Interview with Tanis Helliwell
by Verena Deeken
Fear is this uneasy feeling that something we don’t want will happen. And fear can take on various levels of intensity.
It can range from a very mild fear that is a kind of fleeting anxiety. Many people in our world always have this kind of chronic anxiety because there are so many fearful things to worry about like money, the environment, loved ones, work, disease. They are never without it and believe it is normal because they don’t know what it feels like to be without it.
Then there are stronger fears – these fears are often predictable and they are part of the collective unconscious that has been evolving for millions of years. Like the fear of snakes that comes from the experience of our forefathers and from various areas around our world where there are poisonous snakes that actually are a threat to us. Or fear of poisonous insects like spiders or scorpions or of predator animals attacking us and not feeling safe when walking in the forest.
It can also be something from our past lives like the fear of drowning and water even though we have no experience of this in our own lives now. So we fear to swim or to go into the water or we fear that we might be attacked by a shark from the depths of the sea.
And then there are fears that are actually linked to our present lives. Often these fears are about rejection and abandonment, when we have experienced that our parents didn’t love us or didn’t love us in a way so that we felt welcomed and protected. If we have these fears we either try to earn everyone’s praise and turn into a people pleaser or we develop a fear of commitment and won’t have any intimate relationships, have no children or are the first to leave relationships before we get abandoned.
Another common fear is of failure where a person becomes very much interested in things of status like money, material possessions, a top position or anything else for show rather than intrinsic values. Individuals with this fear might have an overdeveloped ego and want to be perfect. They might have difficulties when they don’t know the answer to a problem or cover up mistakes so they don’t have to admit they did something wrong. They, under no circumstances, want to show any weakness.
Scarcity is another very common fear, the feeling of not-enoughness, of not being deserving of having and getting anything. This is the sign of an underdeveloped ego with low self-worth. People with these fears might feel victimized and have a tendency to mess up, to self-sabotage by becoming sick before an important event or to make big and obvious mistakes. Believing that they don’t deserve anything, they might not even know what they want and might try to protect themselves by reinforcing their borders and becoming numb.
Then there is fear of losing control. When individuals have overcome all other fears, they might still have this fear. Behaviors that are common indicators of this fear are to go from one exciting stimulus to the next, and not committing to something long-term for fear of losing their independence. They can develop an addiction to excitement, to new stimulating situations. And they are definitely afraid of boredom and of filling every moment with activity. They also fear illness, pain, death – sometimes not dying itself but the pain and the suffering that might accompany dying that is ultimately the fear of losing control over the situation.
Fear and its cause
Why do we develop fear? And does fear have a positive purpose? In a way the positive side of fear is to show us where we are stuck, where we are not growing. Every time we have fear we know we are in a contractive state, we are breathing in but not out.
If we get in touch with our fear we can develop more awareness. We can ask ourselves is this fear something coming up right now, in the present moment? Or is this fear something from the past? For instance you may have three million dollars in the bank but still fear that you don’t have enough and that you will end up as a bag lady. We have an unrealistic fear of losing it so we can never relax and enjoy our abundance.
Fears can be realistic e.g. fear of attack when you are outside in the middle of the night in a threatening environment or unrealistic given the context. We want to get rid of unrealistic fears because they keep us from enjoying our life, from being at peace. We must learn to know ourselves well and to be able to discern if something is a realistic fear that is actually protecting or even saving our life or if it is an unrealistic fear that is holding us back.
Origins of fear
In humanities early evolution fears were mostly physical, such as fear of starvation, survival, darkness and night. In later times, fears became more focused on the emotional, like fear of rejection, abandonment, exclusion and any other kind of wounding. At our present time, in the western world we are facing more spiritual fears like missing our life’s purpose, not serving the world enough, not giving enough.
Scarcity underlies all these fears. And what this really means is that we don’t trust the Divine that we are perfect just the way we are. As Jesus said: “Consider the lilies, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; yet I say unto you, Even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” We really have to believe that we don’t have to toil to prove our worth; we only need to be the authentic us.
Moving past fear
It is our personal experience that creates the message that then creates the fear. And this fear has an emotional impact in the amygdala. A wounding situation can be one serious incident or a number of repetitive experiences. And these beliefs lead to certain behaviors that make us unhappy and limit our life.
We can move past fear by doing what we fear most. By repeatedly acting even when we are afraid, we stretch ourselves and grow. For instance, a very common fear for many people is speaking in public. Why? The collective unconscious is telling us that we will be attacked by a predator if we stand out, so we feel vulnerable having all eyes on us.
If we have a large fear, we might need to take small steps to reach it. For example, what if we have a fear of flying? We could visit a therapist specializing on overcoming this fear, or read books or take courses that help with our particular issue. We need to take actions in that area to help us achieve our goal. Eventually after enough steps we reach a state where we actually go to the airplane and see where the fear kicks in. When you board the plane, when the plane takes off, when you are in the air? These are the steps to ultimately take.
Different fears can be operating at the same time and each one can come up in different situations. So it’s important that we look at each fear individually. In our online course Fear Transformed we have questionnaires and exercises for each individual fear that help us see where they are and how they all compound. We must face them each in their place. Our goal is to become authentically our self and to attain a fearless state. Then we no longer have to prove in any situation that we are worthwhile human beings who deserve our place in this world.
It is possible to be fearless. And the more we face our fears the more fearless we become. When we are fearless there is no bad and good but only opportunity to learn and to grow. Through this healing journey of self-awareness, self-acceptance, and self-love we experience deeply that the opposite of fear is love.
Learn more with our IIT e-course, Fear Transformed here.