A Day in a Life: Instinctual Fear & Learned Fear

In the channeled message on Monday, Jeanne and I discussed fear as the culprit that sets up blockages inhibiting access to the fuller self, as a hindrance on a path of inner growth. After my channeling I began to think about instinctual fear. I know it is necessary and must be utilized and I realized that perhaps it may not have been clear that Jeanne was really only talking about fear that has become habit. Fear that has become habit is something quite different from instinctual fear.

We have a very elderly dog. She is rather large, a shepherd-husky mix, with thick fur, big ears, a long furry tail and severe hip dysplasia, a condition not uncommon in those breeds. She has grown afraid in her old age; in human years she is 119 years old and counting. In the old days nothing would have stopped her from bounding out of the house early in the morning; she would have pounded her way through even the highest of snowdrifts to roll around and do her business. Now she hesitates at the door, looks outside, assesses the situation and if it feels slippery to the first timid touch of her paw on the flagstone porch she will turn around and go back into the house, not at all interested.

This is learned fear. This is fear that is the result of falling on the ice, slipping in the snow, and not being able to get up. When she has fallen she has probably also hurt herself, though she will rarely ever complain or make a sound. This is the natural tendency of an animal to not let it be known that it is weak, for fear of attack from predators—instinctual fear. As we have observed this new behavior over the winter we have noticed that the fear of falling now almost rules her every activity. Even inside the house she hesitates before walking across a stretch of wood floor—preferring to suffer the odds, she often takes it at a run rather than simply walk across it to follow us. We have devised methods of helping her get beyond this very real fear, by putting a leash on and urging her out the door, making a path for her in the high snow, running out ahead of her and urging her forward, laying rugs over the ice and throughout the house. With our help she has, sometimes, been able to conquer her fear.

I like to look to nature for instruction. I think about animal fear, the instinct mechanism that says: Uh-oh, I’m in danger. I see a deer standing stricken with fear before the headlights of my car, before it leaps out of the way, instinctually knowing that it had better move. I see the scared rabbit shivering in the snow as it is approached by a predator, before it too bounds off to safety. I hear the birds instinctively shrieking, sending up distress calls, flying out into the trees to distract hungry predators from their nests.

We humans also have these natural instincts. When a situation arouses this kind of instinctual fear, we tune into our natural state of being and without forethought we act, we use it to protect ourselves or others. Would we not run out of the road if a car were approaching or save our child from being run over? Would we not leap out of the way of a hungry predator? However, we too, just like our old dog, have learned behaviors, learned fears. We all have new fears that we have adopted as we have navigated through life, and these new fears may interfere with our natural inclination to experience life, with the instinctual drive to live full lives, exploring our greater meaning and purpose. These learned fears might actually suppress that instinctual mechanism lying at our core to the point where we cannot even act to save ourselves from danger.

The impact of learned fear must also be taken into consideration as we investigate our willingness and capacity to take a spiritual journey. What fears do we have that prohibit us from taking the journey that our spirit invites us on, showing us almost daily what it wants us to learn about ourselves so that we are not held back any longer from more fully integrating our natural selves into our lives? Personally, I used fear, instinctual and learned fears, my whole life, to protect myself; this is fairly common, most people do this. But also, I knowingly used those fears to keep myself from having experiences that made me uncomfortable. Here the unconscious came into play; though unaware of its aid at the time, it kept me from experiences that might trigger other unconscious, repressed experiences that would have surely interfered in my growth into adulthood. Thus, in using fear, I also perpetuated fear as an integral part of my life. What eventually happened was that by living safely protected within the confines of that fear, I also became controlled by it. As a result, I became increasingly restless, angry, depressed, and felt that I had no life of my own. I saw only death in the future. Underneath it all, however, I was being pushed into alignment with something new by my ancient instinctual spirit self, and yes, a death of sorts, but only a death of that which was not mine to carry. I was being urged into taking a shamanic journey of recapitulation.

In recapitulation we are invited by our ancient instinctual selves to face our fears. As the process of recapitulation naturally unfolds our unconscious opens its doors, kept so tightly locked by our fears, and allows us to see just what it was that taught us those debilitating fears in the first place. In recapitulation we also reunite with our ancient instinct, understanding how it has worked to protect us in the past and how it can be brought out into a more fully integrated new life. Sometimes there may be a fine line between what is instinctual fear and what is learned fear, but that’s okay if we understand that we use them both when necessary, and if we can accept that there is always some aspect of ourselves that will come forth to protect us when we most need it.

In recapitulation we learn to distinguish between fears placed on us by others, fears learned through our experiences, and innate fears, but really what we learn is that our fears have controlled us, no matter where they came from. We gain a clearer understanding of our true inner desires to live differently. We more clearly hear the calls of our ancient spirit self, wishing that we could do and experience life from a different perspective.

And, as we recapitulate, we learn how we used to do things and we learn that we can choose to do things differently. We can change our habits and behaviors for no other reason than that it is good for us to do so. When we dare ourselves to move beyond the old fears we allow the true self to more fully live, confident that we have all we need inside us, instinct and nature more finely tuned to guide us now away from the old and into the new.

Our old dog lies at my feet as I write this blog, sighing occasionally, snoring, her fears at rest for the moment; and that is how our fears work. We can send them away, go about our usual activities, sleep them off, but that is only a temporary reprieve from the demands of the fearful self. Soon enough we have to get up again and face that self that won’t let us live from the ancient heart-centered spirit, that only tells us to live by the predilections of a society that tells us we must fear everything. We know those trappings of fear so well. We may even be bored with them, bored with how they control us, keep us caught doing the same things over and over again, keep us from running out the door and leaping into life, to roll around in the energy of new experiences. If we are as timid as our old dog, our lives become pretty limited, routine and boring, as if we were 119 years old.

Personally, I elected a long time ago to go over to another life, even before this one was over. I elected to err on the side of heart-inspired energy, to grab onto what I always knew lay just beyond this world. I just had to put myself in alignment with it, to see beyond the fear and face a different life, a heart-centered life. That was really what I did during my recapitulation. I put myself in alignment with the teachings of my own heart and I will not ever leave it again.

Of course, I have to face the choices I made. As I go out into the world and meet people who once knew me in a certain way, I have to face the fear that immediately arises like a shield between us when I tell them that I took a shamanic journey and that I am in a new world now. “Literally,” I say, “I am literally living in a different world, and I love it!” There is fear in their eyes when I say this, and that is a fear that I come up against quite often these days, and it is not fear of something harmful, but fear of something beautiful! Why are we so afraid of that which is so good for us, naturally so, our ancient heart-centered intent?

So, perhaps this blog may help in understanding the difference between fear and fear, between true instinctual fear and learned fear, between electing fear and electing something beyond fear. Life is really a good roll in the snow; it really is beautiful. I encourage everyone to reach for the inspiration of the ancient heart-centered self and find out!

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Thanks for reading! Sending you all love and good wishes,

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