The journey toward wholeness is life’s greatest challenge.
Advancing amidst the dense underbrush of our existence often seems
like an impossible ordeal. Bogged down by the baggage we carry upon
our shoulders, every step requires great effort and commitment. Yet
just as an explorer slowly and deliberately cuts a narrow trail
through a dense jungle in search of treasure, so do we set forth to
carve a personal path toward healing one step at a time.
As our confidence progressively grows, the journey appears easier to
travel. Then just as our momentum begins to build and our stride
notably covers more turf, we stop suddenly in our tracks. The
prospect of what’s lurking beneath the visible layer grinds us to an
immediate halt. And we consider turning back.
We sense it immediately for we know its presence well. It has reared
its head many times in the past and sent shivers down our spine.
Strange though it may seem, sometimes it actually protected us. Yet
more often than not, it sent a shockwave through us that was no less
What’s hiding in the underbrush is “fear.” Once a primordial element
of survival, it sometimes evolves into a roadblock that impedes our
progress. There’s no doubt that a healthy sense of fear elicited
under the proper circumstances is essential for surviving. On a
primitive level, fear can condition us to avoid that which is
Yet what happens when fear, unassociated with danger, prevents us from
advancing along our path toward wholeness? The results of
unjustifiable fear are often devastating. Consider the concept of fear
in the context of the word, “prevent” in the following statements:
- Fear of failure prevents us from learning what we need to know.
- Fear of embarrassment prevents us from expressing our creative potential.
- Fear of rejection prevents us from building loving and supportive relationships.
- Fear of opening our minds to new possibilities prevents us from discovering what is missing.
- Fear of tomorrow prevents us from healing today.
- Fear of death prevents us from living life fully.
Franklin D. Roosevelt summed it up with his statement, “The only thing
we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified
terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into
Philosophers throughout the ages have been summoned to reveal the keys
to living a full and meaningful life. While each of our needs are as
unique as our perspectives, few would argue that the path to
enlightenment and inner peace is a personal journey taken one step at
a time. The first and greatest step is always the decision of whether
or not to embark on the path.
The trouble however often does not begin until we are faced by those
“two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” For it is when choice comes
into play and a decision is needed, do we proceed rationally with what
attracts us, or do we succumb to a sense of fear which draws us to a
screeching halt? Are we gripped by memories of perceived failures, or
do we proceed with positive anticipation fueled by love and hope?
Some proclaim that the best survival technique is to abandon fear by
simply ignoring it. Unfortunately, when we do so, denial merely
overshadows an issue which continues to hurt us. Fear progressively
builds within and continues to beckon resolution. Denial shuts it
away and buries it in the most painful recesses of our deepest self.
I suppose that in one way or another we’re all afraid of something.
The real questions are: What is our next step? Do we grow stronger
and more confident, or do we give in to what we have the potential to
overcome? Do we seek and accept the help and guidance we need to
positively shape our lives?
Ultimately our underlying beliefs and choices to deal with the
roadblocks within determine our progress. The stakes are high and so
are the rewards. As a physician, I’ve found it personally healing to
observe an individual successfully overcome a once overwhelming fear –
a giant step along one’s healing journey.
Richard Bach once wrote, “The meaning I picked, the one that changed
my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder” – Mind Over Matter!
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Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, inventor and researcher. He is the CEO and Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, 18201 Conneaut Lake Road in Meadville, phone (814) 724-1765, fax (814) 333-8662, http://www.mind-body.org.