We are apt to think that experiencing fear or having anxiety is a failing, a weakness, a deficiency. I want to describe why I think spotting our fear is quite the opposite. It can herald a moment of release, a liberation, a healing. I want to explain that those that recognise their fear are more advanced than those who don’t.
The Course teaches that we repress, or hide in our subconscious mind, that which we do not want. It doesn’t go away, but festers in the hidden layers of our mind, to distort and corrupt our kind and loving acts. This repression is kept in place with a number of psychological defences. The first is dissociation, or just plain forgetting what we once knew. This dissociation typically takes the form of denial; we just refuse to accept that we believe, or ever believed, that which we repressed. We flat out repudiate what we secretly believe.
We think we do this to hide our secret thoughts from others, but we mainly do it to hide our beliefs from ourselves. Weird, right? The Course says we employ this ostrich mentality, where we think what we do not see does not exist, in the vain hope that it will help us feel better. We believe that pretending not to feel pain, means we are pain free. We think that not acknowledging fear, means we are fearless.
But it is obvious that as a strategy it just does not work. It is readily seen by looking at the world that fear dominates life. Despite it being most commonly hidden, denied and repressed, fear motivates a lot of our actions and undermines our relationships, our enterprises, and our happiness.
But we are experienced at keeping our fear in check. Most of us can still function in the world despite our constant secret fear. But, as with all secrets, it will out and we will not be able to maintain control. Our fear can erupt in anxiety attacks, flashes of anger, or even acts of violence.
In this time of pandemic, managing our fear can become intolerable, even impossible.
I am not saying that you must be experiencing fear at this time. It is possible to feel peace whatever is going on around you. And I am not saying that if you are not feeling fear, you must be deluding yourself. Rather, I am saying that if you are feeling fear then you are very close to experiencing peace. Of course, if you are already experiencing peace all the time, or are in denial about how you feel, then this article is not for you.
Obviously, then, I am not a fan of the narcissistic I-am-wonderful,-a-co-creator-with-my God,-and-have-no-problems-with-life-and-you-shouldn’t-either brigade. While life’s real objective is to rediscover that there is nothing to fear, given that most of us still fear something, we need to look at our unhelpful beliefs. The Course is focused on the fact that we all experience pain, are scared and uncertain, and despair about our perceived failure to live appropriately. This despair could be in the form of not “doing the Course right”, not being kind to others, or just not being successful at life. I believe that the Course is saying that if you can get in touch with your pain, your sense of failure, your helplessness, then you are more advanced on the spiritual path than you imagine.
Now, to be clear, the Course is not celebrating fear. It is not the objective. But our objective is only achievable when we have acknowledged our fear. Of course, having acknowledged our fear most of us struggle to let ourselves be taken beyond it to the peace that Jesus says is there. And the reason for that, says Jesus, is that we try and attempt it on our own, that we “are trusting in our own strength”. We tell ourselves off for not being good enough students of the Course. We tell ourselves to snap out of it, to count our blessings, and to try harder. But that is not the way of the Course.
We only go past our fear, our sense of failure, when we first acknowledge it, and then ask for help. There is this other important condition of holding yourself and another worthy of receiving God’s help. But those three parts, recognising you feel fearful, asking for help, and believing that you and others are worthy of that help, is all that’s required. We then watch and wait for a holy instant. Help is out of our hands. We cannot know what it is, how it will arrive, or what will make a difference. But we don’t need to know. We need just ask.
I am not suggesting you celebrate your fear, but to acknowledge that by feeling it you have made great progress. And can now make even more progress, by asking and expecting help. Asking for help allows you to be taken beyond fear to peace and joy and strength. Feeling your fear, feeling your failure, means that you are poised to be taken into peace. Don’t falter now. But also don’t delay. Ask and ye shall receive. And you will receive for all of us, and thus be a saviour to us all.
The presence of fear is a sure sign that you are trusting in your own strength. The awareness that there is nothing to fear shows that somewhere in your mind—not necessarily in a place which you recognize as yet—you have remembered God and let His strength take the place of yours. The instant you are willing to do this, there is indeed nothing to fear.W-48.3
The world needs us to be healed, so that we can heal. When you have done the hard work of uncovering your fear, you can then do the easy bit and ask for it to be healed. Your industry in looking within, your honesty in admitting to yourself what you feel, and your courage to ask for help, is what we all need of you now.