Our worries are due to various commitments and responsibilities. Our worries comes in many hues and colours. We feel inadequate when we compare ourselves with others. “Maybe… I’m not good enough to do that job” or “I don’t think I’m clever enough to make an impact” We may be afraid to be ourselves as we really are in the presence of others, so we end up saying to ourselves: “I can’t let people get to know me as I really am. If I do so, they may lose confidence in me or belittle me.” Therefore we act and pretend to be someone else which we are not.
We worry a lot about our outer (physical) appearances. Men worry a lot about their baldness and women worry when wrinkles start to surface, when they are too thin or too fat, too dark or too fair, too tall or too short and so on. That is because we are afraid of being criticized. We are afraid to present our ideas or opinions before a crowd out of fear of being ridiculed. But we are furious when someone else presents the same idea and gets credit for it!
We are worried about our families. “May be I’m not such a good father/mother/son/daughter after all.” Some husbands worry that their pretty young wives may go out and bed with other men; some wives have similar fear too! Unmarried couples worry about getting married while married couples worry about how lonely they are without children. Those who have many children constantly worry about how best to bring them up. Some parents worry about safety of their children, about not having enough money for their daily household expenses, the security in their home, and the health of their loved ones. In our workplace, we may have to face problems in carrying out assignments and have difficulties in making decisions. “What if my decisions proves to be wrong?” “Should I sell my stocks and shares now or later?” “Can my workers be trusted with money or will they cheat the company during my absence?” Some are worried about possible losses, of not getting a promotion or being entrusted with too many responsibilities. Some others worry thinking that their coworkers are jealous of them.
In fact, the list of worries people face daily would be endless. Human existence is full of worries and fear which lurk within the dark inner corners of the mind. Humans have so many fears – fear arising from insecurity, enemies, hunger, sickness, loss of wealth and possessions, old age, death and even afterlife!
We worry and fear not only when things go wrong but also when things go on smoothly! We conjure a vague sense of fear in our mind that suddenly something may go wrong and that the happiness we now enjoy might turn into a sorrow. Although some may say no news means good news, people worry even when there is no news. Such unfounded worries fill our lives with undue fear. Such form of wretchedness befalls all of mankind. And none are free from this except those who are perfect or pure in their minds.
Of all adverse mental states, one of the most unhealthy and dangerous is prolonged worry.
Why do people worry? In the ultimate analysis, there is only one answer: People worry because of the concept “me” and “mine”. Nearly all animals are motivated by instinct. This is not so with man, who has superior thinking power as well as intuition. With his rational intellect, he creates the idea of a permanent ego for self-preservation.
Worry is nothing but a negative state of mind arising out of attachment to things and people. The stronger the attachment – greater the fear of losing it. Attachment to pleasant feelings and dislikes for the unpleasant ones gives rise to worry. Sometimes when taken to extremes, fear may arise because of attachment or association with specific objects or situations which are harmless in themselves like fear of darkness, fear of enclosed spaces, fear of devils and ghosts, fear of thieves, fear of enemies, fear of charms, and illusionary fears of being attacked or killed by someone lurking in the background.
The worries and suffering which a person experiences are nothing more than the interaction of his selfish desire with changing worldly conditions. The failure to understand this fact is the cause of much suffering. But for a person who has trained his mind to realize the real nature of life and its characteristics, he has indeed made progress in overcoming his suffering. He realizes that departure or separation from pleasant experiences and those whom he loves are unavoidable. This can happen at any time, whether at the start of a career, at the middle or even at the end. The only certainty in this uncertain world is everything must come to an end. So a person who thinks he is indispensable or that he must be around to see what is to be done, should consider what will happen when he is no longer around. He will be missed and his absence will be felt perhaps for a short period of time. Since no one is indispensable in this world, the world will go on as usual without him. If that be so, then why should we worry so much, harboring imaginary fears that only harm our health and eventually shorten the period towards the end of life’s journey – Death!
Separation also brings suffering. A person feels lost, dejected, hopeless, and frustrated when someone beloved leaves him. This is a natural process. People experience suffering whenever they are rejected by those whom they love. But sometimes instead of learning to cope with their situations by allowing time to heal the wounds, they become paralyzed with dejection, by pondering about it over and over in their minds, looking for ways and means to mend their broken hearts. Some even express their anger and frustration through violent methods. Something which is counterproductive.
There is yet another kind of fear that stalks the human mind. It is the fear of the uncontrollable forces of nature and of the unknown. This fear has dogged man through the ages as he learned to deal with the wild beasts and protect himself from the attacks of other tribes. In that long night of savagery, in that constant effort to deal with the forces of nature, the seeds of superstition were sown in the human mind. And this superstition has persisted and been passed down from generations to generation up to the present day.
Fear in its primitive sense is described as the intense emotional reaction characterized by attempts to flee from the situation which elicits it and by physiological changes such as blanching, tremors, rapid heartbeat, dryness of mouth etc.
According to John Broadus Watson, “fear is one of the three unlearned emotional reactions, the others being love and anger.” Watson’s view was that fear is induced in the newborn by a sudden loss of support or by loud noises. Even the infant, he believes, must receive affection and re-assurance, “mothering” may ease the tensions arising from basal anxiety.
When faced with forces beyond ones comprehension, the differences between the savage and the beast becomes apparent. The beast adapts itself instinctively and succumbs to this force. The savage, on the other hand, when surrounded by wild beasts stronger than himself, or when confronted by the forces of nature like rain, wind, thunder and lightning or natural calamities like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or epidemic diseases, will prostrate himself in all terror on the ground, pleading protection from unknown himself, which he thought could be appeased through prayer, just as he himself could be pleased, the savage developed ritual and worship and made the forces of nature as his gods. Good forces became good “gods” while evil forces became evil “gods”.
Fear comes to those who are unable to comprehend the basic laws of nature. Either as a principle or motive, fear is the beginning of superstitious beliefs. The notion of incurring the displeasure of a Creator is instilled into the minds of the followers of many religions who depend on the concept of God for the fulfillment of everything. The foundation of some religious system and worship is based on the instinctive fear of the unknown. The fear created by religions is the worst form of fear since it imprisons and ensnares the mind. Fear fertilizes the growth of superstitions that flourishes in the fog of ignorance.
Man yearns for security of himself and for those whom he loves in this world of constant flux which could offer no permanent solution to his problems. The moment he thinks he has solved a particular problem, the conditions surrounding the original circumstances will change and yet another set of problems will then emerge, leaving him confused and lost as ever before. He is anxious, like a child who builds sand-castles on the bear and is afraid of every wave that comes in.
In the craving for security and fear of death, man falls prey to superstition.
Surrounded by the mystery of universe, he develops faith in things that he fears. It is ignorance and fear of the unknown that gave rise to early religious beliefs, and the workings of the universe are explained in terms of infallible supernatural gods who are supposed to control everything that happens.
Even though science has done much to dispel such myths and improve the knowledge of modern man, much of the superstition inherited from the past still continue to remain within him and he is yet to break himself free from this self imposed bondage. Superstitions weaken and enslave the mind. Superstitious ideas, beliefs and practices are ingrained not only amongst uneducated people but strangely also the well-educated as well.
I recall these words “Fear arises in the fool, and not in the wise man.”
When envy, hate and fear are habitual they are capable of inciting disease in human body.
Doctors are of the view that disease like diabetes, high blood pressure, gastric ulcers, skin diseases and asthma are aggravated, if not actually brought from anxiety and worry. Thought can generate organic disorders as we tend to attract what we expect in life. Doctors have found their patients tend to heal in accordance with their own expectations, rather than healing as the prognosis would suggest. Mental suffering profoundly disrupts good health.
Businessmen who do not know how to cope with worry and stressful situations often die young. Those who remain clam and maintain their inner peace in spite of the external turmoil of worldly life are insulated from nervous and organic disorders.
Researches has shown how physical and mental ill-health can be traced to worry. Worry dries up blood sooner than age. Some degree of fear, worry and anxiety is natural and may be necessary for self-preservation, but when it is not under control, constant fear and prolonged worry will only wreak havoc on the human organism. These factors all contribute to the weakening of our normal bodily functions.
Some doctors while treating most functional disorders, pay close attention to the mental condition of the patient since it helps in fastening the healing process.
Worries do not solve problems; instead they only aggravate them which in turn causes physical and mental ruin. In addition, a person who is perpetually worried creates an unhealthy atmosphere at home, in the office and in society in general. Through rash actions arising from his personal worry and anxiety, he upsets the peace and happiness of others around him.
Just as worry is capable of causing so much harm to oneself and others, so also is fear. Persistent fear keeps a person in a state of perpetual mental tension and anguish. Fear progressively erodes life and debates the mind. Fear is a potent pessimistic force which darkens the future. If a man harbors any kind of fear, his way of thinking will be affected attracting health issues.
So great a hold has fear upon us that it has rightly been described as humanity’s arch-enemy. Fear has become a fixed mental state among millions of people. To live in continued dread, cringing, and haunted by the fear of devils, spooks, gods and goddesses is the common lot of humanity wallowing in ignorance.