The wisdom of fear

As I continue to update this blog with leadership and personal development articles handpicked from what I have been publishing on Facebook over the last few years – a process that will take some time, so do check in periodically to scroll through the growing cache of older posts – one of my favourite ones from a couple of weeks ago was on “The Wisdom of Fear”.

This post below was inspired by the eponymous insight that came in that day from the wise and insightful, coming as it did on a day when I had just spent the preceding 48 hours getting up close and personal with exactly that – fear.


I was talking with an old friend about the need to go inside ourselves, to truthfully and compassionately examine how “common” feelings like fear, love, anger, excitement, etc actually truly *feel* and *sense* like to our own selves.

This life-changing process of identification and ownership of our deepest pulses of force that drive us here, there, and anywhere, is one of the indispensable linchpins in my practice of leadership coaching –

For how can we work with what we’ve got, when we don’t even know what *that* is about?

How can we align ourselves to bring more happiness, meaning, sunlight and joy into our everyday now, when we don’t even know how to recognise them?

– so, yes. Fear.

I have spent quality time with fear recently. Only part of this is by choice – the outcome, for example, of a conscious decision on my part. A decision carefully-weighed, examined inside, intuited, as I am wont to do.

The rest has been brought to me, to apply my curiosity, empathy, and kindness to. Other people’s fears. (Hard going sometimes!)

I watched my 11 year old place his foot on this step. It’s one of the first steps on the beginning of the via ferrata.

He’s never done anything like this before. Again – please remember – safety is not an issue. Above this shoe – mine – I am securely clipped in. He had our guide in front, roped onto him for extra security, guiding his body slowly forward; my hand on his back and my full loving reassuring presence behind him, holding calm space.

Illusion. When we were practicing already on the rope course the day before, I challenged myself, and shared aloud with him, as we did the black together, station by station: “It should make no difference to our stepping forward, whether this rope is high up here or down just above the ground, Blake… what we need to focus on is simply where we are going to put our foot next.” Focus. Practice. The direction of awareness. The gentle embracing of oneself, and one’s jangly bundle of nerves, in warm-hearted compassion.

The stripping out of extraneous material, that distracts and aggravates. Activating our fears, and other conditioned responses that run so deep they feel awfully *real*. So deceptively real.

This is why I’ve been seeking out the practice. Because I am learning how to inhabit that fear, and by so doing, by this acquaintance, this *intimacy* – for even before reading today’s article, one of the most potent aspects about fear I have learnt from my own inner investigations has been how close, familiar, even comforting this fear can feel…like it is part of us, like an old friend, which it kind of is…just one you have outgrown along the way –

By this inhabitation, therefore, patiently and lovingly dissolve it. By breathing deeply into it. By welcoming it as a rich lesson, perfectly timed. By teaching oneself to see just how much our previous lessons taught by this wise, often unrecognisable teacher have delivered us into greater joy and freedom and power and agency.

By being grateful, that we have been invited to live, on this very boundary line, between the old and the new. 🏔🌱

*** *** ***

The Wisdom of Fear


Anything really worth doing in our lives will always have some fear attached to it. For example, having a baby, getting married, changing careers–all of these life changes can bring up deep fears.

It helps to remember that this type of fear is good. It is your way of questioning whether you really want the new life these changes will bring. It is also a potent reminder that releasing and grieving the past is a necessary part of moving into the new.

Fear has a way of throwing us off balance, making us feel uncertain and insecure, but it is not meant to discourage us. Its purpose is to notify us that we are at the edge of our comfort zone, poised in between the old life and a new one.

Whenever we face our fear, we overcome an inner obstacle and move into new and life-enhancing territory, both inside and out. The more we learn to respect and even welcome fear, the more we will be able to hear its wisdom, wisdom that will let us know that the time has come to move forward, or not.

While comfort with fear is a contradiction in terms, we can learn to honor our fear, recognizing its arrival, listening to its intelligence, and respecting it as a harbinger of transformation. Indeed, it informs us that the change we are contemplating is significant, enabling us to approach it with the proper reverence.

You might wish to converse with your fear, plumbing its depths for a greater understanding of the change you are making. You could do this by sitting quietly in meditation and listening or by journaling. Writing down whatever comes up–your worries, your sadness, your excitement, your hopes–is a great way to learn about yourself through the vehicle of fear and to remember that fear almost always comes alongside anything worth doing in your life.

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