Fear can eat us up and shrink us down if we let it, but fear can also be a bridge to a stronger and deeper sense of ourselves if we brave the darkness. Such is the lesson to be learned in this TED talk by Karen Thompson Armstrong about the sinking of a U.S. ship, the Essex, with 20 sailors aboard in 1819, 3000 miles off the coast of Chile. Struck by a huge sperm whale, a hole was torn in the side of the ship. The men abandoned ship and huddled in little boats with no idea of how to navigate their way home thousands of miles away. Fear threatened to consume them as they gave in to a hopeless story of their fate. Imagining the worst possible fear, they took a riskier route home and ended up creating the very thing they had feared most. Had they “read their fears” with more coolness of judgement, they might have been steered on a more successful route for finding their way home. Their fateful journey is a lesson for us to remember so that we can listen to our fears as stories that can form our reality and to carefully consider how we are creating our own futures by what we fear today. When we listen with reason and intuition, we open up the possibility of finding our way to the best possible outcomes within our imagination.


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  • Read about five true stories of survival at sea in our times and the lessons to be learned for everyday life.
  • Learn more about how our fears can create reality and how to use our imagination to see a brighter future. 
  • What fears can you face so that you can transform the story of your fear into an outcome that is lifegiving? Practice seeing a better outcome in your imagination. 

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