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What Causes Fear (and What to Do About It)

beachI had an epiphany this morning.

In fact, it is for just such mornings as these that I don’t mind being my own lab rat, studying my emotions, my choices, my habits and preferences, as if the survival of the human race (or at least one sole representative sample of it) depends on what I learn.

So this morning what I realized is this:

The cause of most and maybe all of my fear has to do with desire….or more accurately with attachment (which is my desire to have something or to not have something).

Here are some specific examples that I thought up this morning.

  • I might fear going to a certain area of town – because I very much desire to not have bad things (like muggings or worse) happen to me.
  • Or I might fear not going to a certain event I don’t particularly want to attend – because I am attached to continuing to receive invitations from friends.
  • I might fear opening up to a partner – because I am attached to their continued presence in my life and don’t want them to leave me.
  • Or I might fear encountering a wasp – because history suggests that when wasps see me, they become instantly overcome with a desire to sting (and I am quite allergic and do not want to be stung).

In any case, the more I continue to examine my fears in the wake of this epiphany, the more I find those fears linked to desires or attachments I also have.

So here I suppose I could also say I feel fear at the presence or absence of this-or-that because I want to be in control. But to be honest, that isn’t quite specific enough to really help me.

I need to know exactly what I am trying to control – what I want the outcome to be (or not be) – before I can even entertain the thought of trying to adopt a more hands-off approach.

In my meditation studies, my mentors suggest that attachment – desire – leads to endless suffering. For years I have read this, but I am only now starting to understand why.

I now see that, much as I might want and would like to, my ability to control what life hands me is much less expansive than what I would need in order to build my happiness (or lack of fear) around that premise.

Happiness (contentment, joy, peace) must be found no matter what. Happiness, my meditation mentors tell me, is available whether life goes my way or doesn’t go my way.

Happiness can be mine in the absence not of my fear, but of my desire, or attachment, or need to control. The most beautiful way I have heard this phrased is “Be content with what comes unsought.”

In other words, in the absence of desire towards or against a specific outcome, enjoyment of what is can actually be found.

Inspiring…..and definitely something I am now working towards.

Today’s Takeaway: What is your relationship with fear and desire in your own life? Do you see any areas where perhaps the two intersect? Have you had any success with maintaining happiness or contentment even when your fears come to pass – or your desires don’t? I’d love to hear your experiences!

Meditation image available from Shutterstock.

What Causes Fear (and What to Do About It)

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Mentor. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2014). What Causes Fear (and What to Do About It). Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2019, from


Last updated: 15 May 2014
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