Archive for December 30th, 2010

The Positive Purpose of Fear

We’ve been told that “Fear is what holds us back” and that “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” If we can just overcome our fears, we’ll be able to live full-out and realize our hopes and dreams. But, what if this perennial wisdom regarding fear is missing something? What if fear in its essential form is one of our wise guides?


In her book, The Language of Emotions, author Karla McLaren tells us that emotions have three forms–unconscious reactive expression, a repressed cycling state, and a healthy free-flowing state. It may be that we are only familiar with the first two forms of fear. The reactive expression that makes us cower and the repressed state which is a constant low-level anxiety cycling just underneath our awareness.

Fear in its healthy free-flowing form is something altogether different. McLaren tells us that fear is your intuitive awareness of what is really going on inside you and around you. It informs you of what actions you need to take right here and now. If you pick up on the signals of fear as it arises and learn to discern what it is trying to tell you, it holds a key to wisely navigating your authentic path.

In previous posts, we’ve discussed the idea that each of us lives within a space that we define as our own personal space. This is a spherical space about an arm’s length around our body in all directions. Think of fear as a sixth sense that reaches out through your personal space to pick up signals about what is happening inside you and in your environment.

Fear can pick up what is happening in your own body. It can pick up the actions and intentions of the people around you and it can sense the conditions in the environment. With that information you can choose wise actions.

To learn to use fear as a wise guide, try this simple practice:

1. When you feel fear arising take a quiet, private moment to center into the feeling. Tune into your feeling of fear, locate where it resides in your body, and approach it with curiosity to learn what it has to tell you.

2. Take a deep in-breath as if you are filling your whole body with your breath. As you exhale, imagine and feel that your breath fills the sphere of your personal space about an arm’s width around your entire body. Sense that
space around you and pick up on the subtle signals that you can perceive in it. For example, you might be drawn to look at something or someone, or you might feel the urge to move toward or away from something.

3. Stay centered in your personal space and ask your fear the question: “What action needs to be taken right now?” Don’t rush to fill in an answer. Instead, keep the question open. Listen and feel inside. See what your intuition
presents to you. You may have an inspiration to take a specific action.

As with all your feelings, it may take time to attune to and differentiate their signals. Be patient with yourself. The simple action of tuning into your inner senses is valuable in itself. You’ll grow your ability to sense inner guidance from fear and all your emotions through mindful practice over time. You’ll also learn to discern the quality of signals that are accurate guidance from interpretations that are false reads.

If you feel overwhelmed or paralyzed by your feelings to the point where you are unable to consciously process them yourself, seek the assistance of a counseling professional who is trained to work with intense emotions.

Until next time,
Stay tuned to your feelings,

Kevin Schoeninger

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