PC #42 – Fear is Pain’s Oxygen

Fear is pain’s oxygen.

Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of disappointment, fear of lack, fear of pain itself.

The pain I got on the Camino, when I think back on it, was fuelled by fear. I was scared of the Pyrenees. I was scared of not completing the walk. I was scared of failure. I was scared of letting myself down. I was scared of letting others down, those who believed in me and my capacity to do what I set out to do.

My fear gave my pain oxygen. It allowed it to breathe, and grow.

Fear also fuels anger. And pain LOVES anger. If fear is pain’s oxygen, then anger is its gasoline. Anger ignites pain. And rising from those raging flames, like a fetid black smoke, are injury and illness.

If I can rid myself of fear and anger, then I can rid myself of pain, injury and illness.

The Camino has helped me begin that process.


27 thoughts on “PC #42 – Fear is Pain’s Oxygen

  1. The Camino has helped you begin, and if you only ask, God will walk with you til the end-the time when the pain is gone, wellness enfolds you and fear shrinks back to the tiny fantasy it always was.
    I really believe that what you have shared about fear so openly today, is going to help more pilgrims than you can imagine, and for a long, long time.


  2. Whoa, two great quotes and the discussion is just getting started!

    “Fear also fuels anger. And pain LOVES anger. If fear is pain’s oxygen, then anger is its gasoline.” Boy, ain’t it the truth Bill… ain’t it the truth!
    “… the time when the pain is gone, wellness enfolds you and fear shrinks back to the tiny fantasy it always was.” Well said, Sister!


  3. Bill,

    Now I have a better understanding of you adamantly stating that you refused to walk in fear a few times in our interchanges while you were walking. I don’t really think I feared anything as I went with a pretty open mind and committed to just do whatever seemed right at the time. Even when I decided to book rooms a couple of days ahead, it was not so much out of fear but just not wanting to spend my days wondering where I would sleep and I knew that I would. I never gave much thought to what others would think if I decided to quit, as you know, and I did quit, as you also know. If anything I was more interested in what others might think when I decided not to quit. Like I have said, my Camino had more twists and turns than an Alfred Hitchcock movie.



    • Hey Steve,

      Apart from your anguish in believing you didn’t have a commitment, you seemed relaxed. And you didn’t get injured…




  4. Hi Bill
    I agree fear and anger can be very useless, negative, destructive emotions when they are misplaced. They can also be natural, useful and life saving in certain situations. I think it’s a bit of a quantum leap to think by not ever allowing these emotions their rightful place that we can avoid pain injury etc. Or conversely if someone is not well it is their fault for allowing fear and anger into their thinking. You sound like you are blaming yourself for your leg pain. Maybe it is fear of the unknown that is more of a problem now. After all once the doctors can explain what you are dealing with, you will feel much better, accept whatever the situation is and get on with things. We can handle most things so long as we can identify the problem.

    Good luck with the leg and the book Bill…… And thanks for the blog!


    • Hi Debbie,

      You raise some valid points here, because of course there are any number of people who get sick and / or injured who didn’t become so because they were angry or fearful.

      I’m not saying that one is automatically a natural consequence of another.

      And also I think it’s hideous to blame someone for getting sick or injured because they were angry or fearful.

      I’ve seen that happen for instance with people who come down with cancer – others might say: “Well of course he / she got cancer because she was always so angry.

      That’s not right, and it’s not fair.

      And I’m sorry if you took that interpretation from my blog.

      My blog always comes at a topic or theme from my own personal perspective. I hope that I don’t ever step outside of that personal specific, because I don’t feel that I have the right to.

      I don’t use this blog to be a guru, or the holder of all wisdom. I’m not. Never have been, never tried to be, never want to be. I’m a bloke who, like all of us, is asking questions and trying to find answers.

      All I know is that from my point of view, and based on my experiences on the Camino, my fear added to my tension, and my tension I believe aided my propensity for injury.

      I’m glad you raise these issues though because that in part was what the blog was designed to do – get a debate going about the possible link between fear, anger, injury and illness.

      I know some people who strategically use anger to further their goals. I can see that sometimes it works, but I think the collateral damage can be significant – both to the angry person, and to the people with whom he or she interacts.

      I used to do it, making films. A film director on set is allowed to be angry. It’s almost expected of him, or her. But ultimately I found it to be counterproductive. And destructive.

      Anyway, thanks for posting your comment – and thank you for the well wishes for both the book and my foot / knee.

      About to have an MRI shortly. That’ll be fun!



  5. Recently I had been thinking about your fear posts. It occurred to me that the main reason we lock our cars when we go to the supermarket (or wherever) is out of fear that they will be stolen. SO I stopped locking my car. It was oddly freeing. Not that I was ever “living in fear” over this issue.
    Unfortunately, it did not help my son, who locked his bicycle up at work two nights ago and had it stolen by a bolt-cutter-wielding crim! I guess locking cars can also be done from a sense of stewardship too;-) (or is this wishy-washy situational ethics at play???)
    Question for you: is sensible caution actually a reaction to fear of some kind?


    • Hi Rachel – good points!

      While I was walking the Camino, I had quite a bit of steal-worthy stuff. Camera, iPad, iPhone, cash, credit/debit cards etc.

      I never left that stuff out of my sight! In fact at night, I put them all into a bag and put them down the bottom of my sleeping bag.

      Had the stuff been stolen, I would have taken the view that the person stealing it obviously needed it more than me. And I would give them my blessing.

      Now there are people who might think that I’m stupid thinking that way, but that’s just the way I’ve come to think about loss and theft.

      I always lock the house at night. I don’t put the alarm on anymore, which is something I used to do, but I still lock the doors. And I always lock my car, even in my driveway.

      Am I living in fear of loss of my possessions? Possibly, although I’d like to think I’m being sensible.

      Does that answer your question?



  6. Bill, thanks for this post. I love the description of fear and anger. so powerful.
    Fear is a force which can be a very negative one. If we feared the consequence of a decision, we would never make decisions and possibly never succeed or progress. If we feared what may happen, maybe we are choosing our path, as was described in your blog recently. Healthy concern is possibly what causes us to lock doors, mind our possessions, take precautions for personal safety. This concern is perhaps more about the consequence for others. If there are people out there who lurk around looking for trouble and we make it easy for them, they may think this is an easy way to get what they want and target the vulnerable, elderly, very young etc.
    In saying that, I have expressed my concerns about my forthcoming Camino. Now I ask myself.. is this fear? what am I creating?
    Thankyou again Bill, for yet another wonderful opportunity to ask myself some serious questions!!
    Hope the tests went well for you.
    BTW, my right knee is giving me hell today. My question – am I creating the pain through worry? Guess I will have to work out in the next few weeks.


    • Hi Anne,

      Thanks for the detailed post.

      You’ve raised some tricky things – and it’s always dangerous for anyone to comment on someone else’s metaphysics! I can comment on my body, because I live in it. But I’d be loathe to comment on your situation, because only you can read and interpret the signals accurately.

      Just to say though that if I were to have my time over again, I’d have gone to the doctor about my knee some months before the walk. I foolishly thought it would come good with a little brisk walk over the Pyrenees!

      So I’d suggest you get the knee seen to. Don’t make my mistake.



      • Bill,why do we do that-just grin and bear it through a injury or health problem?Do we think on some level we need to be stoic for “our own good”? Our body is trying to tell us, “Problem Here”,and instead of taking responsible care of an injury, we pretend to ignore it! We all do it-I tried more than once to walk off a broken bone, ans succeeded in making it worse.Worst thing is, I’ll probably do it again!


        • Dear Sister – so true. I thought my knee would get better, but I knew deep down it wouldn’t. But then for a period it did – and then it reverted to its old cranky ways again!



      • Bill, my knee is a long term project. I first saw my wonderful ortho about 10 years ago and on subsequent occasions over the past few years. He is loathe to do anything about it until I am “older” unless it becomes unbearable. [Remember, I am already over 60]
        I am sure it was the result of kneeling on cold floors to say the rosary when I was in boarding school, many, many years ago. Sister, I hear you laughing!

        I know that walking does it good once I have moved through the initial pain. I think the problem at the moment has been the additional stress of walking on pavements [ Brisbane], worrying about family matters and worrying because I haven’t done enough walking.
        Anyway, I am home now and have 9 weeks of training to get things sorted.
        PS – Will try and find my post and repost it if you want. Probably not that important as it is already past history.


        • Dear Anne,

          Sounds like you’re doing all the right things with your knee. And nine weeks is long enough to get it sorted.

          Getting closer though – you must be getting excited!



        • Anne, as soon as I read that, I could feel the cold floor crunching my weird kneecaps. From the time I was an adolescent, every time I walked up or down stairs, you could hear a crunching sound-still can- from my kneecaps passing over the bone .I could never sneak up on anyone! I knew girls who swore their knobby knees were caused by those Hail Mary ‘s.


    • Anne, No matter what you have to do, get the knee totally operational before embarking on the Camino. Bill plunged through with his, but he is also still having some problems. Many people have to stop and that is a lot of disappointment and a lot of wasted funds. I am a big believer in having “perfect” health before you go, or at least know exactly what you are dealing with and the probable consequences. Just my feelings. Steve


      • Good advice Steve.

        It’s one of the things I would have done differently –

        that said, I really didn’t know my knee was going to be such a problem. In the training before, it had only ever presented once or twice as being problematic. But the demands of the Camino really put it under pressure.



  7. hi Anne –

    I was fiddling around with the settings on my iPad and I think I might have inadvertently deleted your wonderful post.

    I’m trying to find it, and restore it. But if I can’t, do you have a copy? And are you able to post it again?

    Sorry about this – I am so low tech sometimes!



  8. Having removed myself in my mid 20ies from my family and friends (only because I was a total travel nut and didn’t worry about the future … too young … too stupid … too ignorant??) and ended up living on the other side of the world, I have found that since I was/am essentially on my own, whatever I am confronted with, so long as I give myself time to think through what is happening and what might happen from the very worst to the very best, I can live with the consequences of my actions, or whatever life throws at me, knowing that I won’t be too surprised! It’s a life mantra that’s helped me through some serious ups and downs, and also does in terms of the sorts of fears you succumbed to, Bill, on the Camino. I know not everyone can be as resilient or stupid! but it works for me πŸ™‚


      • britta –

        just re-reading your post – you weren’t stupid or ignorant doing all the travel you did as a youngster. It made you what you are today.

        I have always encouraged my children to leave home and travel – there is nothing better to open young minds up to issues such as racism, poverty, discrimination, etc..

        I think it is wonderful you managed to travel so much when you were young.



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