Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? We all are, apparently.
We come into this world from a comfortable place, the womb, and forever afterwards, it seems, we yearn for and seek out the security of that cozy, warm sanctuary. We try to build something around us that will insulate us from ‘the slings and arrows’ of living. So much of our lives is spent seeking shelter and safety.
You will remember that The Three Little Pigs of the fairy tale set out in life and built their houses. The first Little Pig built his house of straw, the second of wood, and the third of brick. When the Big Bad Wolf came to find the pigs, they ran to their houses and locked themselves inside. But the first and second pigs’ houses could not withstand the onslaught of the wolf: when he blew on them, they collapsed — the wolf grabbed the pigs and ate them. The house of the third pig was much more sturdy; when the wolf could not get into it by huffing and puffing, he went down the chimney, where a pot of boiling water was waiting for him — and he became dinner for the pig.
Child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, author of ‘The Uses of Enchantment,’ suggests that the three pigs are actually one pig (us) in various levels of development toward maturity. As we get older, we tend to ward off adversity by building ever more secure situations for ourselves. It is a universal, deeply human pattern.
In her fascinating book, ‘Catastrophobia,’ astrologer Barbara Hand Clow theorizes that as a species we are hard-wired for insecurity because of events that happened in the distant past. A series of cataclysmic disasters, caused by a massive disturbance in the Earth’s crust 11,500 years ago, rocked the world and left humanity’s collective psyche deeply scarred. We are a wounded species, and this unprocessed fear, passed from generation to generation, is responsible for our constant expectations of disaster.
Wherever our yearning for security originated, it certainly is true that we crave a safe place — a safe life. Psychologist Robert Elias Najemy says in ‘The Psychology of Happiness’ that the prime and basic cause of all fear is our ignorance of our true nature. If we experienced or were convinced of our invulnerable eternal soul-nature, we would never feel any fear whatsoever. Because we do not, or cannot, believe this truth, we feel vulnerable, separate, isolated and susceptible to extinction or insignificance.
Fear is the Mother of All Negative Emotions
The various expressions of fear have different names such as insecurity, anxiety, concern, weakness, worry, inability, confusion, fear itself, depression, denial, shock, hysteria, panic, paralysis, anger, hate, rage, aggressiveness, violence and jealously, etc.
We fear for our bodies and personalities, because we know they are vulnerable and mortal. Out of fear, we seek to create some sense of security by ensuring that we have ‘sufficient’ people, money, and objects, as well as a professional and social position, in our lives.
Then we experience a second level of fear: the fear that we might not be able to hold onto everything we have acquired. We might lose them to death, decay or change.
We fear not having what we need in order to feel secure and happy.
We fear losing these things when we do have them.
We fear others who might take these things from us.
We fear change that might make them disappear.
We fear death, which means losing all this.
Sages down through the centuries have told us that if we want to be free, loving and happy beings or if we want to grow spiritually we will need to overcome all fears. The first step in that process is to acknowledge that we have fears, to identify them, and to face them…well, fearlessly.
Here is an exercise that can help to focus on overcoming your fears. Spending some time with each of these apprehensions and anxieties — and feeling the shift as you move from fear to love — can bring a sense of security that you never have felt before. Try sitting quietly, take a deep, relaxing breath, and spend some time contemplating each of these eight statements:
Even though I fear _____________, I deeply and profoundly love myself.
Even though until now I have feared _____________, I now feel totally safe and secure with that.
Even though until now I have feared _____________, I now feel totally capable of dealing with it.
Even though until now I have feared _____________, I now experience my inner security and faith in my ability to deal with this.
Even though until now I have feared _____________, I now feel peace in relationship to that.
Even though until now I have feared _____________, I now experience myself as an eternal soul in the process of evolution.
Even though until now I have feared _____________, I now experience myself as divine energy.
I choose (want, deserve, allow myself, accept) to be free from this fear of ______.
The fairy tale of the Three Little Pigs invites us to build our house (our life) in such a way that when the wolf (adversity) comes our way, as it must to everyone, we can stand secure and grounded on the spiritual truth that nothing can harm us. The spiritual core of our being is unshakable. No material thing can complete it; no outside force can disturb it.
Knowing your essential nature is your own ‘house made of bricks.’
The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
by Bruno Bettelheim
The great child psychologist gives us a moving revelation of the enormous and irreplaceable value of fairy tales — how they educate, support and liberate the emotions of children.
Catastrophobia: The Truth Behind Earth Changes
by Barbar Hand Clow
Barbara Clow has reached beyond the collective planetary miasmic thought processes to bring light to what all people deal with on a day to day basis. Fear of catastrophe is the driving force behind and underlying all of the obsessions having to do with our work ethics, our relationship dynamics and the state of how we are becoming sick, as well as how we choose to heal as a society. The book reads like a text book, so get ready to delve into deep historical revelations.
Miriam Greenspan on Mobilizing Your Fear and Using It for Life
“If fear is only telling you to save your own skin, there’s not much hope for us,” Greenspan writes. “Conscious fear” reminds us of the power of compassion and connection — it mobilizes us to act on behalf of others. The heroes of Flight 93 on September 11 are our mentors here. They used their fear to help others live.
Cynthia Kneen on Going In and Coming Out of Fear
Kneen, a student of Tibetan Buddhist master Trungpa Rinpoche, explains the Shambhala warrior’s approach to fear. “The way to develop courage is not to cast out fear, but to find out more about it by looking directly at fear.” Using a wonderful story about a Tibetan yogi who found a demon in his cave, she encourages us to lean into what frightens us. The spiritual practice of going in and coming out yields a “pragmatic tenderness.”
Yitzhak Buxbaum on Joy as the Antidote to Fear
Here is a teaching story from the collection “Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy” edited by Yitzhak Buxbaum. When a certain Jew slips and falls in the swift current of a river, he is understandably afraid. What does his rabbi say? “Give my regards to Leviathan” (the legendary giant fish). Sometimes we have to laugh in the face of fear.