The Message that Fear Brings Us

The Message that Fear Brings Us November 1, 2015

We feel fear, and we hesitate. It means something: a warning, a signal to beware, a sign to turn back, to stop and evaluate, to fight against a threat, perhaps, or to flee from danger.

At least, that’s what we think it means. We respond to fear as if the warnings are genuine, the threats apparent and real.

An unknown person enters the room, and we exit.

A new opportunity arises, so does our blood pressure. We turn it down. “Just not the right time,” we mumble, and sidle back to safety.

A deeper conversation pushes us to think about a past experience or understanding, to evaluate everything in a new light, and we feel the familiar, terrifying wave of panic. “Make it stop!” our brains scream, so we do, using anger, withdrawal, any of the psychological weapons we’ve grown adept at using.

A Course in Miracles

Helen Schucman

Your creation by God is the only foundation which cannot be shaken because the light is in it.

Your starting point is truth, and you must return to this beginning. Much has been perceived since then, but nothing else has happened.

That is why your Souls are still in peace, even though your minds are in conflict. You have not yet gone back far enough, and that is why you become so fearful.

As you approach the beginning, you feel the fear of the destruction of your thought system upon you, as if it were the fear of death. There is no death, but there is a belief in death.


We are good at responding to fear, aren’t we? So good at it. So good at avoiding the threat. So good at getting away from the danger, or any possibility of it. So good at blocking out or running away from whatever pings our heart rate, our blood pressure, our panicky thoughts, our discomfort, the visceral, terrible, consuming and spreading and sharp pangs.

But what if the way we interpret fear is all wrong? What if the fear isn’t a warning that we need to run away, but a sign that we need to learn something new? What if fear doesn’t mean something terrible is going to happen, but means that it’s time to grow and change?


One thing: you have to walk, and create the way by your walking; you will not find a ready-made path. It is not so cheap, to reach to the ultimate realization of truth. You will have to create the path by walking yourself; the path is not ready-made, lying there and waiting for you. It is just like the sky: the birds fly, but they don’t leave any footprints. You cannot follow them; there are no footprints left behind. 


To us, the experience of learning, changing, growing is just as stressful and terrifying as any looming threat. We fear what is new, different, whatever forces learning, whatever requires change, whatever dispels illusions and assumptions, whatever instigates the painful, heart-rending, identity-shattering process of growth.

We fear these things, so we respond to the fear they induce just as we would to fear induced by a real physical threat. When we do that, we reinforce our own lack of distinction between what is a real threat and what isn’t. We teach ourselves to stay small, stay protected, stay down, stay defensive. “Yes, good,” we are telling our brains. “Good job. Keep us away from whatever threatens our comfort, our sameness, our protection, our stability, our small circle, our predictable rut.”

Fear is a message. But the message it carries isn’t the same everytime.

Henri Nouwen

The great spiritual task facing me is to so fully trust that I belong to God that I can be free in the world—free to speak even when my words are not received; free to act even when my actions are criticized, ridiculed, or considered useless….

I am convinced that I will truly be able to love the world when I fully believe that I am loved far beyond its boundaries.


Photo Credit: Desmond Kavanagh via Compfight cc

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