3 May 2011, 11:35am
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Fear

Fear

Fear in our lives can be useful, limiting, or destructive, and many things in between.

How can Fear ever be a good thing? I questioned that too, having been afraid every day of my childhood. That is until I read Gavin de Becker’s outstanding book The Gift of Fear in 1997 (see Resource list).  The book is subtitled – and other survival signals that protect us from violence. To paraphrase it’s message – we are hardwired to recognize danger and PAY ATTENTION to protect ourselves. The signal isn’t always as clear as this sign.

When the hair stands up on the back of your neck, it could be the warning that saves your life, or saves you from the trauma of an assault. I urged my teenaged children to read this book and it remains in my library. I was taking a martial art by the time the book came out and I’d already learned a heightened awareness of whatever/whomever came into my personal space, whether from in front, side, or behind me. Violent energy has a signature, an aura if you will, that we can alert ourselves to and put into action any number of evasive or protective actions.

Fear is not always a gift, however. Many, if not all, negative emotions we experience can be attributed to some form of Fear.  A short list would be Jealousy, Insecurity, Judgment, Inadequacy, Blame, or Hatred.  I could fill many pages with Fear-based feeling words. What all of these emotional states have in common is un-Love. The antidote to these forms of Fear is always Love – of self, of neighbor, of mankind. Next time you’re in a negative feeling state, look deep and ask yourself what it is that you Fear in that moment.

(This guy’s just afraid of his first bath! Remember our homework was to look at babies and dogs.)

Another way of looking at this is “inside out” so to speak. Consider when you were in the euphoria of love or suffused with feelings of well -being (the state of self-love). Fear was likely absent, or at least held at bay for a time. Wouldn’t it be nice if Love came in a tube or a spray that we could just apply when we were afraid? (Wow, did I grow up in America, or what?)

No, we must again use Mindfulness and discover Love within ourselves. Like a deep mountain spring, it’s there all the time, to heal and refresh.

When is Fear dangerous and destructive? Often. Anyone who victimizes others is in deep Fear. It may be the batterer afraid of losing his wife or the employee afraid because he lost his job. It could be the despairing mother who Fears she cannot care for her children so she destroys herself and them. Fear of loss of control (rather ironically) is a common cause of violence. Consider road rage  – if someone violates our piece of the road our reaction can immediately be violent thoughts, words, or actions. This is a battle where everyone loses. In the heat of the moment, people may misjudge the chance they’ll prevail!

The Course in Miracles goes so far as to say there are only two things – Fear and Love. I’ve been pondering this teaching for a long while. So far, I can’t prove it wrong. Love is always the antidote to negative or destructive Fear. Stay tuned for reflections on Love next time.