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 Facing Our Fears: Navigating the Path to Wholeness 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Mind Over Matter by . View all columns in series
The journey toward wholeness is life's greatest challenge.

Advancing amidst the dense underbrush of our existence often seems like an impossible ordeal. Bogged down by the baggage we carry upon our shoulders, every step requires great effort and commitment. Yet just as an explorer slowly and deliberately cuts a narrow trail through a dense jungle in search of treasure, so do we set forth to carve a personal path toward healing one step at a time.

As our confidence progressively grows, the journey appears easier to travel. Then just as our momentum begins to build and our stride notably covers more turf, we stop suddenly in our tracks. The prospect of what's lurking beneath the visible layer grinds us to an immediate halt. And we consider turning back.

We sense it immediately for we know its presence well. It has reared its head many times in the past and sent shivers down our spine. Strange though it may seem, sometimes it actually protected us. Yet more often than not, it sent a shockwave through us that was no less than paralyzing.

What's hiding in the underbrush is "fear." Once a primordial element of survival, it sometimes evolves into a roadblock that impedes our progress. There's no doubt that a healthy sense of fear elicited under the proper circumstances is essential for surviving. On a primitive level, fear can condition us to avoid that which is life-threatening.

Yet what happens when fear, unassociated with danger, prevents us from advancing along our path toward wholeness? The results of unjustifiable fear are often devastating. Consider the concept of fear in the context of the word, "prevent" in the following statements:

  • Fear of failure prevents us from learning what we need to know.
  • Fear of embarrassment prevents us from expressing our creative potential.
  • Fear of rejection prevents us from building loving and supportive relationships.
  • Fear of opening our minds to new possibilities prevents us from discovering what is missing.
  • Fear of tomorrow prevents us from healing today.
  • Fear of death prevents us from living life fully.
Franklin D. Roosevelt summed it up with his statement, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Philosophers throughout the ages have been summoned to reveal the keys to living a full and meaningful life. While each of our needs are as unique as our perspectives, few would argue that the path to enlightenment and inner peace is a personal journey taken one step at a time. The first and greatest step is always the decision of whether or not to embark on the path. The trouble however often does not begin until we are faced by those "two roads diverged in a yellow wood." For it is when choice comes into play and a decision is needed, do we proceed rationally with what attracts us, or do we succumb to a sense of fear which draws us to a screeching halt? Are we gripped by memories of perceived failures, or do we proceed with positive anticipation fueled by love and hope?

Some proclaim that the best survival technique is to abandon fear by simply ignoring it. Unfortunately, when we do so, denial merely overshadows an issue which continues to hurt us. Fear progressively builds within and continues to beckon resolution. Denial shuts it away and buries it in the most painful recesses of our deepest self.

I suppose that in one way or another we're all afraid of something. The real questions are: What is our next step? Do we grow stronger and more confident, or do we give in to what we have the potential to overcome? Do we seek and accept the help and guidance we need to positively shape our lives?

Ultimately our underlying beliefs and choices to deal with the roadblocks within determine our progress. The stakes are high and so are the rewards. As a physician, I've found it personally healing to observe an individual successfully overcome a once overwhelming fear - a giant step along one's healing journey.

Richard Bach once wrote, "The meaning I picked, the one that changed my life: Overcome fear, behold wonder" - Mind Over Matter!

© 2000 Barry Bittman, MD all rights reserved

Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, inventor and researcher. He is the CEO and Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, 18201 Conneaut Lake Road in Meadville, phone (814) 724-1765, fax (814) 333-8662,

Contact Dr. Bittman

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 About The Author
Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, award-winning producer/director and inventor. As CEO and Medical Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, a......moreBarry Bittman MD
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