Quick summary: So I was contemplating feelings of discomfort that I was holding some time ago and I started to think about this article that I had just read concerning a scientific discussion about our universe and the possibility of other universes existing that were governed by differing laws of physics. Fear is the feeling that I was holding… I was uncertain about some huge life choices that I had recently made and I was fearful about the lack of predictability in my life. Then I started thinking about the other universes and I tried to conceptualize what a universe, which was governed by different laws of physics, would look and act like. I imagined another universe crashing into our universe… I started laughing at how ridiculous my thoughts were… then I started to laugh at how ridiculous fear was in general. Fearing the future became quite the same thing as fearing another universe crashing into our universe… I decided that it did not do me all too much good to fear such things… or anything.

Perhaps this is one part of the therapeutic process that is helpful and somewhat difficult to articulate…  therapists can allow you to express your fear and to attach a different emotion (or no consistent emotion) on that subject which was expressed… sometimes fear goes away when you allow your self the space to interact with the fear.

Fear is a huge component of couples counseling in my opinion… I can think of many occurrences where couples “fixed” their “problems” simply by allowing themselves the space to verbalize, in a useful way, the fears that they were holding (this is why the therapist is helpful – without assistance it can be difficult to articulate fear, and to understand and listen to your partner’s fear, in a constructive way.)

Once fear is recognized it can be accepted… once fear is accepted there is generally little reason to fear… if you accepted that one day you will experience death, would you fear it?

We all tend to propose the “what if?” question with regularity… what if you stopped asking such a question to yourself? What would happen to your fear? How would the cessation of that question affect you ability to enjoy the present moment as opposed to holding fear about a most unpredictable future… what if an alternate universe crashed into our universe.

Most of us fear:

Meaninglessness – we fear that our life will be without meaning or purpose.

Losing important relationships and being alone – we fear that there is a part of who we are that could lead us to lose those who are important to us. “If I tell you what I think, what I feel, or who I believe I am… I fear that I will lose you.”

Death – we fear that we will not survive and we hold fear about the unknown experience of death.

It seems somewhere along the way the human condition created somewhat of a dysfunctional relationship with fear as it is hard to define why fear would be in anyway beneficial to the above variables

Fearing death has no effect on death…

Fearing meaninglessness will not help you find meaning…

And fearing the loss of a relationship often causes the loss of a relationship (jealousy, criticism, pessimism etc are often the products of fear).

I was asked by a man the other day if there was any type of fear that was useful…

I don’t know if fear is useful at all, but in my current state of development, I answered as follows:

“Fear is only helpful in the moment as it prepares your body to react to a threat that is actually in existence… fearing something that already did happen or fearing something that could happen is not a particularly useful process.”


Some would say that “fear is what encourages people to do the right thing… without fear a community could not function in an ethical way.”

  • Do you believe this?… think about it… it is ok if you do most people think that this is true.


  • Does the forest act ethically because of fear? Are all ecological principles based on nature’s adherence to fear?


  • How is it that the earth seems to survive in balance without the human race’s fear based governance?


  • I would propose the opposite… all earth entities have an innate drive to maintain the balance of the whole (the earth)… It is fear that is the creator of future thinking and unethical behavior (behavior that would throw of the balance and hurt the whole). Good = Balance…


  • My Bias – I believe that all things are intrinsically good… good is relative to conduct with other parts of the whole… we are all the parts and the whole – the balance is what is good by my definition.


  • My other bias – I believe that “the ends justify the means” is irrational and motivated by fear and the misguided notion that life is predictable – as life is not predictable the ends do not truly exist – the only subject to judge is the means – all that can be good is the means.


Many would argue that fear is adaptive as it prepares us for survival – the idea would be that if you were constantly afraid of something such as a venomous snake… then you would be more vigilant and therefore less likely to be bitten by the snake…

  • Perhaps (though I’m not convinced) you would be less likely to be bitten by a snake if you were in a constant state of fear about snakes, but if you were so preoccupied with such a specific fear would you not be less likely to appropriately engage other stimuli in your environment? How would this distraction affect your relationships?           


  • In short if you are holding a fear for the future aren’t you distracting yourself from the present… don’t you then negatively impact your chances of survival if your attention is not on the present moment (a snake can only bite you in the present… a snake can not kill you now from in the future).


The final point is stress and anxiety – the killers of health, relationships, presence, and productivity.

If you had no fear would you have stress or anxiety? If the point of fear was for survival, and stress limits your chances of survival, then perhaps fear has become a mostly useless part of the human condition.


Fear is a cognition which elicits an emotion … you have more control over your cognitions that you might believe… you are already “emancipated from your mental slavery” – you simply need to accept that this is true.


“Fear is a choice… it tempts you to follow… what will you choose to do… to believe…to feel?”

William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.
William Hambleton Bishop
William Hambleton Bishop is a practicing therapist in Steamboat Springs Colorado.

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