The Paradigm of Fear

I once suggested to John Bradshaw, after a presentation on anger and its expression, that fear was a bigger problem. Surprised, he said that we all "do" fear but then concurred when I added that there is no support for the healthy expression of fear. We are, in fact, a society driven and manipulated by repressed fear. Let’s take a look at resolving this situation.

Perhaps a good start would be defining fear.We tend to associate fearlessness with foolhardiness, but is this really the case? Interestingly, the dictionary defines fear not only as anxious anticipation of danger but also as awe or reverence. When we move beyond reductionistic thinking that would identify fear as a "bad" emotion we have a new possible perspective. As a basic, or fundamental, emotion included in five element theory, fear needs to be in balance for it to be health. This can be thought of as respect, as perhaps is meant by fear of God. Certainly fear is a necessary component for the survival of any animal species, and humans are no exception. As with all responses, be they emotional or instinctual, a balanced or neutral fear will serve us the best.

So where have we gone awry? In his easy-to-read book "Waking the Tiger," Peter Levine describes how the repression of fear, or as he calls it, traumatization, creates an energetic blockade in the bodymind that affects all areas of function. Many symptoms develop around the "freezing," or repression of this necessary emotion, both physical and psychological, which will be relieved only upon the successful resolution and expression of it.

Unfortunately under the current paradigm there are not many advocates for the emoting of fear. Have you ever had a friend tell you to "let it all out" when you became scared? I think not. People may even become indignant if you stop them from patting you on the back and telling you that everything is going to be all right. How things turn out is not as important as healthy emotional expression. Truly, unless fear is completely expressed, things will not be all right. Unresolved fear thwarts our ability to think and act in stressful or dangerous situations, restimulating the freezing response and effectively perpetuating the so-called "victim/perpetrator" cycle. Living in fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Catching up with a big backlog of fear can be a scary thing (pun intended). The basic ingredients are patience and a safe environment. Just as water seeks its own level, emotions come into balance when given a chance. Since creating safety is new for many of us, seeking outside help, if available, can make initiation of the process smoother. Be sure to take your time and use all available resources. If working with a friend be sure they can stay present and not get caught up in their own fear.

Once you gain experience in expressing fear, which may include trembling, chills and even vocal sounds, you will know a new freedom that will empower you to live more fully. And perhaps most importantly, you will have the tools to transform potential traumatic events into positive growth experiences and teach others by example how to "roll with the punches." As Peter Levine says, "Trauma need not be a life sentence," and I would add, the experience of fear is nothing to be afraid of.