You Can’t Train Fear


Our puppy, Lily, was born a farm dog. The family that raised her lived on a mountain ranch so isolated that the roads to-and-from felt more like glorified trails. Elisa and I held our breath for over 7 hours as our minivan bounced along the mountain wilderness, where cell signal was never invented. We made it, covered in dust, and after acquainting ourselves with our four pounds of puppy, we braced ourselves for the trip home. We survived the trip out there, so we thought we could relax and trust that we could manage the journey home. But the Universe decided it was best to keep this adrenaline-fueled journey going with a dose of wildfires. I remember this image perfectly; Lily wrapped in a blanket on Elisa’s lap, the van careening down the dirt roads, and everything immersed in black smoke. The dramatic contrast of burning destruction all around us, with this sweet, small puppy sleeping peacefully, made it feel like we were escaping from the inferno with our promised dog. I don’t doubt that every difficult turn and bump along the road made us appreciate this new small Soul even more.

The following six months were full of heart-warming joy as she tumbled around the house with our two boys. The days were also full of wet stains in our carpets, chewed-up shoes, and bits of wooden furniture scattered around the house. But we all tolerated it with an almost serene equanimity because it was impossible to feel anger towards this adorable creature. Until one day when she bit our three-year-old.

Lily was napping on our couch when our youngest pounced at her with a high shrill. He was playing, but Lily must have thought a saber-toothed tiger was about to eat her. She bit him on the face, not hard, but enough to seriously damage their relationship. The three-year-old was afraid of her, and she was afraid of him. In the following days, she tried to nip him a few more times. So I called the nearest trainer. Growing up, I never had a dog, so navigating this was new territory for me.

The first trainer showed us how to establish the alpha role. “Stand up tall to your dog; speak in a deep and stern voice”, she explained. She also attached a collar, powered by remote control, that sprayed citronella into Lily’s face. As the trainer spoke to us, she continually pushed the button when Lily would do an undesirable behavior. By the end of her visit, Lily was shaking like a leaf and hiding in the furthest corner of our house. The nipping did not improve. I am not an expert in dog training; maybe there is good cause-and-effect reasoning to use this method for other dogs. But, my intuitive sense is that, like every human Soul, every dog Soul is unique, and for our Lily, this was not working.

So, we found a new trainer. This time I Soul journaled, and inquired into who would best fit our family. I also dialogued with Lily’s Soul and asked for her opinion on the matter. I was led to a woman an hour’s drive from us. I had no referrals, I knew nothing about her, but Soul was certain. The new trainer said something that revolutionized my, and my family’s, relationship to Lily. What she said also reframed something I intuitively knew about people all along. You can’t train fear.

The reality was, that when fear was active in our dog, we could not alpha-dominate it away. We could not sternly say “No, bad dog” to an animal that already felt she was under attack. I’ve found the same truth in Soul work. Wherever fear is still active in our bodies, we cannot forcibly will ourselves to heal. Often I see clients creating an inner, false-alpha voice. But it is Truth, not dominating force, which ultimately transforms us.
Most of us hold an inner place where we are unrealistically afraid–fear our lives will fall apart, our partner will leave, we will lose our job, or our friends don’t really like us. False-alpha-voice tries to take control when we are afraid. Our self-advice may even feel level-headed and practical; try to be happier in your relationship, work harder at your job, and tell more stories and jokes to your friends. But as long as the fear is present, we make clouded and unwise decisions. Our choices don’t lead us toward a joyful life, but to one in constant avoidance of a deeper-seated issue.

First, we must reveal the Truth; are we truly in danger? Our instinct to run is real in situations of abuse or physical danger. But most often our fears are illusionary. We sweat, grind our teeth at night, tense our muscles and live in a mild panic-attack most of our lives from fear that was over long ago. Our biggest mistake is we try to negotiate, medicate or train our fear. But fear cannot be dominated with more fear. We must locate the fear and bring safety to this place. Only then can we receive love and Soul direction about how to truly heal.

My Soul is an alpha, but an alpha of love. This is the distinctive difference between a false masculine and a Divine Masculine (read my blog about Divine Masculinity here- ). The false masculine part of ourselves attempts to control himself and others with no intuitive awareness of what Soul really needs. The true Masculine dominates with Soul’s love; his direction is not his own will, but one received from a higher source. He brings calmness and safety to the room. He allows Love to do its work through him.

We had to show Lily she was safe. We brought our three-year-old into the same room and monitored their play with hypersensitivity. Slowly, Lily figured out he was no threat, and the nipping ceased. Now they can play rough and tumble with no problem.

Once we solved the nipping problem, and Lily knew she was safe, we could continue training. I learned that Lily enjoyed training, with hyper puppy enthusiasm. Once she felt safe, the commands of my voice helped her trust me more. She found her place in our family. My favorite command is “RELAX”; she falls over to her side, in a joyfully submissive state, a true act of trust.

The Divine Masculine, part of ourselves, is the voice that gives us direction on how to move forward on our Soul path. He does command, but he only commands from love. Elisa and I call this the Divine marching orders. To receive his wisdom, we must first feel safe with him and have built a deep trust in our relationship with him. Once we trust him we can open to Divinity in new and miraculous ways.