A Healthy Fear
Halloween is a time when people embrace the feeling of fear. Many people like to be scared. Whether it’s watching horror films, communicating with the dead or fantasizing about vampires, there is a large population of people who enjoy putting themselves in the middle of emotions like terror, fright and suspense. This seems ironic, since fear in most aspects of people’s lives, is unwanted and avoided. Some may say this is because an “unrealistic” fear does not seem as threatening as a “realistic” one. While this may make sense to the mind, it may not make sense to the emotional self because fear is not necessarily rational. In fact, it is most often irrational.
Anxiety Disorders, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, all have criteria related to fear and worry. More specifically, “excessive,” “intrusive,” or “disturbing” fear. Yet, what constitutes a fear that is excessive?
There is a lot of mention of fear in religious texts. According to some calculations, the word fear appears about 400 times in the Bible and 295 times in the Qur’an. A passage in the Qur’an espouses, “O you who believe! Fear Allah as He should be feared, and die not except in a state of Islam.” Surah Al-Imran 3:102. From the Bible, Psalm 115:11 reads, “You who fear him, trust in the Lord– he is their help and shield.” The Hindi leader Krishnamurti said, “To find out if there is actually freedom one must be aware of one’s own conditioning, of the problems, and above all one must be aware of fear.” Finally, from the Dhammapada 212, (a collection of sayings of the Buddha):
“From what is dear, grief is born,
from what is dear, fear is born.
For someone freed from what is dear
there is no grief
– so why fear?”
In these passages and in many others, fear seems to be a necessary condition for spiritual growth and understanding. While most religious texts also warn against becoming consumed by fear, they seem to indicate fear can be, well, healthy.
Perhaps fear allows us to inspect aspects of ourselves we would otherwise ignore. It gives us perspective on our lives and our mortality. Fear is a brother to the Unknown, that which we cannot control or completely understand. And in that vein, it is a sister to Spirituality.
Clients often say it is this inability to control or rationally understand their anxiety that makes it so difficult to accept. Yet, the same criteria is almost necessary for spiritual growth. Perhaps struggles with fear and anxiety hold within them the potential to unlock ourselves, to reach deep within and find something much greater than we would have expected.
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