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Disappearing (Fear of)

Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Disappearing (Fear of)?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Disappearing (Fear of)

As Annihilation Space Arises the Individual Encounters Fears of Death

Annihilation space. This is a black, empty space encountered at a very subtle level of identity, the sense of identity which stems from the experience of existence. Here we are not dealing with boundaries of any image; we are dealing with the identity itself, the actual feeling of existence. Identity itself, both ego-identity and essential identity (identification with Being), is annihilated here in this space. As this space arises, the individual encounters fears of death, of disappearing, of annihilation, of nonexistence. This space is actually the experience of nonexistence, of complete extinction of self, of cessation. The cessation can be so deep that even awareness and consciousness cease for a time. The person here is not only afraid of the death of the body, but is also afraid that his mind will cease to exist. And this cessation of mind is exactly the experience of this space. This space, although it arouses the greatest terror, is experienced as the greatest peace. The calm, the silence, the peace, is complete, total. It is utter relief. When you are no more, then there is no more suffering. Cessation and nonexistence is blissful peace. This space is the blackest. It is so deep and black that even consciousness is annihilated. One enters deepening blackness, so that after a while one cannot see anything; one is swallowed in the abyss.

The Void, pg. 148

Because We Still Believe in the Self, We Become Terrified of Ceasing to Exist

Student: Then why are we so afraid of disappearing?

Almaas: Because we don’t understand it, and also because of how powerfully we want and need it. We feel a subtle, deep pull of longing toward such cessation, like a gravitational force toward it. Although in our mind we don’t know what it is, in some deep, intuitive way we sense it is the cessation of the self. Because we still believe in the self, we become terrified of ceasing to exist. We look to other things and think that these are what life is about. Although it is important to have somebody love you, the longing you feel is not for an earthly beloved and cannot be satisfied that way. We search so many places before we look into our own heart, which means first emptying the heart of all of its objects of attachment.

Fear of Disappearing is Caused by Boundaries

Just be aware of your experience while you are looking at me and listening to me. Don’t you assume that there is a you, who stops right there and listens to me, who stops right here? What if I don’t think of myself as stopping right here? What are you seeing then? Only your assumption. And you don’t know that it is an assumption; you take it to be an absolute fact. You take it to be reality. Some of you may be getting a little jittery. You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, if I don’t have boundaries, what will happen to what is inside of me? It will just float all over. There will be nothing left of me.” But that assumes that you are someone bounded by boundaries. The fear that you are going to disappear is caused by the boundaries. You cannot be afraid of disappearing, if you don’t believe you are separate. When you say “I will disappear,” what do you mean by “I”? You have to believe that you are separate to be afraid of losing your boundaries. Sometimes you experience being full; other times it’s being little and deflated. The membrane of your boundaries makes you into a balloon. Why isn’t it possible to look at your body and say that it is here, and then feel yourself and say you don’t end anywhere? What’s wrong with that? Why do you have to make your feeling of yourself stop where your body ends? Why? Why make that assumption? Why not question it? See if it holds up under scrutiny.

Fear of Disintegration or Disappearing as the Genital Hole Approaches Consciousness

In fact, we have found that when the individual encounters the genital hole —which expands into a deficient emptiness—it transforms into space as soon as it is accepted and understood. There is usually fear of disintegration or disappearing as the hole approaches consciousness; a similar fear occurs in the reports of those who encounter the deficient emptiness of the schizoid or narcissistic personalities. When the individual understands that the deficient emptiness is the same as the feeling of the absence or loss of a certain facet of Being, it automatically and spontaneously leads to the experience of space with its lightness and expansiveness.

The Void, pg. 122

Identifying with Unstable, Shaky and Not Unified Ego Structures

The other reason for the terror is that at such early times, at the beginning of ego development, ego structures are still unstable, shaky and not unified. Since one identifies with such structures, in these experiences there is a natural fear of disappearing, for one is aware of one’s sense of self as shaky, unstable, weak and vulnerable. In fact the experience can lead to a kind of death, which is the disappearance of these unstable and early-formed structures.

The Narcissistic Wound, the Ultimate Fear of Disintegration and Disappearing

Experiencing the narcissistic wound completely, without defending against it, will lead to the dissolution of the shell, which is actually the awareness of the emptiness within it. We sometimes refer to the narcissistic wound as the “emptiness wound.” This wound opens us up to emptiness, to nothingness. It opens us to the nothingness of the dissolution of the self. No wonder it evokes such terror, which sometimes we feel as the fear of death. It is the ultimate fear of disintegration and disappearing. The vague sense of dread that we felt before we were directly aware of the wound becomes an immense terror, as the wound opens up to emptiness. It is here that we understand the existential dread and terror unique to narcissism. However, when we understand the situation accurately, appreciating that we are opening up to a deeper experience of ourselves, and have the empathic support of the teacher, it becomes easier to surrender to the process. The dissolution of the shell is actually a surrender of the self, letting go of our concept of self. The opening can then become an entrance into vastness, and into the fundamental presence and truth of the self.

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