Understanding Fear

by Kent Davidsson

Originally published Summer 1997 as "Fear Not Fear," Sacred Ground – The Journal of Emotional Ownership (UK)


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Understanding Fear

Anybody who's been in the United States recently is bound to have seen the "NO FEAR" logo on bumper stickers, car windows, T-shirts – everywhere!  My roommate in Chiropractic College, Raffaello Sciffo from Cyprus, used to comment on it.  "Try motorbike racing," he would say.  "Then you'll know fear."   I'm sure he's right.  So to feel fear or not to feel fear, that is the question.


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Platitudes on Fear

We often hear statements like, "Where there is fear, there is no love... Fear is the opposite of love... What we fear, we attract... Love is letting go of fear," and so on.

Indeed, there is a lot of truth to these statements.  However, if we actually live by these claims, we can get ourselves even more mired in fear.  Because going directly for the goal of being fear-free, by way of denying our fear, is like trying to pull our fingers free from "Chinese handcuffs."  The more we pull, the tighter they grip our fingers.  The only way to release them is to move toward them, go deeper into them.  Then they're able to release.  It is the same with fear.

Owning My Denial

Since this is all about being honest about our emotions, I have some owning up to.   I've always been surrounded by people, books – heck, even logos – that heavily judge and deny fear.  That, in turn, is caused by my long history of denying my own fear.  Because I denied and judged my fear in past lives, I've been surrounded in this lifetime by external reflections of my old behavior.  In this lifetime I've had to face and own all my fears.  What I had pushed out and disowned has come back to me to be accepted and loved as a valid part of who I am, for it always was and will be mine.

Not the emotion of fear itself, but the part of me that held the emotion:  My frightened Inner Child who needed comforting and acceptance in order to relax and let go of his fear.  The denying judgment and condemnation I used to heap on him for being afraid did not help him.  Imagine that!

Pushing fear outside myself didn't make it less mine.  It never made the fear disappear.  It only put it out of sight for a while.  Not so anymore.  This time, I've had to have self acceptance for all of myself, including my fear, in order or heal and transform it.  In the process, I've learnt a lot about it.  I'd like to share some of that with you now by looking - one by one - at the above platitudes on fear.

"Where There Is Fear, There Is No Love"

Although love and fear certainly can co-exist side by side within an individual and be experienced simultaneously, just as darkness and light co-exist side by side within all of us, I believe that love and fear cannot co-exist in the same energy space of an individual's emotional body.  Where there is a boulder of fear on our path, there is certainly no room for loving light within that same space.  It is dark as night within that boulder, terrifyingly dark and suffocatingly dense.

So what to do?  Kick the boulder aside and keep on walking down our path?   That may work temporarily but eventually that same boulder will roll back out on our path right in front of us.  Stubborn as sin, it is.  Sooner or later we must accept that the only way past it is through it.  If we want loving light in that space, we're going to have to get it in there ourselves.  We must get into that dark space and bathe it from within with loving light (self-acceptance), until the fear is all eroded away.  That is the paradox of fear.  It negates love, yet will persist until it is loved.

"Fear Is the Opposite of Love"

Now this is a controversial issue if I ever encountered one.  First, what do we mean when we say two things are each other's opposites?  Does it just mean that they are mutually exclusive of each other?  Do we mean that they are a perfect complementary match to one another, like two fitting pieces of a jig-saw puzzle?  Or is a thing's opposite the exact inversion of it?

I'd say different definitions are needed depending on the subject matter.  The misconception that fear is the opposite of love seems to stem from the fact that fear excludes love.  But so do hatred, guilt, anger, shame, jealousy and envy.  Therefore, we need a more precise definition of what "opposite" means in reference to love vs. fear.

Unloving Light

Where there is no loving light, there is darkness.  In that darkness may reside the guilt of not being loving enough, or the fear of not being deserving and good enough.  However, darkness is only the absence of light, not its opposite.  As the brilliant and nutty fantasy writer Terry Pratchett points out in his Discworld series, the opposite of light is not darkness but anti-light – that is, unloving light instead of loving light.  Unloving light is more commonly known as 'hate.'*

Hate, not fear, is the opposite of love.  Because, whereas fear and guilt signal the absence of love, hate is the opposite polarity of the exact same energy as love.  As they would put it in on Terry Pratchett's Disc World: Hate is anti-love.  Love and hate both have consciousness and intent - guided directionality - whereas fear is pretty mindless.  Love and hate have focus (something loved or hated), whereas fear may have focus but may also be experienced as unfocused general anxiety.  ("I don't know why I'm afraid.")

Unlike guilt and fear, hate is not unconscious darkness, but conscious unloving light.  And whereas "the loving light of God" is the spiritual essence that supports life, by the same token, unloving light (hate) is the spiritual essence which is against life - the consciousness that wants to be destructive against life in some form.

* Newsflash Oct. 29, 2008.  A British scientific study published today (10.29.08) verifies this information: "The sub-cortical activity of the hate circuit involves two structures called the putamen and insula."  "The putamen and insula are also both activated by romantic love", "but [are] distinct from areas related to emotions such as fear, threat, and danger, said researchers Professor Semir Zeki and John Romaya, of University College London's laboratory of neurobiology."

So What Is the Actual Opposite of Fear?

To say that the opposite of fear is love is like saying that the opposite of a shriek (of terror) is silence.  A shriek defies silence, that is true.  But so do the wailing of heartbreak, the yelling of anger, or the cry of anguish.

True opposites have a strong connection – they are in fact very close.  The opposite of a shriek of terror is not silence, but rather a roar of rage.  This is so because fear and anger (or terror and rage) are opposite polarities of the exact same energy.  They are two sides of the same coin.   Where one resides, you can bet the other one does too.  Although they rarely surface at the same time. (Try looking at both sides of a coin simultaneously.   You can't, and yet you know the other side is there.)

Function of Fear and Anger

Fear and anger are the same energy. They serve the same purpose, although from opposite points of view. One of their functions is to pin blame.  Anger is the emotion which places the blame with another. That is easy to see and needs no further clarification.

Fear, however, is the emotion which places the blame with oneself, and that may not be as obvious. But ask yourself why you feel fear of certain things. We feel fear because we are afraid something painful or unpleasant will happen to us. And the reason we expect a hurtful experience is because we consciously or subconsciously believe we are at fault – inadequate, incompetent, awkward, clumsy, laughable, shameful, blameworthy, deserving of punishment, and the list goes on.

So fear and anger are opposites because they are really only polarizations of the same thing.

"What We Fear, We Attract"

This platitude is very true.  Wise men and women have observed this phenomenon for ages and pronounced it a spiritual truth, which indeed it is.  And yet, sadly enough, the real significance of it is frequently misunderstood by metaphysical and New Age thinkers.  The Universe (God) is intelligent, and it follows the K.I.S.S. principle ("Keep It Simple Stupid"), a.k.a. "the path of least resistance."  It does not create a phenomenon like this as a mind-trap to see if we can figure out a workable way to bury our heads in the sands of denial about our feelings.  On the contrary, the Universe has created this phenomenon to help us face and overcome our painful emotions, not to get us to try harder to avoid them.

It is a well-known concept in many metaphysical and New Age circles that painful emotions - frequently called "negative" emotions - contribute to physical unhealth.   It has been scientifically confirmed.  It's been shown that painful emotions such as fear suppress the immune system and lower the pH of the body, both of which contribute to increased risk of physical illness.

The above being said, it's still important to caution against blindly listening to spiritual "teachers" who tout this truth outside of the bigger picture.  The key to the bigger picture can be summarized in one word:


The vast majority of times when anybody feels or expresses a painful emotion, it's in a state of self-disapproval, not self-acceptance.  The scientific research that has been conduced on the health impact of painful emotions has failed to take this important factor into consideration.

Therefore it needs to be stated that: There is a world of difference between feeling fear in a state of self-acceptance vs. feeling fear in a state of self-judgment.  Lets look at three paths to deal with fear:

  • Path 1) By far the most common way to handle fear is that we don't know how, so we do the only thing we can:  We feel our fear while disapproving of ourselves for being afraid.  In other words, the fear is experienced in a state of non-acceptance.  Outcome: No healing takes place and similar situations continue to come up time and again, evoking the same fear response.
  • Path 2) Some mentally or psychically powerful individuals can keep from feeling spontaneous fear by convincing themselves - their conscious minds - that they are not afraid.  This can be a temporarily successful path for a certain category of individuals.  Outcome: Painful emotions are relegated to the subconscious without being healed.  As the subconscious' accumulation of unhealed painful emotions grows, the subconscious mind eventually gains more power than the conscious mind's ability to control it, and the "inner demons" begin to seep out.
  • Path 3: The third way is to experience spontaneous fear in a state of self acceptance.  Due to varying degrees of childhood conditioning from shame, ridicule, guilt and blame, this path may take a while to master.  Any degree of self acceptance we can muster makes a difference.  The higher the degree of self acceptance, the faster and easier the healing.  Outcome: The fear is permanently healed and released.  We will no longer attract what we used to fear because we no longer fear it.

"Love Is Letting Go of Fear"

This is an important spiritual truth as long as it is correctly applied in a space of loving emotional acceptance.  If you understood the section above, then you understand why living directly by this seemingly logical platitude may backfire if "letting go" is misinterpreted as "denying" or "suppressing, as in Path 2 above."  In Path 3, we have self acceptance for ourselves while experiencing any kind of fear.  But we don't hold onto it.  When the fear is ready to let go, we let it go.  And then that space within can be filled with the energy of love (self acceptance).

Letting Go of Fear through Self acceptance

Let me illustrate this with a more graphic example. Have you ever tried to not be afraid of something when indeed you were?  How did that work for you?  Let's take our national number one fear as an example – the fear of public speaking.  Imagine saying to yourself that your public speech will go splendidly as long as you don't let yourself get nervous: "Must not get nervous."  Do you think that would help lessen your nervousness or increase it?  What if, instead, you said to yourself: "It's okay if I get a bit nervous when I give a public speech.  A lot of people do.  Nobody will judge me."  Don't you think that attitude would be more helpful before getting up in front of the podium?

Fear in the Fully Healed State

Finally, an intriguing question.  Will the emotions of fear and anger still exist once we have fully healed our emotional bodies and have become unconditionally loving and self accepting?

This is a purely hypothetical question because being unconditionally loving in the first place means we must also love our own fear and anger unconditionally.  So in the fully healed state, we wouldn't mind either way.  We'd unconditionally love ourselves with fear and anger if we had them, but we'd also love ourselves unconditionally if we didn't feel any fear or anger.  In other words, it wouldn't matter.

But I want to comment on this subject anyway.  Fear and anger have another function besides pinning blame on others and ourselves.  They are also the emotions that say "NO!"  It may be an angry "no" or a fearful "no" but a "no" either way.  Though it is nearly impossible to imagine our fully healed states - just as a caterpillar can't imagine itself as a butterfly - I believe there will still be choices to be made.   We will still need an intuitional voice to say "yes" or "no" in order to let us know which choice would help us serve our higher purpose or lead us toward greater joy and fulfillment.

So the emotions of fear and anger would probably still exist, though they would hardly be recognizable as the fear and anger we know today.  First of all, there wouldn't be any polarization into one emotion or the other.  Instead, it would be one and the same emotion, a kind of fear-anger.  Then of course, it would no longer be like a granite boulder on your path, but instead more like a tiny transparent quartz crystal.  And the light of love would be able to pass right through it.

But as I said, this is purely hypothetical so don't worry about it.  Or rather, go ahead and worry about it all you want.  Just don't feel that you have to.



– By the authors of "Illuminating Physical Experience"



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Copyright © 2008-2013 Kent Davidsson & Unconditional Self Acceptance Co. – all written material on www.unconditional-self-acceptance.com including "Understanding Fear (Metaphysical)."