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Friday, July 15, 2011

Dealing with Fear: "Face Everything and Avoid Nothing"

"(Fear) was an evil, corroding thread; the fabric or our existence was shot through with it."
-- Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 67 --
"The achievement of freedom from fear," wrote Bill W., "is a lifetime undertaking, one that can never be wholly completed. When under heavy attack, acute illness, or in other conditions of serious insecurity, we shall all react, well or badly, as the case may be. Only the vainglorious claim perfect freedom from fear, though their very grandiosity is really rooted in the fears they have temporarily forgotten."

"Therefore," he observed, "the problem of resolving fear has two aspects. We shall have to try for all the freedom of fear that is possible for us to attain. Then we shall need to find both the courage and the grace to deal constructively with whatever fear remains. Trying to understand our fears, and the fears of others, is but a first step. The larger question is how, and where, we go from there."
[Bill W., January 1962 Grapevine article.]

There are two widely repeated acronyms for the word "fear" that one often hears: "Face everything and recover," or, "F**k everything and run," The first, is of course, the spiritual solution to the fears that underlie and are prone to activate our character defects, while the second is the way that so often leads to a relapse into addictive behavior. "The first requirement of spirituality is courage," Gandhi observed. "A coward can never be moral." We must, therefore, uncover and encounter our fears, as while they remain active within us, we will inevitably have to face them.

Spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen, observes that "facing everything, and avoiding nothing," one of the central tenets of leading an enlightened life, "is the ultimate form of spiritual practice." The human ego - our egocentric smaller "self" - is a false identity that is primarily created by the fears and desires that we identify as being central to the very essence of our being. It is a false and powerless construct, however, as we find "the Great Reality deep down within us." (Alcoholics Anonymous, p. 55.) Listing, facing, and ultimately facing down our fears whenever and wherever they crop up is, thus, an essential requirement of attaining and maintaining our sobriety, and thereafter finding out just 'who' and 'what' we are - what Cohen calls "the authentic self" as opposed to "the ego."

"Only an individual who truly wants to be free will be prepared to abandon the pretense of the ego and to see things as they are," Cohen notes. "Only one who strives for transparency, authenticity, and emptiness of self, and who is deeply motivated by the impulse to evolve, is going to be able to face reality in this way. Anyone else, in the end, will find that they are too invested in maintaining the pretense of a separate self to even begin to practice (facing everything and avoiding nothing) in earnest."

"But," he notes, "as we begin to identify less and less with the fears and desires of the ego and more and more with the evolutionary passion of the authentic self, we will experience less fear, hesitation, and resistance to seeing what is true. We will find the strength and the moral courage to be able to bear whatever we need to bear in order to face everything, and avoid nothing, at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. Why? Because we want to be free more than anything else. "                                                                   []

This, I believe, is thus the answer to Bill's larger question of "how and where to go" after the recognition and listing of our fears. It is where our fears - and their flipsides of desire - are burnt up in the crucible of our higher God-consciousness and our faith in "a Power greater than ourselves," that is, our self-centered egos.

"In my own case," Bill observed, "the foundation stone of freedom from fear is faith: a faith that, despite all worldly appearances to the contrary, causes me to believe that I live in a universe that makes sense. To me, this means a belief in a Creator who is all power, justice and love; a God who intends for me a purpose, a meaning and a destiny to grow, however little and halting, towards his own image and likeness." A God, he might add, that embraces, and is embraced by, our "authentic selves."

1 comment:

  1. ...excellent post!..thanks for the lead on andrew cohen and his book..