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Fear starts with thoughts.  If you worry, it’s a sin because you’re avoiding a clear command of God.  Fear trains you until fearful thoughts become part of who you are.  The Baha’i Writings teach us that we can and should change our thoughts:

When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 29)

David Norris, in a presentation called “The Power of Good (with a capital G)”, said:

There are no stressful circumstances, only stressful thoughts. When we get pissed off and frustrated or tense, it’s not because the task is so big but because we have decided to remain small. We have been silently searching for the easy route and have unconsciously been willing to accept the lessor rewards and circumstances. Internally, we have been asking for a Lighter load when we would have just as easily been granted a stronger back, had we asked.

Fear programmed us early in life and it can be part of our emotional makeup.  It can be so much a part of you that it becomes part of your personality.

Part of your mind is aligned with what God has said is true, and part is aligned with what your lower nature says is true, which can lead to multiple identities.  Only one of these can be true at a time. God wants us to be set free from this confusion.

Let all be set free from the multiple identities that were born of passion and desire, and in the oneness of their love for God find a new way of life.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 76)

Other ways of looking at this might be parent-adult- child, conscious/unconscious, or ego-superego and id.

When you agree with both of these, fear becomes truth to you.  When we have the truth of God and the truth of our lower nature, this leads to multiple identities. To become stable in all ways is what God wants for us. I don’t want to be double minded anymore. How about you? I want to hate fear so much that I cast it away and rejoice in being single-minded in God once again. You can hate the double mindedness but love yourself.

Being double minded leads to torment. You don’t know which voice to listen to.  When thoughts come to you from your lower nature, recognize them as idle fancies and vain imaginings, turn to God and ask Him for forgiveness, cast them off and go do something else.

Fear goes from something that God can handle to something that’s too big for Him. It’s too big for God. That’s what fear thinks. But nothing is too big for God. We can be so focused on fear that we lose sight of God.

Fear started before I was born.  I was born 10 months after my parents got married and my mother always said that she didn’t have time to get to know her husband before he became a father.  He was a very violent man and subject to quick mood swings. She was undoubtedly affected by this throughout her pregnancy. During the birth process the doctors lost my heart beat had to perform an emergency cesarean.

God had a plan for me but fear had established itself before I was even born, so that my life was filled with all kinds of fear.

It’s so insidious that you don’t even see it. Your lower nature tries to convince you that it’s your savior. It convinces you to take anti-anxiety medication so that the drugs can be your savior and your healer. Whatever you start doing to get rid of the fear or to advance your healing, instead of using the Word of God is bringing on a different kind of bondage. Not only are you in bondage to fear but now you’re in bondage to medication. Lifelong management of your disease becomes a double bondage. If you take drugs to control your fear they won’t save you because you still have the spirit of fear in you. It didn’t go away. This can often lead to side effects and addictions. Fear begets fear.

If you haven’t been loved properly, you don’t have the ability to give and receive love without fear, unless the fear has been removed.  Fear is directly tied to not being loved and not feeling safe.  Lack of love and the presence of Fear go hand in hand.

Here are some other things which brings on fear:

Attacks on the Faith:

You should not worry about attacks on the Faith, as these in the end cannot but result in the further growth of the Faith.  (Shoghi Effendi, High Endeavours –  Messages to Alaska, p. 28)

Change:

The two years that have elapsed since the passing of our beloved Master have been for the Cause, as well as for mankind, years of deep anxiety and pain. The momentous changes that are taking place in the history of both have proved so swift and far-reaching as to arouse in certain hearts a strange misgiving as to their stability and future.  (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 50)

Startling changes in recent years have profoundly altered the character of society, plunging humankind into a state of anxiety. Everyone on the planet has been touched in some way by the breakdown of religious and political institutions which traditionally have provided stability. As disturbing as these dislocations are to individuals, Bahá’ís view them as preparing the ground for the process of building a new social order which can support a lasting peace.  (Baha’i International Community, 1993 Mar 15, Women Peace Process)

We’ve lost our bearings through forces we can’t control or understand:

We have toiled to build a community at a period when the world has witnessed startling changes which have profoundly altered the character of society and plunged it into an unprecedented state of worry and confusion. Indeed, the world in its current condition has lost its bearings through the operation of forces it neither understands nor can control.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Nov 26, Second Message to World Congress, p. 2)

Too much change, too quickly:

In the wake of such horrendous disruptions, there have been unexampled advances in the realms of science, technology and social organization; a veritable explosion of knowledge; and an even more remarkable burgeoning in the awakening and rise of masses of humanity which were previously presumed to be dormant. These masses are claiming their rightful places within the community of nations which has greatly expanded. With the simultaneous development of communications at the speed of light and transportation at the speed of sound, the world has contracted into a mere neighbourhood in which people are instantly aware of each other’s affairs and have immediate access to each other. And yet, even with such miraculous advances, with the emergence of  7  international organizations, and with valiant attempts and brilliant successes at international cooperation, nations are at woeful odds with one another, people are convulsed by economic upheavals, races feel more alienated than before and are filled with mistrust, humiliation and fear.  (26 November 1992, message from the Universal House of Justice to the Baha’i’s of the World, Second Baha’i World Congress, New York)

Day to Day Pressures:

In reading over my diaries – so very little of which I have quoted out of hundred of pages written off and on throughout the years – it seems strange to me there is practically no reference to the World War raging everywhere during almost six years and constituting such a dire threat to the safety of the World Centre of the Faith and particularly to the Guardian himself as Head of that Faith. Nothing could more eloquently testify to the internal upheavals he was going through during all those years than this blank. The day-to-day pressures and the work, worry and mental exhaustion were so great that it crowded mention of this constant threat and anxiety into the background.  (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 177)

Decline of the Old World Order:

The sorrows, fears and perplexities evoked by this latest conflict in the unfoldment of the Lesser Peace have intensified the feelings of grievance and outrage at the recurrent crises agitating the planet. The anxieties of people across the globe are even now being played out publicly in angry demonstrations too overwhelming to be ignored. The issues they protest and the emotions they arouse often add to the chaos and confusion they hope by such public displays to resolve. For the friends of God, there is an unambiguous explanation for what is occurring; they have only to recall the vision and principles offered by the Faith if they are to respond effectively to the challenges posed by the spread of distress and dismay. Let them strive to understand more deeply the Teachings that are relevant by reviewing letters of Shoghi Effendi which have been published in The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, particularly those entitled “The Goal of a New World Order”, “America and the Most Great Peace”, and “The Unfoldment of World Civilization”.  (The Universal House of Justice, Ridván 160, 2003)

Eventually, as an ever-evolving civilization exhausts its spiritual sources, a process of disintegration sets in, as it does throughout the phenomenal world. Turning again to analogies offered by nature, Bahá’u’lláh compares this hiatus in the development of civilization to the onset of winter. Moral vitality diminishes, as does social cohesion. Challenges which would have been overcome at an earlier age, or been turned into opportunities for exploration and achievement, become insuperable barriers. Religion loses its relevance, and experimentation becomes increasingly fragmented, further deepening social divisions. Increasingly, uncertainty about the meaning and value of life generates anxiety and confusion.  (Baha’i International Community, 1992 May 29, Statement on Baha’u’llah, p. 14)

We have toiled to build a community at a period when the world has witnessed startling changes which have profoundly altered the character of society and plunged it into an unprecedented state of worry and confusion.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1997 Aug 13, Science and Religion, p. 6)

The friends need not have any grave anxiety as to the immediate developments of the present situation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Extracts from the USBN)

Doubt:

If thou dost ponder a while, it will be evident that it is incumbent upon a lowly servant to acquiesce to whatever proof God hath appointed, and not to follow his own idle fancy.  (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 122)

And when the heart is turned unto the Sun, then the eye will be opened and will recognize the Sun through the Sun itself. Then man will be in no need of arguments (or proofs), for the Sun is altogether independent, and absolute independence is in need of nothing, and proofs are one of the things of which absolute independence has no need. Be not like Thomas; be thou like Peter. I hope you will be healed physically, mentally and spiritually.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 383-384)

Let the doubter arise, and himself verify the truth of such assertions. (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to America, p. 17)

We are certain that when you share this letter with the friends and they have these quotations from the Scriptures and the Writings of the Guardian drawn to their attention, their doubts and misgivings will be dispelled and they will be able to devote their every effort to spreading the Message of Bahá’u’lláh, serenely confident in the power of His Covenant to overcome whatever tests an inscrutable Providence may shower upon it, thus demonstrating its ability to redeem a travailing world and to upraise the Standard of the Kingdom of God on earth.  (Shoghi Effendi, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 44-56)

Since we are all imperfect and have to learn the perfect standard which Bahá’u’lláh has unveiled, there are often things in the Teachings themselves which individual believers find difficult, and which they have to strive to learn and understand. All the believers are growing and this is a gradual process. Each one, as you say, must develop wisdom, and with this must realize the fundamental importance of the unity of the community and the bond of love and affection among the believers, for the sake of which he will sacrifice many things. …  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 631)

In the early days of the Faith in Isfahan, when I began to study the Tablets and Writings of the Báb, and listen to the explanations of the friends, I found the proofs of His Revelation convincing and conclusive and the testimonies supremely sound and perfect. So I was assured in myself that this Cause was the Cause of God and the Manifestation of His Grandeur, the dawning of the Day-Star of Truth promised to be revealed by the Almighty. But when I was alone with no one to talk to, I was often overtaken with doubts. The idle fancies of my past life, and the whisperings of the evil one were tempting me… God knows how much I wept and how many nights I stayed awake till morning. There were days when I forgot to eat because I was so immersed in my thoughts. I tried by every means to relieve myself of these doubts. Several times I became steadfast in the Cause and believed, but later I would waver and become perplexed and dismayed.  (Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, v2, p. 197)

The only remedy for the individual who still has a glimmer of faith in his heart, but who has doubts about the Cause, is to admit that he may be wrong in his assessment of the teachings of the Faith, to affirm that Bahá’u’lláh’s knowledge is of God, and to surrender his feelings and thoughts completely to Him. Once he submits himself in this way and perseveres in doing so with sincerity and truthfulness, the channels of the grace of God open and his heart becomes the recipient of the light of true knowledge. He will discover, some time in his life, either by intuition or through prayer and meditation, the answer to all his problems and objections. Every trace of conflict will disappear from his mind. He will readily understand the reasons behind those very teachings which previously baffled his intellect, and will find many mysteries enshrined in the utterances of Bahá’u’lláh, mysteries of which he was completely unaware in earlier days.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 218-219)

Excessive desires and the resulting distress and anxiety when they don’t come through:

Distress and anxiety have waxed great and every flourishing region is laid waste.  O Lord! Hearts are heavy, and souls are in anguish. Have mercy on these poor souls and do not leave them to the excesses of their own desires.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 57)

Exhaustion from the pressure to get things done:

When I remonstrated with him about standing for so many hours to do this work when he was still so exhausted and begged him to wait a few days until he was feeling stronger, he said “No, I must finish it, it is worrying me.  (Ruhiyyih Khanum, The Priceless Pearl, p. 446)

Forces of darkness:

We are moved therefore to express our warm commendation for your assertion of such qualities of leadership at a time when the Army of Light must of necessity be doubly mobilized to counter the march of forces of darkness that are wreaking fear and confusion in the hearts of people everywhere.            (The Universal House of Justice, 2002 April 26, US NSA 5 Year Plan – Lines of Action a Welcome Integration.htm, p. 1)

Distress and anxiety have waxed great and every flourishing region is laid waste.  O Lord! Hearts are heavy, and souls are in anguish. Have mercy on these poor souls and do not leave them to the excesses of their own desires.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 57)

Illness:

He was very sad to hear that you have not been well, for it undoubtedly caused much anxiety to the members of your family and also kept you from your work. The Cause cannot afford seeing its fine servants ill and handicapped. Please take great care of yourself that the attack may not recur.  (Shoghi Effendi, Messages to the Indian Subcontinent, p. 77)

Knowledge:

We’ve heard it said “sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.  Sometimes a little of the wrong kind of knowledge can kill us!  Since 1961, scientists have known about the “nocebo phenomenon”. According to this reverse placebo effect, a patient will become sick or sicker after being told of negative side effects, or on being informed of specifics about an illness just diagnosed.

Medicine has become increasingly fear-based.  For example, doctors encourage patients to have regular mammograms, colonoscopies, etc.  They justify the expense by saying things like: “we tell everyone of this age to get one, because we know X percentage of people in your age group will get cancer, polyps etc”. So we go because we don’t to be part of that percentage.  We’re afraid we might be and are hoping for early detection of something that was planted in our minds as a possibility.

Pharmaceutical companies are now advertising their products and are required by law to alert consumers to all the side effects.  The advertiser’s goal is to trigger people’s fear so they think that they need such a product; and at the same time, produces a fear of what might happen if they take it.

Such seeds sow fear in people’s minds, consciously or subconsciously. Where previously we hadn’t even considered the possibility of contracting a certain disease, now we start worrying about it, and now every little abdominal pain feeds the worry.  Some studies suggest that the current high rates of colon and rectal cancers are linked with the amount of information in the media that there is a high rate of colon and rectal cancers.

Perhaps this is why ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says the only time it’s OK to lie is for a doctor to tell someone he’s getting better:

If a doctor consoles a sick man by saying: “Thank God you are better, and there is hope of your recovery,” though these words are contrary to the truth, yet they may become the consolation of the patient and the turning-point of the illness. This is not blameworthy.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 320)

He understood the power of negative thinking on our health!

Lack of Education:

This is why studying the right kind of education is so important.

Do not thou worry that thou couldst not study in the material schools, because thou hast received lessons in the Verses of the Oneness (of God) in the Divine University.  (Shoghi Effendi, Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 37)

Major Plan of God:

The Major Plan of God is at work throughout the world, hastening the disintegration of the old order as the new one unfolds. While it is propelling forward a social transformation of a magnitude never before witnessed, fear and uncertainty grip the consciousness of a majority of the world’s people, who remain unaware of God’s purpose in this Day.  (The Universal House of Justice, 2001 Nov 12, International Endowment Fund)

 Materialism: 

The gross materialism that engulfs the entire nation at the present hour; the attachment to worldly things that enshrouds the souls of men; the fear and anxieties that distract their minds; the pleasure and dissipations that fill their time, the prejudices and animosities that darken their outlook, the apathy and lethargy that paralyze their spiritual faculties — these are among the formidable obstacles that stand in the path of every world-be warrior in the service of Bahá’u’lláh, obstacles which he must battle against the surmount in his crusade for the redemption of his own countrymen.  (Shoghi Effendi: Citadel of Faith, p. 149)

Need for Money:

The problem that in these days is arousing his (Shoghi Effendi’s) anxiety is the way this large sum is to be collected in such a very short period of time, to resume the building operations right after the convention. He, as well as some of the other friends who are motivated by a great force of faith, believe firmly that God’s miracles will not fail to perform their wonders and at the very eleventh hour the full sum will be collected. Shoghi Effendi wishes you to express his loving greetings to all the friends in Wilmette and ask them to join with him in their moments of private prayer and meditation, and ask God not to fail them, but as heretofore send them His confirmations and blessings.  (Shoghi Effendi, Extracts from the USBN)

Not Reflecting on the Causes:

Though the world is encompassed with misery and distress, yet no man hath paused to reflect what the cause or source of that may be. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p.163)

Problems and Complications at Work:

He himself, having undertaken at such a disturbed time to raise at least the first story or arcade of the new part of the Báb’s Shrine, finds himself beset with worries, problems and complications which have not only doubled his work, but exhaust and harass him all the time. So at least, let the British friends know that when they struggle and feel hard beset, they are not struggling and worrying alone! Far from it!!  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 225)

Selfishness (being anxious to make their fortune):

We perceive that men are carried away by passion and selfishness, each man thinking only of what will benefit himself even if it means the ruin of his brother. They are all anxious to make their fortune and care little or nothing for the welfare of others. They are concerned about their own peace and comfort, while the condition of their fellows troubles them not at all. Unhappily this is the road most men tread.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 80)

Service to the Faith:

What with his speaking, deepening the believers, translating, traveling, worrying, his [Khan] soul ‘wore out the sheath’, and he was frail and often ill.  (Marzieh Gail, Arches of the Years, p. 36)

Striving to meet the Standards of the Faith:

To be required to be happy and assured, while busily serving the Cause, can raise in us more than a little anxiety.  (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 116)

Turning away from God:

As they gradually strayed from the path of their Ideal Leader and Master, as they turned away from the Light of God and corrupted the principle of His Divine unity, and as they increasingly centered their attention upon them who were only the revealers of the potency of His Word, their power was turned into weakness, their glory into shame, their courage into fear.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 69)

Turning to the Wrong Place for Answers:

Whenever the True Counsellor uttered a word in admonishment, lo, they all denounced Him as a mover of mischief and rejected His claim. How bewildering, how confusing is such behaviour!  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p.163) 

Uncertainty about the Meaning and Value of Life:

Increasingly, uncertainty about the meaning and value of life generates anxiety and confusion.  (Baha’i International Community, 1992 May 29, Statement on Baha’u’llah, p. 14)

Using non-Baha’i Methodologies:

This seminar seems to have provided a very valuable forum for the discussion of a number of aspects of Bahá’í scholarship, and the airing of certain problems which have been worrying some of the friends in relationship to their work and to their fellow believers. We believe that many of the problems arise from an attempt by some Bahá’í scholars to make use of methodologies devised by non-Bahá’ís without thinking through the implications of such a course and without working out a methodology which would be in consonance with the spirit of the Faith.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 388)

Wanting Instant Gratification:

We feel that an over-anxiousness on your part about a breakthrough and an undue worry over the state of society can be counter-productive. While there are opportunities for greater growth than is occurring, neither your Assembly nor the friends must burden themselves with feelings of failure at every disappointment, for such feelings are self-fulfilling and can easily cause stagnation in the expansion of the Cause. The tendency toward frustration, sometimes induced by a desire for instant gratification, must be resisted by an effort to gain deeper appreciation of the divine process.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

War and Calamities:

Behold the disturbances which, for many a long year, have afflicted the earth, and the perturbation that hath seized its peoples. It hath either been ravaged by war, or tormented by sudden and unforeseen calamities. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p.163)

Work – The way we orient ourselves towards work:

Consider how difficult for man is the attainment of pleasures and happiness in this mortal world. How easy it is for the animal. Look upon the fields and flowers, prairies, streams, forests and mountains. The grazing animals, the birds of the air, the fishes neither toil nor undergo hardships; they sow not, nor are they concerned about the reaping; they have no anxiety about business or politics — no trouble or worry whatsoever. All the fields and grasses, all the meadows of fruits and grains, all the mountain slopes and streams of salubrious water belong to them. They do not labor for their livelihood and happiness because everything is provided and made possible for them. If the life of man be confined to this physical, material outlook, the animal’s life is a hundred times better, easier and more productive of comfort and contentment. The animal is nobler, more serene and confident because each hour is free from anxiety and worriment; but man, restless and dissatisfied, runs from morn till eve, sailing the seas, diving beneath them in submarines, flying aloft in airplanes, delving into the lowest strata of the earth to obtain his livelihood — all with the greatest difficulty, anxiety and unrest. Therefore, in this respect the animal is nobler, more serene, poised and confident. Consider the birds in the forest and jungle: how they build their nests high in the swaying treetops, build them with the utmost skill and beauty — swinging, rocking in the morning breezes, drinking the pure, sweet water, enjoying the most enchanting views as they fly here and there high overhead, singing joyously — all without labor, free from worry, care and forebodings. If man’s life be confined to the elemental, physical world of enjoyment, one lark is nobler, more admirable than all humanity because its livelihood is prepared, its condition complete, its accomplishment perfect and natural.  But the life of man is not so restricted; it is divine, eternal, not mortal and sensual. For him a spiritual existence and livelihood is prepared and ordained in the divine creative plan. His life is intended to be a life of spiritual enjoyment to which the animal can never attain. This enjoyment depends upon the acquisition of heavenly virtues. The sublimity of man is his attainment of the knowledge of God. The bliss of man is the acquiring of heavenly bestowals, which descend upon him in the outflow of the bounty of God. The happiness of man is in the fragrance of the love of God. This is the highest pinnacle of attainment in the human world. How preferable to the animal and its hopeless kingdom!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 184-185)

For More in this Series:

What is Fear? 

What are we Afraid Of?

Reactions to Fear 

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Doubt and Fear  

What is the Purpose of Fear?

What about the Fear of God? 

Understanding the Link Between Fear and Sin 

Overcoming Fear – Introduction 

Overcoming Fear By Turning to God

Overcoming Fear with Prayer

Overcoming Fear By Reading the Writings

Overcoming Fear By Focusing on the Virtues 

Overcoming Fear Through Love

Overcoming Fear with Faith

Overcoming Fear with Patience

Overcoming Fear through Courage

Overcoming Fear through Teaching and Service

Overcoming Fear By Changing your Thoughts

Overcoming Fear through Forgiveness

Overcoming Fear through Using Role Models

Overcoming Fear through Tests and Difficulties

What Can Others Do, To Help Those Who Are Afraid?

 Prayers to Eliminate Fear

 

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