I was first introduced to the power of fear by a man called Igor Tjarkovsky, who became known as the father of waterbirth. His work with water was inspired by his childhood in Siberia with farm animals. As an experiment, Igor took chicken eggs and put them under a mother duck. She loyally sat upon them until they hatched and the chicks followed the duck as their mother as she took them into the pond to learn how to swim. In spite of not having webbed feet, the chicks managed to swim in line behind the mother duck wherever she went as they thought they were ducks. Igor then brought the mother hen to the pond. She instantly recognized the chicks as her own and not ducklings and began to race around the edge of the pond frantically perceiving them in danger of drowning. It appeared that the chicks got the message as one by one the chicks drowned. Fear arises when we perceive threat whether real or imagined. Commentaries of the yoga sutras say we cannot fear what we have not already experienced. So fear belongs to the realm of memory. The greatest cache of memory is the subconscious mind, the place of our programming or conditioning we are not aware of. Tjarkovsky believed that fear is in our genetics and represents the greatest obstacle to human beings experiencing their highest potential.
In the study of conflict resolution, hidden underneath apparent conflicts are often unrecognized fears based upon subconscious memory that could be from present or past lifetimes.
According to statistics some common fears are: ghosts, cockroaches, spiders, snakes, intimacy, death, social rejection, taking tests, flying, heights, clowns, failure, and driving (in that order). Xena Devi added to the list: wile coyote, being attacked by another temple cat, loud noises, not being fed, being left out or left behind on a walk, and becoming part of the food chain….The great guru Satyananda Saraswati has said that the deepest fear that mankind has is fear of one’s life being meaninglessness.
As an exercise, take any conflict in your life and see what fears might be catalyzing the experience for both sides. If that can be understood, it may diffuse reactivity and pave way for clearer communication whether between parts of oneself, another person, or another nation.
(Re-printed from our March 2013 newsletter.)