Compassion as Antidote to Fear & Anger

Fear. It’s an ungraspable kind of suffering in which we reflexively shrink back from life. It separates us from the environment, narrows the perceptive view, freezes the flow of feeling, contracts the mind, and blinds us to inner resources. Yet while fear hijacks the body mind in a state of isolation, it’s never a private event. 

As life moves through us, it also carries the collective feelings and emotions of our environment. The human environment is a culmination of a shared and painful world history where the drum-roll of direction has been the somatic mantra: kill or be killed. Survival of form has not only been the end-game, it is often the start-game and the middle-game as well. Aspects of human nature such as care, love, peace and service have been hypnotically relegated as recreational luxuries or Utopian delusions. These strange creatures that walk increasingly with compassion, they’re walking a dead-end called sucker’s street – at least, so goes the belief.
Ironically, the chief commanders of the forces of fear often claim to be fearless. They ‘do’ anger, but they don’t ‘do’ fear. This is the true delusion.
The three physiological fear responses – spanning body, heart and mind – are freeze, flight and fight. Anger is a fear response. Take an angry moment and you’ll find terror on the underbelly. Show me a rage-ful man and I’ll show you a man in pure panic.
“The partner of fear is anger. Compassion has no opposite. In compassion, fear and anger are one.”
img_2242When we are very afraid, a kind of relief occurs when anger spits it out and we launch an assault of some kind towards a perceived threat. The relief found in releasing the stress of fear through anger can make us believe we got free of fear. But what is actually happening is that we are generating more fear. We become the one threatening, rather than the object of the threat. The field of fear and threat is as vibrant as ever and we are still wired in.
Although fear segregates, it energetically doesn’t take sides. The fear/threat generated by a ‘good’ guy for ‘good’ reasons is of the same energetic material as the fear/threat generated by a ‘bad’ guy for ‘bad’ means. With oversight, it might be possible to use these tools in an enlightened way, but the risk of getting sucked into a hell zone are great.
Let’s take a crude example. Two nuclear bombs were dropped on Japanese civilians to end the second world war. The intention was to annihilate the threat through the use of greater threat. Yet since that war ended, the world inherited nuclear warfare and other weapons of mass destruction and a ‘civilized‘ precedent of use. What followed has been the insanity of who is allowed WMD and who not. The deeper threat of humanity’s self-destruction was not alleviated in that event, but accelerated. And each child is now born into an ever more daunting field of fear, just as each spring flower is threatened. When we fight evil with evil, we become evil and evil (on its own limited terms), won.
In these times, we are witnessing two dimensions expanding.
The first dimension is the one we inherited – the dimension where the fiddler that plays the tune is fear and threat. This is a binary universe of good V evil, black V white, self V stranger.
The more subtle dimension – to which many of us have migrated in this life time – is the dimension of compassion. Here, the either-or, all-or-nothing, kill or be killed prerogatives of the wounded past melt down into a much wider ‘and-and’. Diversity is honored within unity – as the very ingredients of wholeness. Difference is welcomed as expansion. Survival is not the chief authority, but rather, the sanctity of life.
The dimension of fear and threat sees the emergence of the kind of freedom and unity of the deeper dimension as a kind of existential threat. Traumatized to its core, it experiences this peaceful energy as a death-threat to its own premise – the pillars of ‘us’ and ‘them’ on which it thrives. Its response is therefore often brutal.
The catch 22 here is that when we experience this kind of brutality, we become immediately afraid and rapidly angry. We want to extinguish it, exclude it from humanity, banish it from our realm. What happened?
What happened is a major victory for the dimension of fear and threat. We’re back in it again, dancing to its tunes.
img_4125All great spiritual teachers have spoken about compassion as the antidote to fear. Compassion is not about surrender, agreement or giving up on this world, it’s about empowerment. Taken at its surface it can seem a repulsive game, loving your enemy. If you don’t feel love for him or her, what are you supposed to do? Fake it? Force it? Contort it? The dimension of fear and threat does become increasingly repulsive, at a somatic level, the more we move out of it, so how is it possible to feel compassion for its foot soldiers?
“When we experience, compassion, we no longer separate from the environment which sustains us. This immediately reduces fear.”