Thousands of years ago, in the land we now call Greece, the people lived in fear. Unable to understand the natural phenomena that surrounded them in daily life, such as storms, the seasons, or childbirth, they invented elaborate stories of supernatural gods and goddesses to help calm their fears. Zeus became the king of the gods, responsible for the sky, weather, thunder, lightning, as well as law and order; Poseidon became the god of the sea; Hades, the god of the dead and the underworld; Hera, the goddess of marriage and childbirth; Hestia, the goddess of hearth and home; Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and the harvest; and so on. The Greeks believed the gods and goddesses would protect them from harm, ensure bountiful harvests, and make their lives a little easier.
Soon the Greeks began to live in fear of the gods, thinking that if they angered the gods, the gods would use their powers to punish them. The Greeks tried to appease the gods through offerings, prayers, rituals, and festivals. Over time, however, encouraged by the Greek philosophers, the Greeks began to ask more questions about their world. By discussing and thinking about the patterns they observed that were occurring naturally in their surroundings, their fear of the world, and of the gods, began to diminish.
The Greek word, phobos, from which phobia is derived, means fear. A phobia is a fear or intense dislike for something. Many of the words used to describe our fears have been derived from the Greek language. For example, “agoraphobia” is derived from the Greek word agora, meaning “marketplace,” and is the fear of being in the open market or being outside, “xenophobia” is derived from the Greek word xenos, meaning “stranger,” and is the fear of strangers or things that are foreign. Interestingly, “ergophobia” is derived from the Greek word ergon, meaning “work,” and is the fear of work.
More common phobias include our fear of success (“Am I as good as they think I am?”), fear of failure (“Will I make a mistake?”), fear of rejection (“Will I be respected?”), fear of loss (“Will I lose my looks, love, job, or money?”), fear of change, and, ultimately, fear of the unknown, including death.
Many people are afraid to admit they have fears. They may appear arrogant, but behind this facade is a deep sense of fear, including the fear of revealing to others who they truly are. This fear may have stemmed from experiences in the past when they encountered excessive criticism or rejection and were unable to express themselves fully. This fear may have been formed in early childhood when they were taught to be extra careful in life, to hide their mistakes, and to never show vulnerability … or alternatively, they may have been taught to be suspicious of the world; taught to believe that the world is limited and that there never was or never will be enough money, support, or love. By repeating limiting beliefs and behaviors learned in the past, the cycle of fear continues. These unresolved fears from the past are the causes of many forms of anxiety, aggression, depression, addiction, and illness.
Having too many fears and self-doubts paralyzes our growth and blocks us from living our lives to the fullest. Having too many fears zaps our energy and creates unnecessary drama and tension. By giving into our fears, we are allowing something outside of us to have more power than we believe we have ourselves.
If we have things (e.g., money, job, relationship, etc.), we may be afraid of losing them. Alternatively, if we don’t have these things, we may not believe we will get them in the future. We become stuck in our fear, believing that the future will not be any better than the present. We can list many reasons for not moving forward: our past, our family, our lack of connections, our limited education, our neighborhood, our weight, our age, and even the current economic crisis, to rationalize and, by implication, justify, our predicament. Paradoxically, our worst fears often become, due to the law of attraction, self-fulfilling prophecies.
While the source of our fears may be found in the reality of a situation, others may be merely perceived fears or threats created in our imaginations. It is important to distinguish between the two, especially if you want to move forward and live the rest of your life with joy and meaning.