Journeying With – and Through – Fear

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on

Have you ever heard of the Hero’s Journey?

Joseph Campbell developed this understanding of humans and how we change from his research into mythology and world religions. He discovered that humans from all times and cultures share an experience: when we are called to an adventure – which all of us are, throughout our lives – we have the opportunity to respond to it with an openness to its challenges, and become changed in the process. That change leads us to the moment in which we become a hero.

There are predictable parts of the Hero’s Journey, and one of them is called the Innermost Cave. Think of this as the chamber where Dorothy and her friends meet the Wizard in all his terrifying fire, or the moment in Star Wars when Luke learns he’s both the dark and the light sides of the Force, or when Harry Potter has to pass a series of obstacles to reach the truth (in every single volume of the series)! 

This is the place where we meet our fear, where we have to dig our deepest to face the challenge in front of us, the moment we look at the root of what we feel and come out transformed.

It’s actually called an ordeal in Campbell’s model. (So yeah, you’re not alone when you think of how hard it is to approach that cave, not knowing what you might find inside.)

But it is where all of the power to change waits for us.

Lots of people say that on the other side of fear is courage. “Be brave,” everyone tells you, as if that’s the only thing you can use to counteract the fear you feel when you approach your cave and dig deep. But I think it’s way more complicated than that.

Yes, courage gets us to the cave entrance. Bravery helps us take those steps into the dark. But that’s not everything.

We walk through that dark. We light a candle or turn on a flashlight, and we keep walking. We look around, scared of what we might find … but we move forward.

It’s the moving through the fear that holds the richness of change, the walk in the dark that generates self-respect, and the drawing on resources that builds confidence.

It’s the learning that offers us insight, the calling out to others that gives us connection, the journey’s end that provides us relief.

And we do it all with no guarantee of the outcome.

Yes, that’s brave. That’s also a whole lot more. 

What else would you say is on the other side of fear? What can be gained from walking with it as you walk through it? How can it change you?

And who will you be on the other side?

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