On Fear

A short essay on overcoming fear, the meaning of our dreams, and dealing with nightmares.

Life Letters

To a frightened friend,

You fear your dreams, dread your inevitable surrender to them. How true the old cliché, that we most fear what we don't understand. I look into your eyes and recognize the pleading in them. They beg me to make your fear go away. I wish I could. I can't.

What I can do is attempt to assist you in coming to some understanding of your dreams. You see, our wholeness brings us many gifts. And dreams, my friend, are one of them. They tell us in yet another way about our deepest selves, about our inner conflicts and how we characteristically deal with them. They show us our fears, our secrets, our uncertainties - and they serve as signposts that can guide us toward answers. They are messengers, which travel to us, again and again, until they are received. They may frighten us with their dramatic stories, and yet we can come to appreciate that in delivering up to us in symbolic forms, our worries and our obstacles, they often present us with solutions. Dreams reflect elements of their extraordinary creators and contain both darkness and light, as does the very essence of life.

Your nightmares are not demons, nor foreign and dangerous invaders sent to conquer and destroy. Instead, they are your offspring. And much like your children, while they can be troublesome, they, too, are gifts, and require your attention.

When I envision you at night, I see you trembling in terror, hopelessly seeking to push back and away from the images of sleep. I want to provide you with comfort and lullabies, soothe you as you gently drift into the darkness. We both know that this is not possible.

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And so, instead, I ask you to peer back with me- way back - to the time of ancient man and woman. Imagine that thousands of years have just slipped away, and that together we are watching a prehistoric scene. Our ancestors have just come upon a fire, and we watch them cringe in terror. How evil and alive it must seem. The smoke threatens to swallow them up and steal their very breath away. The heat reaches out towards them, much like the flames of hell that so many children of the future will someday envision. The fire before them is a deadly creature and they flee from it.

Move forward in time just a bit with me now. Some brave soul has begun to study fire, to explore its possibilities and to perceive it multidimensionally. This courageous one eventually discovered that fire, while still threatening and powerful, can also be used to serve. He or she now attempts to call it forth, determined to make use of its force. Soon fire, which for so long was a horrifying mystery, becomes to humankind a source of light, warmth, protection, energy, and even an instrument of healing!

So very much that has been learned by those who came before us now remains within our keeping. The very same magnificent spirit who came to understand the value of fire exists within you, my friend. Carry it with you into the dark and cold places of your fear. Call upon that spirit tonight. Call it forth in prayer, or meditation, or in song. Allow it to gently guide you into sleep. Permit it to silently issue you strength and courage as you face your own fire. You will come to understand that your nightmares, however violent, are like ancient woman's flames - they illuminate the shadows. Let your fire bring you light!

Love, A Fellow Traveler...

next: Life Letters: Appreciating the Gift

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2008, December 5). On Fear, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: July 18, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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