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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Facing Fear and Finding Faith

Fear, we read at page 67 in the 'Big Book' of Alcoholics Anonymous, "was an evil and corroding thread: the fabric of our existence was shot through with it." Fear of people, fear of imagined situations, fear of life and fear of death. The mind can too easily be preoccupied with all sorts of fear - real or imagined - and who can guarantee their actions when fear-stricken?

It is for this reason that the A.A.s that came before us "beg" us to be "fearless and thorough from the very start." For letting go of our old fear-based "ideas emotions and attitudes" is the price of emotional sobriety, even when we think some of these fears (like some instances of anger) are justified.

Yet who can be perfectly fearless? It is virtually guaranteed that our fears will be tested in sobriety. It is, perhaps, because of this stark reality that Bill W. made the following observations on fear in the January 1962 Grapevine:

"The achievement of freedom from fear is a lifetime undertaking, one that can never be wholly completed. When under heavy attack acute illness, or in other conditions of serious insecurity, we shall all react, well or badly, as the case may be. Only the vainglorious claim perfect freedom from fear, though their very grandiosity is really rooted in the fears they have temporarily forgotten."

"Therefore the problem of resolving fear has two aspects. We shall have to try for all the freedom from fear that is possible for us to attain. Then we shall need to find both the courage and the grace to deal constructively with whatever fears remain. Trying to understand our fears, and the fears of others, is but a first step. The larger question is how, and where, we go from there."
"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality," Ghandi observed. "Cowards," he noted, "can never be moral." It is for this reason that we need a working faith that can counteract even our deepest fears, helping us to face both life and even death, as the case may be.

"This is exactly why we of AA place such emphasis on the the need for faith in a higher power," Bill notes, "define that as we may."
"We have to find a life in the world of grace and spirit," he continues, "and this is certainly a new dimension for most of us. Surprisingly," he notes, "our quest for this realm of being is not too difficult. Our conscious entry into it usually begins as soon as we have deeply confessed our personal powerlessness to go on alone, and have made our appeal to whatever God we think there is - or may be. The gift of faith and the consciousness of a higher power is the outcome. As faith grows, so does inner security. The vast underlying fear of nothingness commences to subside. Therefore we of AA find that our basic antidote for fear is a spiritual awakening."
At the heart of such a vital spiritual awakening is the reduction of the ego -  the "painful inner dialogue" which is wholly based on fear - at depth. With that, Carl Jung observed, "Ideas, emotions and attitudes that were once the guiding forces of (our lives) are suddenly cast to one side, and a completely new set of conceptions and motives begin to dominate (us)."
[Alcoholics Anonymous, page 27.]

And with that, we begin to unravel the "corroding thread" of fear - particularly the fear of other people - from the "fabric of our existence." Thus, as Bill urges in the Grapevine, "Let us always love the best in others - and never fear their worst."


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