We Don’t Need Fear
by Graeme Kapono Urlich
There is an anthropological theory that we need fear in order to survive. My view is that the ability to
sense danger is quite different from fear. Sensing danger and knowing what to do to avoid it is one thing.
Sensing danger and then having a fear reaction, an uncertainty about how to react to the danger effectively,
and an expectation that something bad is about to happen if you can’t, is very different in my opinion.
A basic psychological premise is that whenever we do something that is motivated by fear, even something
generally perceived to be positive, we reinforce the fear. It is wise then to identify when we are acting
out of fear or confidence and choose which patterns we would prefer to reinforce and which ones we might
like to replace.
When we encounter a situation where we don’t have a rehearsed memory of how to react to it, we experience
confusion. Ku, the body mind, is likely to freeze, to call on a very basic response, or to adopt a
pattern from someone or something, effective or not, from the nearest available or strongest source it is
Where Ku might mimic a pattern from depends very much on the things we tend to pay most attention
to and the expectations we have about what happens in life. This is why some people who experience a
seriously stressful event may develop trauma, protective behaviours, rather than learn from the experience
and develop more confident ways of dealing with such events.
In this day and age, we tend to have less in the way of dangerous animals we need to hunt in order to live
but that doesn’t mean those skills of sensing danger have been lost. We use them every day in different
ways. Some people, depending on their profession, have very specifically trained awareness, some call it
intuition. Because they know a lot about their field, they perceive dangers where others would not.
There was a fire chief leading his team at a difficult fire one evening. It was going well but he began to
feel uneasy and, on the spur of the moment, called his team out of the building. Moments later there was a
flashback and at least some of his crew would have been injured or killed if they had still been inside.
People were proclaiming the chief a hero and claiming he had a sixth sense etc. What was really happening is
Ku was taking in information and comparing it to information gathered from hundreds of fires and
putting it all together below conscious awareness. Things like the sound of the fire changing and smoke
being sucked back into the building etc. gave the chief a myriad of clues and as Ku put it together
the chief began to feel tension build up, uneasy. He acted on that feeling and called his team to safety.
This is an extreme example but we all experience this day-to-day at some level, and just as the fire chief
did, we take in information from around us and react on the feelings we get about it, mostly at subconscious
level. I talk about this a bit in my article Reading Signs.
In my shaman training I was taught many different techniques and encouraged to practice them a lot. This is
because we tend to forget under stress, a lot of tension builds up in the body, and the more techniques we
know, the more likely we are to remember something that will help us start to release tension. People
sometimes experience amnesia after a traumatic event but almost never forget language. This is because
memory is stored in the whole body and we use language a lot.
The more background tension we are carrying the more likely an unexpected event is to push us over our
limits so a regular practice of working on the things that cause us tension is always useful. Paying
attention to how we are feeling and developing the habit of taking action to relieve stress is also
valuable. I talk about this a bit in my article Life Is Just Too Hard.
If there are situations that we find causes a fear response, a build-up of tension and thoughts of
avoidance, we can use memories of such situations and use fantasy to experiment with ways to resolve such
situations more effectively. This helps to build confidence and a repertoire of possible responses to use.
The majority of the disabling effect of fear comes from not knowing what to do so building such a library is
I recall when I first started to train in martial arts, and particularly sparring, I got hit a lot because I
hadn’t learned enough likely attacks and responses to them at first. If I had let the fear of getting hit
stop me I would most likely have quit the training quite early. Instead, with encouragement from my sensei,
I practiced what I already knew, watched others to learn more moves and practiced as much as I could so the
moves became automatic. If we stop to analyse what the other person is doing and think about how to respond,
we get hit every time. There just isn’t time to think.
Many people have learned that the best way to respond in life is live with fear and avoid engaging in life
as much as possible. Even beginning to change this will result in a build-up in tension that tells them the
change “should” be avoided. Sometimes, as with my martial arts training, we need to accept help and
encouragement from others to sustain the growth. Even fear of accepting help from the “wrong” person can get
in the way of starting.
On the journey we will be more aware of people around us who have the kinds of behaviours we are seeking to
change in ourselves and this can be daunting. Each time we fall down, take a breath, shake off some tension
and get back up again. Each time I got hit in martial arts, I replayed the movements in my mind and worked
out various ways to react to it. We can apply this approach to life as well.
The journey from a fear based life to a love and confidence based life is worth the effort. It’s not that we
will get to a place where there will never be fear, growth involves change and change means new experiences
we haven’t encountered before. We can however, train our intuition and build enough skill and confidence
that we will always have some constructive way to deal with it. “Bless the present, trust yourself and
expect the best”.
Graeme Kapono Urlich (March 2023)
Aloha New Zealand - School of Huna and Hawaiian Shamanism