“There is no illusion greater than fear.” ― Lao Tzu
What Is fear?
Fear is defined as an unpleasant emotion caused by being aware of danger, a feeling of being afraid of something or someone or a feeling of respect and wonder for something very powerful. In more recent decades, fear has taken on many emotional masks, like worry, anxiety and indecision. We are surrounded by what fear is, how to overcome it, how to face it, and how to live with it. But what if we are giving fear too much power? What if instead of fighting fear we came to appreciate fear and in the process, learned to embrace our vulnerability?
Where Does Fear Come From?
As children, we relished in childlike curiosity and wonder at the world and all that came with the experience of being alive. We got our hands and feet dirty playing in the mud. We pushed our physical limits riding bikes and playing sports. We experimented on the jungle gym hanging from our legs bent over a bar. As teenagers, we felt invincible and confident. Our young adult dreams were clear, vivid and within our reach. Where did that fearlessness go? How did fear get in and what caused it to take over and squash our wonderment of the world?
“Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.” - Marianne Williamson
Once we started getting hurt by others or from our fearless endeavors, our minds, always wanting to preserve our survival, starting triggering our physiological survival response. We learned that getting dirty in the mud was annoying to our parents and brought about their disapproval. We heard as teenagers that our dreams were silly and impossible. We began building defenses and protective barriers to shield us from the pain of these unpleasant, yet natural, feelings. Fear then, is learned, a condition in response to getting hurt.
And even though fear tries to keep us safe, we are still vulnerable. We experience loss, pain, uncertainty and constant change in our youth and in our adult lives. And fear gives us the illusion of protection. If we worry enough, shield ourselves enough, stay in indecision, we think we won’t get hurt.
Richard Schaub, Ph.D. with Bonney Gulino Schaub, who wrote The End of Fear: A Spiritual Path for Realists, offers this explanation for the cause of all fears:
Until we realize that our fears originate in our own awareness of inevitable change and loss, we blame them on causes outside of us, convinced that other people, places, and things are making us feel vulnerable and threatened. It is perfectly clear why we do this; we couldn’t function if we walked around with too much understanding of its real cause, inner cause.
What causes our fear today is this truth that we are vulnerable to change and loss. Our desire to deny this reality is what triggers our fear and keeps us stuck in relationships, jobs and feelings we don’t enjoy.
Fear In Relationships
“Underneath our fear is a reservoir of love so vast that even a momentary taste of its depth can change a life.” - Richard Schaub, Ph.D.
Relationships with others trigger our greatest fears because they mirror our vulnerabilities. We worry about losing loved ones or that our loved ones will leave us – failing to recognize that fear and worry come from us wanting to protect ourselves from loss and change, for our inevitable experiences in living.
It is understandable and moving, that we wish for someone in our life who can help us with our fear, uncertainty, and unhappiness. Relationships, especially romantic ones, bear a silent but intense pressure to relieve us in our difficult times of vulnerability. It is in these relationships that we lower our defenses, admit to our secret hopes and deepest fears, and open ourselves to our shared human hope for unqualified support and true friendship. Since we don’t realize that the source of our vulnerability is in our own nature, in our very human condition, we look outside ourselves to our partners, yearning for signs that they will know how to provide this essential security for us.
If by looking inside at the source of our fear can somehow transcend fear, how do we manage these feelings so that fear is no longer a driving force in our lives?
Your Life Is Subject To Change And Loss At Any Moment – Live Anyway!
Your mind, hardwired to ensure your survival, has been busy your whole life trying to deny the reality of your vulnerable situation. Designed to survive, the last thing your mind wants to do is to admit to your vulnerability, which implies, of course, its own.
Our vulnerable reality, just as it is, with no magical solutions or illusory protections, opens the door to a deeper part of our mind where boundaries dissolve and a unifying love rules.
What you can know for certain is that, as a created being, you are inseparably bonded to creation; you always have been and always will be. There was never a time and there never will be a time when you are not part of creation. This unbreakable bond is your oneness with all of life… It was you before you became afraid of anything in life, and it is who you still are, an identity much deeper than your fears. Just like nature, you know what to do and how to be.
You know there are times when your survival instinct kicks in to warn you of the presence of danger. But it also sets off alarms in you far out of proportion to any actual, immediate threat. It does so because it is in touch with the truth that you are vulnerable, but it cannot make fine distinctions about what is and what isn’t a real threat.
“If you knew who walked beside you at all times, on the path that you have chosen, you could never experience fear or doubt again.” - A Course in Miracles
Our reactions to the normal, natural fear within us determine the course of our life. At its worst, fear renders us ‘crippled for action;’ at its best, fear becomes the path to our highest possibilities. The path begins when we learn how to approach and appreciate our fear and respond to it in a transformative way.
Whenever any form of fear arises, turn toward it with affection, thank it silently in your mind, and watch what happens. This is a quiet, simple practice; it works quite subtly and can change the way life feels. When your fear is treated skillfully in this way, the love of life rises naturally into your awareness. It has always been there, waiting for you to awaken more fully to it, and now you are giving it room.
The next time you feel fear, whether it be in a relationship, in a life change or during a difficult time, appreciate the realness of your vulnerability. Thank the fear for looking out for you and kindly tell fear that you embrace all possibilities now and you trust yourself enough to know that you will heal from any loss or change that comes your way.
“Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists.” - A Course in Miracles
In being vulnerable, we release all worry and doubt, and in its place comes faith, faith in ourselves as part of creation that never dies.
Excerpts taken directly from The End of Fear: A Spiritual Path for Realists by Richard Schaub, Ph.D. with Bonney Gulino Schaub, R.N.
5 Steps for Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt, by Wyatt Webb
Handling Fear, by Marianne Williamson – Audio Download
Overcoming Fears, by Louise Hay – Audio CD
What to Do When Others Disapprove of Your Actions: Using Your Emotional Guidance System, by Esther and Jerry Hicks
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