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Love of Fear
by D. Patrick Miller
Fear is ubiquitous and inescapable in our lives, and the sensible management of fear is a hallmark of psychological growth. Conversely, to deny the influence of fear on our everyday consciousness is a sign of self-delusion. But perhaps nothing is so dangerous to our individual well-being, as well as the health of our families and communities, as the love of fear. This destructive kind of romance is typified by the addictive tendency to exaggerate the power of whatever we fear, and to look for signs and signals of fearful things even when we are not remotely threatened by them.

Also, the love of fear is seldom satisfied with the actual dangers presented by the thing feared. This leads to the invention of irrelevant but ominous qualities to attach to it. For example, historically persecuted groups from Jews to blacks to gays have been seen as �diseased� by those who love to fear them. The results have included everything from individual paranoia to the hate crimes and pogroms suffered by civilization at large.

In American culture at present, it�s clear that some people love to fear homosexuality. Yet the actual dangers of homosexuality are seldom clearly enumerated, other than the assumed danger of homosexuals promoting homosexuality. (Never mind the passion with which heterosexuals promote our proclivity, which has its own share of real dangers!) But because sex affects every one of us so powerfully and constantly, it is a subject to which it is easy to attach fear. If we are not careful, the love of fear itself soon follows such an attachment -- and the first victims of this infatuation are likely to be reason and compassion. Then, anyone who looks sexually different from oneself becomes the object of fear and hatred. This is the basic mechanism of every kind of discrimination, yet the progress of we humans in undoing discrimination remains haltingly slow.

That�s because it�s devilishly difficult to tell others what they need not be afraid of, and even tougher to disabuse them of the love of fear itself. That doesn�t mean it isn�t worth trying. But I think we can be most effective in helping others if we�re always working toward fearlessness ourselves. One way to accelerate this kind of personal growth is to ask oneself the question, "What do I love to fear?"

I�ve been asking myself this question for days, ever since I stopped chuckling about Tinky Winky. It is not a comfortable question; it has turned up a few more answers than I wanted to find. But that�s the price one pays for the benefits of deep self-confrontation, one of the most important spiritual disciplines. One benefit of confronting ourselves about our fears is that we are less likely to make others pay, through unjust punishment or persecution, for the fears that we have unwittingly chosen to love.

� D. Patrick Miller, a senior writer for YOGA JOURNAL and author of A Little Book of Forgiveness and The Book of Practical Faith, both published by Fearless Books and available in bookstores or from the publisher at 800-480-2776. More of Miller's writing is available online at fearlessbooks.com