Through no fault of our own, most humans—that is to say most of us—have minds that have come into being shaped by a context of fear and distrust of life itself.
We didn’t cause that to happen, and we can’t even know directly that that is the case, any more than we can know directly that the Earth is a big ball without actually getting far enough away from it to see its roundness with our own eyes.
With very few exceptions, pretty much everybody on earth—butcher, baker, candlestick maker, rich, poor, beggar, and thief—each and every human being on the planet is at least as confused, fearful, miserable and afflicted as you are now or have been at some point.
Everybody on earth is at least as blameless as you are and as justified in their actions and beliefs as you are. Nobody on earth is in complete control of what they think, and want, and resist. Not even you.
In today’s episode, John Sherman speaks about what you can do to make the period of recovery from the fear disease easier and shorter.
One morning last August I was reading an article in an old Harper’s magazine about the origins of the First World War. The article explained what was happening in the world at the time, and it described the feeling of being alive then as an all-pervasive state of hopelessness, denial, despair, boredom, and malaise; a lack of interest in life. There was a sense that there wasn’t anything anyone could do to change things.
But with the assassination of the Archduke of Austria war broke loose, and triggered an explosion of excitement in the world. War seemed to offer the possibility of moving out of the swamp of generalized misery and hopelessness into a fresh and wondrous adventure, something which might just restore a feeling of the excitement in being alive. “The war to end all war,” they called it.
All of this was, of course, merely an opportunity to move the blame for the misery that had been festering internally to the enemy outside. And also, of course, that excitement could not, and did not, last very long. Soon all of Europe was smothered in corpses and drenched in blood, and the horror and stench of war covered the earth.
We’ve seen many wars since then.
The root cause of most human psychological misery is the fear of life. This fear of life is a psychological autoimmune disease that arises in reaction to fearful experience very early in life, long before we learn that we have a mind–long before we are even conscious of ourselves as individual persons. The fear of life is an unseen assumption that life is inherently dangerous and profoundly untrustworthy. And it is upon this invisible foundation of fear and distrust that our minds develop over time.
My understanding of the mind and its role in human life may strike you as strange, but I promise that it is entirely consistent with everything I have seen in the current scientific literature on these matters. So please focus first on understanding fully what I am saying before trying to decide whether you agree with me or not.
Last weekend we conducted a webinar on the practice of self-directed attention which we teach to provide critical support when the results of the act of the inward looking begin to unfold in your mind.
In the opening of that webinar, I tried to convey insights and understandings that I felt would be useful.
I started out by answering five common questions about the looking and its results: