In fear, we find security

Perhaps the most dominant emotion in a person’s life is fear. Sometimes conscious, but mostly unconscious fear rules every stage and aspect of our lives. You might find this statement a little strong, even radical, but think about it a little and you will be bound to agree with me. When a baby is born, it comes out of a warm and comfortable cocoon into an alien, and for some even dangerous, world. That first unexpressed fear builds up through life because at every stage of life that follows one is exposed to a world that is unknown and unfamiliar forcing us to find mechanisms to deal with such situations, and the resultant fear.

This fear in us creates an unconscious need for security. As a child our parents provide us security with their love and attention. But no child is able to stay within that warm and secure zone forever. At an early age we stumble upon separation anxiety and then later we realise the real possibility of our parents’ mortality. As we grow up the reality of death starts hitting us directly or indirectly and the subconscious fear begins to build up.

As adults we try to find security in things such as –money (arth), knowledge (gyan), power, and fame. Others look for their life’s purpose. Another consequence is that we find it necessary to surround ourselves with friends and in time with a life partner. These are nature and society’s ways of ensuring that we are able to ensure a future generation and stave a person’s need for security.
The family flourishes and for a while all is well. But soon the children grow up and start demanding independence and the empty nest syndrome descends on both men and women in different ways. Bereft of their children, husbands and wives look for new hobbies, community service, or religion to fill the void and help them deal with their own fears of security and with age, increasingly of mortality.

A solution that appeals to many ageing people is to find a group (sangha) of their peers and like minded people, people who have a common philosophy, a common teacher and a common meeting ground. Many who never yearned for a philosophy in life suddenly find themselves believing in a religious philosophy, and it is linked to a need to feel secure.

The thing to understand is that all such searches are done out of fear, even the search for purpose and a philosophy in life. The latter for many is really a sort of insurance for a better next life. This is clearly described in the Bhagvad Gita (Chapter 4 verse 3) where Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that there are four people who search for spirituality – those that are awakened, those who seek knowledge, those who suffer and are fearful, and those who seek wealth or other material things.

How do we deal with this fear? Accepting it is the first step followed by finding one’s purpose in life. Purpose helps overcome this constant fear that shadows our lives and gives us something meaningful to look forward to. Purpose is not merely about reaching a goal but encompasses all that one does in life itself; it is both the journey and the goals in life and because of that is an evolving notion. Purpose is not uni-dimensional and nor does it remain the same throughout life. It changes at every stage in life until we reach a stage when we figure out our life’s purpose. See my essay ‘The Zen way to Entrepreneurship’ for more on this.

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