By AFEA member James Bartlett


When we think about fear, it is important to not immediately think of the negative connotations of the emotion. Fear is absolutely essential to our survival, and without it we would walk into many calamities or even fatalities! It is what keeps us safe and protected. This is an appropriate fear that everyone should feel as a natural defence system when danger is near. It is a deep rooted, animal quality that we should remember is there to our advantage. Without fear there would be no excitement or sense of adventure and we would be much poorer for it. Fear of failure can motivate us to be successful whilst fear of loneliness can prompt us to make new relationships. A healthy water element leads to a balanced approach to the presence of danger that in turn requires the mind to work quickly and effectively.

However, when we look at fear in an inappropriate or imbalanced point of view, the feeling of fear, or total lack of fear, can be devastating. When inappropriate fear spills over, it permeates the mind, causing terror, anxiety, hysteria and many other problems. Equally, when someone feels no fear to a situation of danger, they can also be in harm’s way.

The quality of water is concerned with the right amount of reserves within. It keeps us balanced, and ensures we only use what we need to survive, especially in winter. The thought of running out of reserves would naturally inspire a great amount of fear for our future survival. When we think of that within a person, the fear of not having enough to survive or support our loved ones would drum up enormous amount of fear. This fear would drive us to use our reserves with more care. However, in someone with an imbalanced water element, this terror may be so extreme that the future is all they can think about. What will they do to survive becomes their most important focus, and the result is extreme anxiety on a grand scale. On the other hand, because in Chinese medicine there is always ‘another hand,’ the person could become totally careless in using their reserves, and not take a moment to think about what they will do when the reserves run out. They may put themselves in life threatening situations, enjoy thrill seeking experiences, and be the dare devils of the world. Taking risks that could potentially harm those around them and themselves is common is someone with an imbalance in water.

When fear is heightened to the point of being harmful, the bodies response is to increase adrenaline, increase heart rate, start sweating and muscles tighten. The entire body responds to fear and can result in panic attacks in the mind, and damage the spirit, making the person fearful of everything. The intensity of the emotion overwhelms the mind. People have developed ways of hiding their fear, so it may be difficult to diagnose this imbalance. However, small telling signs of agitation, flinches and wide eyes can all be clues to how the water element is preforming within someone. Quite often, fear ca be very visible within someone’s eyes. Someone with an imbalance in water may find it very difficult to take in any reassurance that is offered. Someone with a fear of flying will be terrified no matter how many times they look at or are told the statistics of there being a problem. Someone with a fear of spiders cannot be reassured even when it is known that the tiniest spider cannot cause any harm whatsoever. The fear becomes irrational and cannot be touched with words of information. People with water imbalances can often find it difficult to trust other people, and they may be wary of people’s true intentions, and may become paranoid.

When fear has been managed to a point, consciously or unconsciously, the person may become very good at perceiving imminent problems or dangers and putting plans in place to avoid them. They become very good at taking risks and doing things that stimulate the adrenal glands that the fear is suppressed within them, often not even being thought about. Someone who invests a lot of money in something unknown, or gambles their last money away, has become very good at hiding their fears, and may be described as lack of fear. These people can also search for the thrills of life, and may seek our experiences that stimulate those feelings of exhilaration. This excitement can often lead to recklessness, without a care for themselves or others.

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