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7 Fears, 7 Treasures, 7 Shadows, 7 Others

The “I”, “We”, and “It” of Fears, Treasures,
and Shadows

From an integral perspective the above descriptions of fears, treasures, and shadows can be seen in relation to the quadrants, or the Big Three of “I”, “We”, and “It”.  There isn’t a precise correspondence, but there is a connection.  In very general terms we can see that we have fears about what might happen on the “inside” (our subjective experiences), on the “outside” (the objective world of things), and in the “in-between” (the inter-subjective or relational realm). 

For instance, fear of experience is related to both “I” and “It”, in the sense that it involves fear of our own subjective realm, and those things in the world that can cause us to feel.  We may perceive that we are simply afraid of something out there in the world, some objective “It” that threatens us, but really we fear the experience that it might arouse within us.  Fear of solitude is also related to “I”, or our discomfort with our own interior world and the contents of our own mind.  Fear of intimacy is (perhaps obviously) a fear of “We”, a fear about what might happen if one enters the space of two or more.  Responsibility calls on our courage in both the “I” and “We” domains.  It requires taking ownership for our own self-authoring power, as well as how our actions affect others.  Fear of identity loss is most clearly and closely related to “I”.  It involves our fear about losing a familiar or cherished sense of self and who else we might become.  Fear of excellence is connected to both “I” and “We”, as it requires taking on personal challenges and possibly being judged or held accountable by others.  Our fear of impermanence is our fear about the fundamentally fleeting nature of all “Its”.  This includes our physical possessions, the healthy bodies of those we love, and our own body.

Just as the 7 Fears can be related to “I”, “We”, and “It”- so also can the 7 Treasures and the 7 Shadows.  It is interesting to me to notice how many of these 21 aspects can be related to “I”, or to ourselves.  In large measure it seems that we are most afraid of what happens or might happen within our own experience, more than we are afraid of other people or the world “out there”.  For most of us this may seem counterintuitive, as we are usually not aware of being afraid of ourselves.  Instead we tend to project our fears out into the world and then see them reflected back to us from other people and the shifting circumstances of our lives.  From that place we then get caught in patterns of reactivity, involving both aggression and avoidance.  When we stop projecting our fears outward onto other people and things, and recognize the inner source of our fears, we are in a better position to take responsibility and overcome them.

As caregivers it is important to confront our own fears, rouse our courage, embody our treasures, and be mindful of our own shadows.  This is important enough just for our own development, but it is also crucial toward understanding, empathizing with, and actually benefiting those we are trying to care for.  When the path to wellness and happiness seems to be blocked by invisible forces, when people can’t or won’t take another step toward what seems to us to be a better life, we could pause to contemplate the insidious influence of the fears of wellness.

This whole exploration of the 7 Fears, the 7 Treasures, and the 7 Shadows is the barest hint on the subject.  So much more could be said.  I have merely tried to sketch out a rudimentary outline.  Still, I hope I have suggested enough to stimulate further contemplation.  There are so many examples of these 21 aspects.  Consider them the next time you watch a movie or read a novel or biography, or move through your daily life.  It is my observation that people express different combinations of these basic possibilities in many fascinating ways.


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