Dear Rabbi Wolf,

You often discuss the idea that anger stems from fear. I still struggle with this whole idea. I still have many questions that I'm not sure I can express clearly but I'll try. Here are the first two:

1. Why does fear produce conflict?

2. What if the fear or terror in a person's psyche comes from a truly terrifying experience in childhood?

If you could help shed some light on these I would truly appreciate it.

G.M. (Denver)

Dear G,

As you know, the tests that are placed in front of us are perfectly matched to meet the capacities of the individual who is being challenged. This is the way of the Divine mystery. So I know that I am speaking to a very special person who, through the insight you seek and also demonstrate, indicates to me that you are bound to succeed – despite your early childhood experience.

Fear is, more often than not, an unbalanced emotional response. It is both a symptom of, and also leads to, dislocation from the unity with life and the creative energies of the Cosmos. It is the antithesis of profound faith in the innate goodness of the Creator and the beneficent intentions of creation. Fear is its opposite. Being a dislocation from oneness it automatically leads to inner conflict, because the higher soul, the Nefesh Elokit (ego-less Self) is naturally connected to the true rhythms of creation, and has to struggle to overcome the Nefesh Behamit (the ego-self). Should the latter have the upper hand, then in that moment we lose faith, experience fear, and suffer the consequent inner conflict as the two tendencies conflict with each other. Such inner conflict can for example lead to relational conflict, as poor judgement removes the possibility of empathic and compassionate responses.

Childhood fears and hurtful experiences certainly provide an ‘unlevel playing field’. Why one person is thus challenged, and another is challenged in other ways is part of the journey of Gilgul HaNefesh (reincarnative journey of the soul). But our life’s experiences are the very triggers that allow us to draw upon much deeper, even hidden, personal resources. Not only will overcoming the challenge neutralise the fears and conflict, but will also enhance you in many powerful ways creating success and self-mastery. If you were to share the childhood experience with me I could perhaps advise you of the methodology you might adopt to achieve this.

Wishing you well and may we hear good news.

Laibl Wolf