old patterns of thought and behavior. The spiritual therapy work lights up the mind and dissolves the heaviness of Tamas. Sattvik methods include meditation, ritual work, mantras and gemstone therapy. They heal the spirit and nourish the soul.
“In our culture there is a lack of rituals how to deal with anxiety”
On the physical level, nutritional support is provided by a warming and easily digestible diet. The digestive fire is stabilized and Vata is reduced. Regular, lovingly prepared, healthy meals in a quiet atmosphere promote sattva, dissolve tamas and harmonize troubled rajas. Personalized Ayurvedic healing herbs which support a therapy, should implicitly be prescribed by an experienced physician or naturopath. They stabilize the nervous system and the psyche.
The applications of manual therapy, especially the oil treatments, purify and calm the organism. They also have an effect on the restless or uncontrolled mind. They activate and train a disturbed body and sensory perception and strengthen the self-healing powers.
Do not be discouraged in dealing with the fear. Take courage, and if you get caught up in a knot of thoughts, do not hesitate to seek help in supervision and counseling. This gives you the chance to expand your perspectives
Fear enables us to cross boundaries and take responsibility in order to find good solutions.
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