We Need To Learn To Overcome Fear

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | The Speaking Tree, The Times of India Delhi | Sep 13, 2016

Fear is a common problem. What is fear? According to the dictionary, it is a feeling of distress, apprehension, or alarm caused by a sense of impending danger. To overcome fear, some counseling experts prescribe certain techniques which are physical in nature. Fear, however, being a problem of the mind, is unlikely to be allayed by physical solutions.

As a rational animal, human beings can readily accept only that kind of answer which addresses reason. So, the right way to proceed is to identify the cause of fear and then eradicate it by reasoning. If one’s mind can reason things out, it can surely succeed in overcoming fear.

It is a common experience to arrive at the railway station and find that your train is late. If there is a rational cause for its lateness, you will have no anxiety about it. But if the reason for the train being late is not known, you will become apprehensive. This example illustrates that the only way to solve the problem of fear is to reason it out.

I should like to share a personal experience which has some relevance here. I am a born perfectionist. That is why I have always wanted things to be in impeccable order.

Whenever I have found things not to be in perfect order, I have become very troubled and distressed. This anxiety increased to such a great extent during my childhood that I wrote a poem on it. The following is one of its verses: ‘Zindagani hai ke ya khwab koi vehshatnaak’ -- Life seems to me to be a dreadful dream.

I have read and thought a lot about this subject. It is obvious that this is a common problem for every man and woman. But, in this world, according to the law of nature, man has to live with contradictions. That is, man is himself a perfectionist, while the world itself is far from perfect. Things will frequently be seen not to be in perfect order. After this discovery, i developed a realistic approach to life. ‘Maturity is the ability to live with things we cannot change.’ Bearing this in mind, I was able to rationalise the issue and live with a tension-free mind.

Although fear seems to be external, in reality it is within one’s own mind. Often when people enter a dark room, they think that some deadly animal is crawling across the floor. But when they switch on the light, they realise that there was nothing of the sort in the room. It had only been a figment of their imagination. Therefore, the solution to the problem of fear cannot be found outside oneself, but has to be managed at the level of one’s own mind.

Fear is apparently a negative experience, but there is also a positive aspect to it. That is, fear is like an intellectual earthquake for our minds. It stimulates intellectual activity, which leads to creative thinking. In this sense, fear has an important role to play in our lives.

Fear is an integral part of life. It keeps one’s mind alive. Without fear, one risks descending into a state of intellectual stagnation. We have, therefore, only one option before us, and that is, to control our minds so that we may regard fear as a positive rather than a negative phenomenon.