phenomenology of fear (1)

Experience of Fear: "The Black Hole"

I just read Chapter 4 in a 2013 dissertation by Merlin B. Thompson, a musician and music educator [1]. This work is an excellent description of a phenomenological-hermeneutical inquiry into the practice of "authenticity" in teaching/learning experiences, but what most interested me is how the researcher was eventually confronted with what they did not previously in their 25 year career look at seriously or critically in a self-reflection. Thompson writes in Chapter 4, "I depart from the previous chapter's personal viewpoint to consider the implications of an additional concept that interrupted my research investigation into the relationship between authenticity and fear" (p. 16). 

I attach the dissertation for your reading, especially of Chapter 4 (and what Thompson comes to call "The Black Hole of Fear" experienced).

I end this short blog with a self-reflective discovery Thompson (2013) made: 

"Fear is not an abstract, objectified concept that somehow manages to superimpose itself upon an individual. Fear is the name given to intensely unpleasant, worrisome, and apprehensive real life reactions that individuals experience for themselves and about themselves. The individual's experience of fear acts like a kind of spotlight that illuminates or draws our attention toward characteristic features of who we are as individuals. Through fear--that is, the experiencing, addressing, overcoming, ignoring, and avoiding of fear--the individual gets important clues regarding one's self, no matter how accurate or inaccurate, noticed or unnoticed, complete or incomplete such clues might be. 

How we respond to fear gives us an indication of who we are as individuals....Fear stimulates or intensifies the individual's self-perception, not by validating or nurturing the individual, but by threatening or disrupting the individual's sense of personal safety and security. With the idea of fear as provoker of personal awareness and authentic disruption in mind, I return to the continuation of the above narrative." (p. 115)

"Looking back at my experience with the eruption of the black hole of fear, the subsequent recognition of a pattern of downgrade-downplay-denial, and finally the purposeful validation of fear as integral to my successful achievements, what stands out is that fear has played an ongoing role in my personal and professional life--much like a disruptive character who appears unexpectedly in the various chapters of my life narrative. More importantly, however, is the observation that the disruption of fear and my ability to accept fear into my life allowed me to develop both philosophical and practical resolutions to the uncertainty, insecurity, and failure associated with the experience of fear. 

Recognizing fear, not as an undesirable tension but as a characteristic of life, there is something appropriate, essential, and self-revealing about the experience of fear that speaks to who we are as human beings, to the individuals sense of self, to authenticity....fear functions as an agent of personal transformation. Fear operates as a catalyst for learning about one's self..." (p. 116)

[I am struck by Thompson's authentic self-reflection and vulnerability in disclosing their relationship to fear, and the turn around to realize Fear is so important to self-awareness and self-knowledge. This is confirming of Subba's philosophy of fearism. And, it reminds me of how the value of Love may also help this process of self-awareness and self-knowledge but Fear is at least equally important in that journey.]


1. Thompson, M. B. (2013). Authenticity, teaching relationships, and Suzuki. Unpublished dissertation. Calgary, AB: The University of Calgary.

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