Second Remedy: Cultivation Of Self-control
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Self-control in the presence, or in the thought, of certain objects is a habit, and should be developed as such. It is a favorite statement of some schools of psychology that one does not run because he fears, but that one fears because he runs. The meaning of this curiosity of the text-books is that the feeling of fear expresses in certain physical agitations, and that the feeling becomes conscious because the agitations become conscious, so that one is aware of fear, or does fear, by as much as he is physically disturbed. If one refuses to yield to the agitation, the fear-feeling is controlled and may totally subside, meanwhile cold-blooded reason, acting for self-preservation, alone remaining. If, on the other hand, one yields to the agitation, panic ensues, and the swifter the running, the greater the fear-feeling. You observe or imagine an object, and agitation begins, urging you to get away, or suggesting abhorrence and the idea of flight. Your remedy consists in resolutely affirming to yourself: "I do not, and I will not, permit any feeling of fear whatever, maintaining reason squarely on the throne. I control my physical functions with the iron hand. As to my inner essential self, nothing on earth can affright it or harm it. I am master of my thoughts, my emotions, and my body."
You discover a runaway horse, or a snake, or a huge storm, or some object for which you have a peculiar aversion. Our remedy means that you are to take care of yourself where there seems to be real danger, but not for an instant to yield to or permit physical agitation and the feeling of fright or nervousness. The method by which the remedy may be made effective consists simply in arresting and instantly suppressing the agitation at its slightest appearance, and in completely quelling the emotional disturbance. You may find this a hard task, and you may fail many times, but the methods and remedy are perfect, and if you will persevere with a resolute spirit, you will infallibly conquer. Your fears are mere habits; you must overcome them through the establishment of the contrary habit that of self-control. When you have acquired control over physical agitation and its associated tendencies, you will find that you have secured the greater value, psychic control of the psychic self.
For the general apprehensive attitude toward all sorts of things buildings, machinery, forces, animals, plants, medicines, diseases, etc., etc., the same regime, prolonged and persistent, should be observed. All these nervous apprehensions, worries and panicky agitations are immensely wasteful of vitality and power, and all that waste is the outcome of sheer habit. The habit may be destroyed, if only you will and make good. There is no limit to the mastery of the self that masters.
THIRD REMEDY: Association With Objects Especially Fearful. You are urged freely to associate, both in thought and life, with the object feared, so far as practicable. In doing this, of course, some care should be observed. It would not be reasonable to undertake a violent cure; rather, the experience should begin with slight experiments, testing the self and forming the courage habit gradually and increasingly. No intelligent horse-trainer will lead an animal suddenly up to a frightening object, but such an one will manoeuver until association wears the feeling of agitation away. You shudder at sight of an eel, a snake, or a toad. If you try to slay your fear at one stroke, you only succeed in increasing it by the great nervous shock which goes with the effort. But if you will persist in the effort, you can gradually bring yourself to look upon these reptiles with no disagreeable sensation, and this victory, although such objects are infrequent in your path and easily avoided, will count for courage all round in your life. Every triumph of the will as against fear tends to develop a permanent habit of courage. Thus with all the Nature-fears now in hand: familiarity breeds contempt for their fear-making qualities. In many cases what is called fear is little more than nervousness; you do not really fear, at least you control yourself to a degree; but you are conscious of nervous disturbance, and this also is sure to yield to larger self-control and association with the exciting causes, provided, you carry into the association a resolute assertion of fearlessness and determination to overcome fear. We have here again the law of suggestion. If you suggest to yourself fear in presence of the objects that trouble you, growing fear only can be the result. If, on the other hand, you insist on suggesting courage during the association, you will ultimately become master of these fears. You will forget them.
FOURTH REMEDY: Emphasizing the Falsity of Fears. You are urged to emphasize, over and over in your thought, the fact that countless fears in your life have proven groundless and false. People are fearful because they permit fear to run rampant, while past escapes and foolish experiences receive scant attention. I suppose it is true that not one in a million of any man's fears have ever been realized in disaster as expected. Experience actually demonstrates that the vast majority of our fears have been arrant liars.
There are certain forces from which we cannot always escape and which we have no power to control. Lightning, wind, floods, and the like, hold many people in constant dread. Usually these terrified ones do the foolish thing get into a panic and endeavor to hide. As if lightning, for example, could not find them in the cellar or under twenty feet of blankets. As if the cyclone had not slain the cowering man and left the babe unharmed. Before these titanic forces we are powerless, so that the soul's only recourse is heroic self-possession and the search for such means of safety as may be found at the moment. The question in such cases is not altogether how to escape danger, but how to summons ability to face it. To this question our old answer must be given: by resolution and such familiarity with the objects as may be acquired by reason. Are you afraid of these titanic forces? Face them steadfastly face them, whenever needs must be. So long as you yield to panic, so long will your problem of facing danger with the least expense remain unsolved.
When next the storm-wrack rolls up in the west nerve yourself to quell apprehension and to stand still before its marvelous display. Find a good point of view, where you can watch all the portentious marshal-ling of the clouds, the billowy upheaval from below, the flying drift of the rushing winds above, the majestic oncoming of the clear-marked front. Divest thought of self. Let the mind dwell on the mighty wonder of the storm. Look the face of heaven full in the eye, though you quake within, forgetting forgetting, I say, in the splendor of the outlook, the very need of fear. See the solemn chaos of the clouds, the driving rain, the skeltering leaves of the forest, the shaking giants of the fields. See the ripping of the phalanxes of the cloud-murk and the ragged zigzagging of the speeding light. Ah! This is a scene worth tarrying for! It is yours for one price self-control. You have it now. Your breathing almost ceases, and then ebbs and flows unconsciously in the slow rhythm of the tempest. You are chained to the spot, rapt by majestic forces. You are aware of expansion and uplift of emotion. You thrill with a feeling that must be of the gods. No longer puny, you are one with the omnipotence displayed. It is the experience of your life! How unspeakably magnificent! You have lost the thought of fear! Slowly the fury passes and the glory vanishes. The East has swallowed up the warring elements. Afar off the pale lightning heralds the low murmur of the dreadful voice which so recently shook the world. It is now like the curious bass song of certain shells when held to the ear. You arouse with a sigh. The nerves relax. You are as one who has come forth from the fountain of life. A new soul you are become. You are full of the spirit of courage.
FIFTH REMEDY: Cultivating Confidence in the Universe. Above all it is yours to remember that you are a part of the System, and thus to trust yourself to the Infinite All, to assert your will in the outgo of confidence, and to hold serenely in mind the truth that no force in Nature can destroy the I-Am of the soul. Our fears develop when we forget true self-hood. If self is right, it is invincible. The moment the right-living soul remembers "I am! I am Power!" that moment there comes to it courage to' face all material threats.
SIXTH REMEDY: Restraining Undue Estimate of Self-Valuation. The valuation which your reason puts upon your self and your life and happiness is legitimate and not overdone. But the valuation put upon your body or the inner self by your fears is illegitimate because always greater than the case warrants. When you are agitated by fear it will be helpful and wholesome to ask: "What matters, after all, if hurt comes or life goes out? I am myself, secure in myself, and nothing can harm my real self. Whatever betide, that self will surely come through unscathed. I am not so tremendously important that I should expect life to be free from dangers and some measure of disaster. But the disaster can never reach the inner citadel of the abiding self. I may not escape accident, but I surely have the power, and I now use that power, to face danger and stand squarely up to its menace." Such an attitude, assumed and persisted in, will put your miserable fears to flight, and in the end you will have a truer estimate of the value of self than under any regime of nervousness or panic.
SEVENTH REMEDY: Ignoring Vague Apprehensions. There is a curious mood of fear which it is rather difficult to classify. It is a vague feeling of dread, having reference to what particular danger one cannot say. Its very vagueness is its misery. Its uncertainty of reference only enhances its power. It is a stranger to normal health, but it sometimes appears when one supposes health to be good. If it assume the distinctness of a specific warning, it should be heeded, but never permitted to cause suffering. Prevention of suffering thus induced must be looked for in resolute turning of the mind to other matters which are of special interest. If it does not seem to warn of any-thing, it should be totally disregarded and persistently put out of mind. For in this condition you are ready for all sorts of additional fears. You fear work will fail, your plans will not succeed, your friends are forsaking you, and so, innumerable are the ills which shadow your haunted life. The explanation of this abnormal state is the fact simply that you are really "out of condition." You should, therefore, give the matter no serious attention, but go right on with the affairs of your career, proceed undisturbed in all your plans, and assume your friends to remain entirely loyal. Or, it may be well abruptly to change your activities for a time, to swing yourself into new currents. Very soon the ghostly fear of something indefinable will fade away. If your case is deep-seated and unyielding, consult a nerve-specialist but assist him in every way possible in the spirit of this book.
EIGHTH REMEDY: Fortifying Against the Occult. Now and then a soul manages to create a new fear, as, for example, the fear of baleful modern "occult" forces. The study of human realities should guide into the light, not in shadows. It is a law more solid than the standing ground of Atlas that no occult power, in man or devil, can injure any person who is resolutely living the harmonious life. Were this not so, the reign of law would be widespread chaos. The remedy for such fear of "uncanny" things, then, is the confident will, the harmonious inner life, and association with the good, the true and the beautiful in the seen and the unseen worlds.
The feeling of courage is sometimes an inheritance, sometimes an acquired factor in our life. This chapter has suggested a few remedies for certain kinds of fear, but these remedies are subsidiary to the one effort, that which makes for the establishment of a permanent inner feeling, become habitual, of personal ability to face all real danger and to banish from thought all fancied possibilities of danger. The goal is not so much facility in conforming to directions of a specific nature, as the developed consciousness of power and courage for all the issues of life. You are urged, there-fore, to remember the real goal, and to endeavor in every way to cultivate an abiding sense of personal assurance and masterhood. To acquire such a value, you must assume it, and then "make good" by ever-lasting conduct conforming to the assumption.