Ask: Is the fear of death behind all upsets?

“Like the other 7 billion people on the planet, every day I am offered opportunities to play out and examine my guilt in a myriad of ways. In the past I would ride the emotional runaway train into bad moods, depression, inertia, despair, rage against self, others and the world. After studying the Course for a number of years however, I handle all this differently. After processing the details of the upset up to a point (which may include acting out, feeling lousy etc.), I ask the question: "What is REALLY going on here?" The answer is always the same: There is a fear - make that terror - that if I don't find that missing sock, undo that faux pas I made that day, clear up that medical issue, put that person in his place etc. etc. - I will be cast aside and obliterated. (I know it sounds insane, even insanely funny, but think about it the next time you experience an upset.) So I ask: ‘Is the fear of death behind all upsets?’" – ES

Actually, you had it at the beginning of your question: Guilt is behind all upsets. If you believe that you are guilty you expect, and may even feel that you deserve, punishment. This is the source of your fear. It just so happens that for you the punishment that you fear for your guilt is to be “cast aside and obliterated”, which is I guess how you define “death”. For others, the punishment they fear may be something else. For example, fear that they will lose a loved one, or go broke, or reincarnate and go through another life, etc. Sometimes it is just a nebulous fear that “something bad will happen”.

Your practice of allowing your emotions to process and then asking yourself what is really going on is a good one. It is not comfortable but it is a positive step to be in touch with the guilt and fear as they really are. This must come before you can begin to undo the guilt and therefore the fear of punishment.

Guilt and fear in their myriad forms are the chief obstacles to peace and undoing them are the primary work I do with clients. My digital book, "Releasing Guilt for Inner Peace" is available for only $5 at or You can learn  more about mentoring or my books at


Unknown said…
Thanks,ES and Liz. This has been very helpful. I get stupid thoughts about being special and this a constant bugbear. The idea that is all about fear and guilt and to do with being "cast aside and obliterated " is quite an eye-opener to me. I need to let this nonsense go ! Happy dreams everyone ! George.
Anonymous said…
Each one is special but it depends on to whom and what extent. When one pleases a frivolous crowd or a great personality, there is an orgasmic excitement for a few moments, which is followed by long periods of lonely anguish. If one can relate in plain language in a fun way to a few people around, it can make one feel more grounded and special. Without getting in to etymological confusion by the terms 'special' and 'great', being great only gives a temporary delusion of happiness and is not happiness. Those who crave greatness or specialty may have received conditional love or may be lacking normal close relationships.
A major error in relationships is regarding oneself as a star around whom all others must orbit around like planets and satellites. If each one regards this way, how can there be any relationship? It is also true that one alone knows one's most troubling problems for which a period of solitary self-care is daily necessary.
yvette said…
thanks for sharing
ES said…
I submitted the question for this current article. Following Liz's reply I followed it up with a mentoring session and then a few more q&a with Liz in emails. I have since formed the opinion that acim is as much a high level program of psychotherapy as it is a spiritual path. The key takeaway for me in this discussion is the following quote from Liz's reply above:

"Your practice of allowing your emotions to process and then asking yourself what is really going on is a good one. It is not comfortable but it is a positive step to be in touch with the guilt and fear as they really are. This must come before you can begin to undo the guilt and therefore the fear of punishment."

And the key phrase from that quote is:
"This must come BEFORE [emphasis mine] you can begin to undo the guilt ...."

Maybe others out there have felt, like me, that acim's message is too grandiose and inaccessible compared to what we actually experience on a daily basis ie. living in a world of attack and defend; living with a fear of punishment either specific or vague. This split between the promise of acim and life on the battlefield can be a source of consternation and - if not examined - become yet another source of guilt if one compares oneself to some lofty standard.

So what to do? Far be it for me to tell others how to practice the Course but I personally gave up reading the original Course texts years ago. Attending group classes is also out. I also gave up on the workbook lessons after about 90 of them. I've ratcheted down my expectations to where my practice at this time consists of practicing some form of the 4 Habits and contemplating my feelings as they come up or maybe later and "fact-checking" them. Do they make sense or are they simply another outgrowth of guilt? As Liz says euphemistically, "This is not comfortable."

This is a long, daunting process with no place for shortcuts or magical thinking.

ES said…
Which is not say that you can't have fun while you're at it!
Christine said…
Love your P.S. there! (ES)
B. Dixon said…
wonderful share. it is true that the fear of death is one of the fears which we can't ignore anyway. but still there are some fears in our life where we are not able to control ourselves.
Frank C said…
I love this conversation... the only thing I can add is that it has helped me to be sure to ask JC or the HS to look at my guilt with me... for me, it has made it so much easier, and has been a great catalyst in my healing process... NAMASTE

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