Two kinds of fear


If you’ve ever stood on the edge of Cliffs of Moher, you quickly understand the difference between healthy fear that can save your life and fear that will debilitate you. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cfgattis/

I don’t consider myself a generally fearful or anxious person, but I’m just going to list what lurks in the fear section of my brain, because the only way to reveal the monster in the closet is to turn on the light.


1. Grace not having me.

2. Me not having Grace.

3. Having to go back to work in a cubicle someday.

4. Dead animals.

5. Many, many aspects of romantic love: having it, losing it, not wanting it, wanting it.

6. Dreams about feral kittens.

I recently had a discussion with the wonderful Charisse Landise, a clairvoyant healer, about fear. The understanding I came away with is that there are basically two kinds of fear: Real, healthy fear, and the other kind. Which is not about real things, and which isn’t really ours, it comes from other people.

So an example of a good fear might be careening down a mountain on skis. The fear you feel is basically your body’s way of keeping you on point so you don’t get sloppy and tumble head over business-end the rest of the way down.

The six things I’ve listed above? They are fears that, left unchecked, can become debilitating. They are not life-giving, they are soul-sucking. There is nothing, really, I can do differently, to mitigate outcomes. As for the first two about Grace and me, I guess I’ll just go around keeping our bodies as safe as possible, and then it’s up to our own karmas. I wrote a short film treatment the other day as a way to put something on paper, to exorcise (and exercise) the fear of being without my child, in a way, so it dissolves in the sun. The “what if?” fears are echoes of other people (including aspects our former selves). They are subjective, imaginary, a game of emotional dice.

I love this from Brené Brown: “To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. But, I’m learning that recognizing and leaning into the discomfort of vulnerability teaches us how to live with joy, gratitude and grace.”

Who wants to come skiing with me?



Vanessa McGradyTwo kinds of fear

Comments 2

  1. Cathy Olliffe-Webster

    I think I’m going to pass on the skiing invitation because it scares the crap out of me and, as much as I sometimes curse it, I’d like to keep my business end in one piece. 😉

    Nice post.

  2. Leslie Collins

    Inspired thoughts, Vanessa 🙂
    I spent time with some old friends last night, girlfriends from high school, a luxury I now enjoy since moving back to my home town and giving up my beautiful west coast lifestyle to explore anew the good and bad of the mid-west.
    What leapt out at me, so different from my much more adventurous, confident and in all honesty more accomplished friends on the west coast, was the fear that seems to be a constant companion of my girlfriends who live in this solid, flat, familiar since birth place I now call home (aka Michigan).
    Their fears are numerous: fear of driving once the sun goes down (we are only in our mid-50’s not our mid-70’s or 80’s girls!) (seriously?!), fear of leaving home for a couple of days and the familiarity of our bed and our husband even if he drinks a 12 pack of beer every night and isn’t terribly “present”, fear of exploring let alone changing careers even though one is quite burned out on the current career a significant amount of every day while at work (I have personally taken on 2 dramatic career changes in my life and both were feats of persistence and courage and perhaps naivety but I did it anyway), and there are a few more fears that seem to distinguish me from those souls who never left their home locale to venture off to explore other worlds and other peoples.
    In my twenties, I was an avid student of eastern philosophy, Hinduism in particular. I explored with the help of my gurus the full concept of fear and the inner bounds of my personal faith and ability or lack there of to submit to a much greater expanded wisdom (the One). I explored leaving behind the limits of my constricted little monkey mind and in so many ways my life blossomed!
    Every day, I assess the personal risks and rewards of how I choose to live my life in as conscious a way as I can. What a great great adventure this is and thank goodness we get to do it together.
    Thank you Vanessa for your inspired words, Dear 🙂

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