When is fear a friend and when is fear a foe?
Your gorgeous perilous mission in this life is to find out.
Loon Canoe, the exquisite 100 year old 16-foot Peterborough cedar strip canoe with extended prows, and veteran of many gorgeous perilous missions, taught me much about my own depth and purpose–and about making fear an ally.
Everyone experiences physical, psychological, and spiritual dangers in this life. The smallest thing can be a mortal danger if we let fear take us down; the smallest threat can be crippling to body, mind, or spirit.
An angry fist in the face, a sarcasm dart to the heart, a tornado across the field, a bomb blowing up your car—these call up fear as an appropriate first reaction.
THE EVOLUTIONARY GENIUS OF OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM
We have two primary levels of nervous system functioning: instinctual and learned. Fear is part instinctual and part learned. We’re designed to fight, flee, or freeze to protect this mortal coil from threats to life or wellbeing, or to protect what we love.
The evolutionary genius of our nervous system does some complex things with experience. It stores information for future reference; we call that memory. It reads current environmental factors lightening fast, compares the current situation to the stored information, and alerts the subconscious as to what to do according to fresh current need or according to our past conditioned memory data.
And mostly we’re not thinking consciously about any of it. The slick and savvy genius of our nervous system allows us to live a multi-layered life. We don’t have to learn everything anew each moment. But at the same time, we are governed by the stored memory of experience–our cramp of conditioning. Some of these memories store learned fear and learned reactivity.
A lot of situations call up fear. And a lot of these situations call up a really good reason to pay attention to fear, listen to its message, and act.
So fleeing a tidal wave or a falling tree is always a good plan. But we’re not born with a fear of water or trees. Our specific fears are a result of conditioning.
A traumatic accident like almost drowning, witnessing a drowning, losing a loved one to a falling tree; any violent event like an intimidating physical or psychological assault; or repeated low dose neurotic conditioning, like consistent sarcastic assaults to our sense of self over time get stored as those dangerous frightening memories. These set our fear-based reactivity on perpetual unconscious alert for similar events.
ATTACHMENT TO FEAR MEMORIES
Our subconscious alert system attaches old memory to a present situation of similar emotional and sensory influence. And it’s this attachment glue that keeps us reacting—and perhaps reacting in unhelpful ways. Our learned reactive patterns have become conditioned memory, too.
One of our innate as well as learned reactive patterns is to fight fear. But attachment to fighting fear increases fear’s power rather than decreases it. What we resist persists. What we emphasize amplifies.
And fighting fear is both overt and covert, obvious and hidden.
Direct attacks on our fears and fear reactivity, such as arguing with it or levelling ineffective affirmations at it along the lines of, I shall fear nothing today!, have the opposite effect of giving fear more power. Your subconscious knows when you’re pulling the wool over your own eyes. Shouting at a tidal wave does nothing to stop the tidal wave. Hamlet knew that taking arms against a sea of troubles does nothing to relieve troubles.
Analyzing, questioning, or ruminating also consolidates the old fear pattern and usually amps up the reactivity. Why, why, why does this keep happening? Why can’t I do this? Why am I the only one like this? Why am I such a weakling, scaredy cat, wuss? These can be the longest suffering series of questions you ask in life. These questions perpetuate the reactivity.
Avoidance or denial, such as putting on a happy face; squashing, stuffing, saccharinizing, puts you in more danger. Turning your back on a big wave and pretending it isn’t there puts you at risk of being rolled up into it and drowned. But what about the wave coming up from the ocean of issues stored in the subconscious? How often do we turn our backs on that one–and get unequivocally swamped?
THE DOLOROUS BLOW
The Dolorous Blow in Arthurian legend is the wound that maims The Fisher King, leaving him and his land impotent. We could say The King’s vibrational frequency plummets into energetic deficiency.
In myth, the king of queen can be symbolic of a governing principle in our selves and the land a reflection of the psychic wholeness of the king or queen. In The Grail legends, the entire kingdom is dependent on The King’s health, on his energy. In life, it’s really the same.
Our inner life out-pictures, to use Neville Goddard’s phrase, into our lifescape, shaping the worlds of our personal reality and our collective reality. Our governing energetic resonance influences the kinds of events attracted ito our lives. A dolorous blow to our life can rock our trust, hope, curiosity, playfulness, joy.
Nearly drowning or being involved in a near or tragic drowning, losing a limb, developing a life threatening disease, can be the incidents that Arthurian legend calls The Dolorous Blow.
Consistent sarcastic assaults to our sense of self over time or direct hits to the soft animal of the body, as Mary Oliver describes our sweet ally of carriage through this life, are dolorous blows. These can leave us psychospiritually paralyzed with learned fear, lay waste to our inner land of psychic wholeness, and often be reflected in the crippling outer circumstances of our lives.
Any event that imprints a heavy fear, grief, despair, anger–you get it–can be The Dolorous Blow.
Clinical psychology calls The Dolorous Blow a trauma event and its repercussions post trauma symptoms.
I have found in 60 years of life in my own gorgeous perilous missions, and 20 years of clinical counselling practice that diagnostic labels can severely limit a person’s recovery. People get really attached to labels like mental illness, terminal illness, inoperable codition, toxic people, toxic situations. These labels sound like life sentences. These labels can suck the life energy our of a person recovering from the dolorous blows of life.
I much prefer the lingua mythica of the heroic journey. A mythopoetic language liberates soul into the healing process. The Grail Cycle of stories is one such healing language.
The language of the heroic journey gives us magical allies, the animal friend, words of power, opuscules of opportunity, hope swings across impossible odds, timely meetings, divine encounters, the chance to recover a fearless awesome courage, the jewel of wisdom in the Underworld, redemption of self and community and land.
Healing trauma, healing false limits to our soul’s life, healing The Dolorous Blow is our gorgeous perilous mission.
Warrior training teaches that you take your fear, breathe it intensely into a ball of fire in your belly, and use it like an archer uses a bow: to aim the gorgeous perilous mission of the moment and propel your fearless awesome courage towards the bull’s eye of necessary action.
Warrior training teaches that you manage your fear, detach from habituated reactivity, and ride the psychological wave to safe harbour. And that is a deep practice of focus and non-attachment.
My beloved painted paddlemaking teacher, who gave Loon Canoe her magnetized skin of mythopoetic power and me such loony latinate phrases as lingua mythica, taught me much about facing my fears. He taught me that The Sacred Psychologies–his term for the perennial wisdom traditions–don’t see fear as the problem. Attachment to fear is the problem.
Our instinctual emotion is ok. Instinctual fear is ok. It serves a purpose. It tells us danger is afoot. It sends powerful chemical warriors and scintillating electromagnetic weapons through our bodies, allies of immense energetic oomph unleashed for our instant strength.
Attachment to fear and attachment to fear based reactivity–such as panic–is the culprit. Getting unhooked from fear’s grappling irons is part of the gorgeous perilous mission.
Our times call for each of us to unhook from learned patterns of fear-based attachment: attachment to me, mine, more, an eye for an eye, fossil fuel use, toxic manufacturing practices, compulsive consumption, torture of any kind of all soft bodies everywhere.
Our sweet oasis in space, our Earth, is showing symptoms of The Wasteland of myth. The faulty belief system of egoic self-interest is the dolorous blow to our collective energetic vibrations and our life habits. This egoic self-interest that sets our species as more important and our wants as more valuable than Nature’s exquisite life harmonies out-pictures in tragic proportions as the toxic wasteland of our times.
In The Grail Cycle of stories, finding The Holy Grail brings healing to The Dolorous Blow, The Fisher King, and the land.
The Holy Grail can be seen as a symbol for the energetic frequency of healing, harmony, and happiness. The Grail lives in the heart of The Fisher King’s castle.
Our collective gorgeous perilous mission calls upon each of us to see our own dolorous blow as the opportunity to seek the grail of the heart, drink the elixir of a new vision, and tell the liberating tale of a new guiding story into our lives. Awakening heart energy gets us unhooked from fear and unleashes our fearless awesome courage into vibrant vibrational change practices.
A change of heart changes everything. The time is now. The time is only ever NOW.
When it comes to a moment of fear, discernment is key.
Is this a real outer threat—a real tidal wave rolling a one hundred foot high and who knows how wide wall of water at your shoreline? Or is this an inner tidal wave, the old wound activated by a perceived threat like criticism, sarcasm, psychological intimidation? Is The Dolorous Blow memory all up in your face? Knowing when to run, when to ride, when to stand, when to hide is key.
Running from a tidal wave is always a good plan. Running, hiding, arguing, attacking the inner wave, such as fear of criticism; or doing the same with its momentary outer source, such as a nasty boss or neighbour, is ultimately counterproductive. Those actions keep the dolorous blow levelled again at your psychospiritual wholeness and limit your radiant attraction action. You just end up compelling the same-old-same-old to arrive.
In Dr. Strange, The Ancient One says: We do not lose our pain; we learn to live above it. We must do the same with fear. We must get ourselves unhooked so we can act with a slick and sensible sanity toward the old conditioned culprit of attachment.
Awareness of triggers and reactivity is the key.
Bringing self-awareness practices into your life helps you stand up in your fear and make fear your ally.
Try meditation, tapping, journalling, yoga, mantra. Try archery, drawing, bonsai, flower arranging.
Finding human guides who walk the path of liberating awareness as a life practice can help you redeem an old fear conditioning and learn better habits of responsive awareness to fear’s warning message. Find a life coach or counsellor or support group.
Fear doesn’t have to take you down. Fear doesn’t have to compromise your radiant attraction action. Fear can wake you up, stand you up, and fill you up with a powerful urgency to grow out of the cramp of conditioning and grow into your lucent and purposeful living flow.
When fear is an ally and not an enemy you have a helpful warning system that alerts you to real danger and to the hook of an old conditioned reactivity. Your gorgeous perilous mission is to discern between the two. Your gorgeous perilous mission is to act above fear, to act as if your life depended upon it, and to act as if death were no consequence.