Fear: (noun): panic etc. caused by impending danger, pain, etc.; cause of this; alarm; dread.; (verb): be afraid of; feel anxiety about; dread; shrink from.

 Symbol: (noun): thing generally regarded as typifying, representing, or recalling something; mark, sign, etc. representing object, idea, process, etc. Symbolic (adjective); Symbolically (adverb).

(Essential Oxford English Dictionary: Australian Edition 2010)

Recent occurrences in my life have led me to redefine fear (yet again) from a symbolic perspective. This was triggered by a statement I heard from someone on YouTube (keep in mind that I am paraphrasing here): the idea that you cannot be afraid of anything that you haven’t already experienced in some way, or to some degree, as fearful. Therefore, it becomes the memory of some previous happening – recalling something (see definition for ‘symbol’ above). For example, a slap would not be a scary thing, or some experience that you would dread or shrink from, if you had not already had the same (or similar) event occur that traumatized you. This experience always comes from the past – in utero; childhood; past life; something you saw on TV, in a movie or heard vividly described in a song and so on.

Then there are those symbolic fears and anxieties that represent something from a painful event from the past. For instance, if, at the age of ten, you broke your nose which then began bleeding profusely. Ever since then, you have had a fear of anything colored blood-red. This can be overcome with some psychological work – seeing a red dress should not evoke such an extreme response. However, anxiety can exist on a far more subtle level that actually comes as a warning about certain people and situations.

My Story

Earlier this year, I met a person online who seemed very nice at the outset. She was willing to help me in various ways and seemed caring on the surface but my instincts were telling me otherwise. Of course, I had no physical proof of what I was feeling but it was there nevertheless, like a deep humming sound when you leave the TV volume on very low, and you don’t necessarily know where this sound is coming from, at first.

As the months went by, I noticed behaviors that were not consistent with the words spoken by this woman. “Feel free to share here” became a farce when she started telling me (and others) what to think. If I/we did not agree, then the condescension would begin, which of course is profoundly arrogant – that is, coming from ego which is something this person claimed that she did not do (as do most so-called ‘spiritual’ people). I recall reading a conversation between this woman and another on the internet where one said to the other: “They don’t know what we know”; one of the responses was, “I’ve seen children who are less stubborn”. So, if we didn’t see things the way they (or she) did, we were infantile.

Not long after these events, I became aware of the fact that this woman who seemed so caring, was stealing my ideas by changing a few of my words before passing them off as her own (I am a writer and my material is available on the internet). She was even pilfering some of the words I used when commenting on other people’s posts on Facebook – very sneaky but all the while acting like she ‘cared’. When I became aware of this deception, I walked away. I also understood what my anxiety was trying to tell me.

This fear did not manifest from nowhere – it was inextricably linked to events from my past on a symbolic level. You see, as a child I was surrounded by many people who pretended to care about me until they had the opportunity to exploit my body sexually, which was their intention all along. The woman involved in this recent experience was still seeking to exploit me, albeit in a different way.

I had learnt to respect my fear before all of this, but now my understanding is far more profound. I know, without a doubt, just how subtle and telling it can be. I have now made it a friend that I welcome when the circumstances call for it.