( Photodisc  photo)

Today we ask that you learn to master your fear response.

This is no small or easy task.  It requires you to retrain and reprogram yourself, to go against the impulses of your nervous system and the structure of your lower brain.

It is like “becoming a Jedi” in the “Star Wars” mythology, or “becoming a wizard” in “Harry Potter.”

Some of you are more “high-strung” than others.  That is, it takes a lesser stimulus to elicit an adrenal fear response in you, than it would for someone else.  There is nothing wrong or defective about you, if this is the case.

For some of you, this may be a result of traumatic experiences.  For others, it is merely a genetic predisposition.  Many have both.  If you look at dogs, some are more high-strung than others.  It is the same with all animals.  Genes and environment play a complex role in this.

If you are a high-strung, or nervous individual, do not attack yourself for being this way.  Do not compare yourself to your brothers who appear to be more steady and fearless.  Do not blame your parents for making you this way.

The best thing to do is to give yourself permission to be a nervous, jumpy person, if that is your situation.  Feeling ashamed of it, or trying to stuff it down or bury it, will only make it worse.  It must be addressed.

Being high-strung in the modern world is like being fair-skinned in a climate that gets a lot of sunshine.  It’s no one’s fault.  It just means you need to take extra precautions not to get sunburned.

Whether you are high-strung or not, the main thing to do is to start observing your fearful responses to situations, and to learn how to effectively self-soothe your nervous system.

Once an adrenal response is triggered, your options are limited.  You can fight.  You can flee.  Or you can move into numb paralysis, “checking out.”

In most cases, humans have a stock fear response.  That is, some people are prone to fighting, some people tend to run away and avoid, and some people tend to numb out.

In a real emergency, these responses can be genuinely useful.  However, in day-to-day life, they are extremely limited.

What you must learn is how to calm your nervous system, move out of the adrenal response, and thus gain access to a much wider and more nuanced range of responses to stimuli.

If you’re always fighting, fleeing, or numbing out whenever you feel threatened, you are most likely having a frustrating life experience, and replaying the same patterns over and over.

Diplomacy, communication, energy work, meditation, prayer… these are much subtler responses to stimuli.  They operate on a deeper level than the basic animal fear reactions.

Obviously, in most cases, diplomacy and communication are preferable to attack, avoidance, and paralysis.

But meditation, energy work, prayer… these operate on an even finer, subtler level, and are especially useful with problems that can seem quite intractable and impossible to solve with “normal” techniques.

None of these options can be accessed when you are stuck in the fear response.

That is why meditative practices are so useful.  It is a form of training that, over time, teaches you how to calm and settle your nervous system at will — among other benefits.

If you are a high-strung individual, then practices like breathing meditation, mantra meditation, visualization, yoga, qigong… these are not optional for you, any more than taking precautions against sunburn is optional for a fair-skinned person in a sunny place.

If a fair-skinned person in a sunny place doesn’t take precautions, he will experience sunburn.

If a high-strung person doesn’t engage in meditative practices, he will experience intense feelings of anxiety and panic around any stimuli he perceives as threatening, whether or not the threat is real.  He will respond by attacking, avoiding, or numbing out.  

The form of meditation does not matter.  Many options are available.  What matters is that you do it regularly, preferably daily.  It must become a practice.  

Once you begin to master your fear response, you will have a much wider range of choices available to you in terms of how you react to stimuli.  Your life experience will become much more enjoyable as a result.