Dissolving Fear — Identity and Character
This post covers some uncomfortable things. Feel free to stop reading anytime.
Sometimes fear is not conquered, or extinguished like a flame on a candle.
Sometimes fear can be dissolved. Slowly.
Like ice on a hot sunny day.
Like organic matter in acid.
Like a cloud passing on a windless day.
Suddenly you look up and you realize it’s gone.
I’m not talking about dissolving the type of fear that seems logical.
Fear of spiders. Fear of robberies and dangerous alleyways.
The kind of fear that keeps you physically alive. No. I’m talking about that insidious fear of loss.
The fear that is grounded in loss of mental concepts. Concepts that we cling to.
One of them is our identities.
Let’s explore this concepts.
I define identity as the perception of our self. A character we choose to play.
Think of the best actors and actresses. Leonardo DiCaprio. Nicholas Cage.
We are even better actors than them.
Why? Because we actually believe we are the character we play.
We play the character so well that not only the audience is convinced, we are too.
We don’t even know we are acting.
These characters are very useful, and very important in navigating our world.
We still live in the ‘real world’. And do ‘real things’ like making money, starting a family etc.
So why is this information important?
Why do we need to know the emptiness of ourselves and bring to light the character we are playing?
Here’s my argument.
- Identities like ‘I’m a businessman, I’m a sports person’ are merely a collection of things we believe.
- We know that the things we believe are illusory, constantly subject to changes in the mind, and changes in the material.
- While illusory in nature, these concepts are powerful enough to restrict us from taking concrete action in the world we operate in.
When I say they are meaningless, they become meaningless when they have outlived its usefulness.
And most of the time, they are not very useful.
Why do I say this?
You don’t need to call yourself a businessman to do business.
You don’t need to call yourself religious to do good.
An identity is like a balloon filled with air. We are the balloon.
As we get older we try to fit more and more things into our identity.
Just as someone trying to pump more and more air into the balloon.
One day this balloon is going to burst, either from the fullness of air or when something sharp comes along.
Then only will we realize we are the air all along.
Not limited by the shape of the balloon anymore.
Death of Identity
A businessman, shipwrecked on an island in the middle of nowhere is just like a fish taken out of water.
Dead. The identity is dead.
Things he restricts himself based on that identity with all die.
Things he does based on that identity will all die.
Things like ‘what does the receptionist need for this quarter’, ‘organizational charts with post-performance KPI bonuses’ will all die.
They are not useful anymore and will wither away somewhere in his brain.
Now that we have realized this illusory nature of our identities, we can slowly start to see clearer how it ties to fear.
If we want to truly start to eliminate fear, we have to start hacking away at our identities.
Identity Gives Rise To Fear
By keeping us trapped in thought patterns, habits that cause us feelings of suffering and dissatisfaction.
Going back to the businessman. Only by letting his identity die, he is then free to confront his situation on the island.
Only by letting our identities die, we are free from living in fear.
Fear of the past. Fear of the future. Fear of the present.
There is no effort to act in any way. No things to suffer for. No worry.
Let’s look at a more concrete example.
Having a home is a very strong identity most modern humans have ingrained in themselves.
Deep down, many have the fear of losing their job, running out of money and becoming homeless.
If we look at it carefully. A majority of this fear comes from the identity of having a house.
They can’t imagine who they will be without a house!
This identity of having a house gets them to worry about what people will think of them if they are homeless.
This identity of having a house is forcing them to kill themselves for their job!
You might say, ‘No, it’s about having shelter!’
But humans have been sheltering where ever they can for the past millions of years.
That person can take refuge in a church, temple, homeless shelter, sleep on the streets and even back to the forest and caves.
Now I know what you are thinking.
‘You must be crazy, you want me to just forget my job and start to live in the forest like a wild animal’
No, that will be missing the point.
The point here is our identities are giving cause to our fear.
By not seeing that this identities are illusory, we become trapped.
The point is not to drop everything, but to see past everything.
People kill themselves for their identity.
Just like this current coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
People can’t imagine who they will be if they don’t meet their friends. Eat out. Go to gym. Go to bars and drink. Go to religious events.
They rather risk a small chance of death, or killing someone than lose the identity.
‘I’m a bodybuilder’
‘I’m a drinker’
‘I can’t stop clubbing’
We still need to operate in the ‘real world’. But by transcending our identities and seeing past them, we become boundless, unlimited. Ready to undertake whatever life throws our way, including a pandemic.
Start By Letting Go
Letting go of the past.
Letting go of the future.
Letting go of time itself.
By letting go, we release the tension of the unresolved past.
By letting go, we also release the tension of an unrealized future.
We can be whoever we want, now.
For people who want to explore more, one interesting thing to think about is that this identity is the manifestation of a ‘Self’.
How much more suffering can we dissolve by dissolving this ‘Self’?