The Unknown Fear

“Know thyself.”
Inscribed on the oracle-shrine of Apollo at Delphi

Fear is a useful emotion. It tells us we may be in danger and that we need to protect ourselves. When the grizzly bear rears up on the path ahead of you, fear tells you to stop walking. It may tell your body to let loose any extra weight that might slow you down, and it gets your heart pumping, so all your resources are available to your immediate survival needs.

Fear is like a traffic signal that informs us that we need to stop or go. It is essential for survival. However, many of us spend our lives as if we are in front of a red and white stop sign waiting for it to change. Fear, not being a pleasant feeling, usually induces us to avoid the feared stimulus. It works great for bears and snakes, and angry looking people. It is more of a problem when the stimulus for fear is an idea, maybe even a belief we are not aware of having.

Sometimes our lives are ruled by these unrecognized fears. They may sabotage our efforts and may make us sick, lonely, poor and unhappy. Some common unacknowledged fears are:

Fear of success
Fear of not having a problem
Fear of good health
Fear of having more money than you know what to do with
Fear of being a baby machine
Fear of growing old
Fear of intimacy

Why would we fear good things? Many reasons.

If success would result in more responsibility, less freedom, unwanted comparisons with others, breaking a family prohibition of competition with other members or even the unsettling breach of a long held belief of unworthiness, it could be scary.

If you only got love and attention when you were sick as a child, being healthy could seem to be the worst that could happen.

If you accepted the story that rich people can’t get into heaven, how much might you fear prosperity?

Some of our old fears and their associated beliefs arise from experiences when we were very young—a time when we knew much less than we do now. We owe it to ourselves to become aware of these ruling beliefs. If we can draw them into consciousness, we can make conscious decisions about them. We need not be victimized by our fears.

Meditate on your fear beliefs. Sit with pencil and paper or at the computer keyboard and contemplate the obstacles you have set for yourself. Think of areas of your life that you consider unsatisfactory or that people criticize you for. Take notes as you go. You’ve kept your fear beliefs well hidden from yourself, so your unconscious mind may induce you to forget your insights if you don’t write them down. The mental system of beliefs and emotions that unconsciously protects you against what you fear will only work if your beliefs are shielded from awareness and reason. Look courageously at those fear beliefs that keep you from having a fulfilling and joyful life. You may need to endure some unpleasant feelings to work through these issues, but you have it within you to be more of who you are without these fears.

After calming your mind and relaxing your body, finish these statements. Either read them to yourself or have someone else ask them of you.

The thing I dread most is__________________________________________________.

If only I would_____________________________________________, I could be happy.

People have often told me that I should _______________________________________.

I spend more energy than most people to not __________________________________.

I’ve always regretted not ___________________________________________________.

You may need to go through these questions several times to get down to the real issues. Once you’ve gotten some answers, ask yourself, “What is the fear that keeps me stuck?”

Then ask yourself what you choose to do about it. Once you get clear that the fear is no longer useful to you, tell yourself that you relinquish that fear. Tell yourself that this situation is now corrected and create a positive statement, an affirmation, which describes what you want instead.

For example,

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© 2002-2007 Tom Barrett