The Fear Cure: A Book Review

What Dr. Lissa Rankin proposes in this book, is that you can reframe your relationship with fear so that fear can cure you. She suggests that fear is not something to avoid, resist, or bury- that it may be here to help you.

Being that this book is entitled “The Fear Cure,” you may assume that it is about curing yourself of fear.  Which is likely appealing, given that most of us would like to feel less fear, but this book is much more than another attempt to teach us how to control or lessen our fears.  What Dr. Lissa Rankin proposes in this book, is that you can reframe your relationship with fear so that fear can cure you. She suggests that fear is not something to avoid, resist, or bury- that it may be here to help you.  Her message is that “fear can be a messenger that wakes you up to everything in your life that is still in need of healing.”

Because Dr. Rankin is an MD, you might also assume that this book is about physical health or views fear from a researched based approach.  While both of these assumptions are true, The Fear Cure goes far beyond what your might expect from an MD who has previously written health related books.  Dr. Rankin deep dives into the psycho-spiritual side of fear, and this book may take you on a ride you didn’t anticipate, asking you to marry your cognitive mind and your intuition. Don’t worry though, the Fear Cure is not all woo.  Dr. Rankin uses research to back up many of her points, and incorporates exercises and actionable advice so that you can work with fear in your own life in a transformative way.

One of the distinctions that Dr. Rankin makes early on, is that fear can be divided into two different types, “true fear” and “false fear.”  True fear triggers necessary stress responses in our the body, and protects us by making us act when we are in danger.  False fears are all the fears that exist in your imagination, all the worries and what if’s, or fears of things that really can’t hurt us. This distinction is key, as we make our way through the book.

This book is divided into 3 parts that are meant to speak to different parts of you, the cognitive, the spiritual, and then a marriage of the two.

Part 1:  How fear can make you sick

This section of the book is where you get motivated by scientific evidence. Dr. Rankin persuasively shows how fearful thoughts translate in tangible negative effects in our bodies. In other words, she shows how fear can make you sick, which is a well-researched topic.  Also covered are the stress response, and how trauma can lead to phobias and PTSD.   The intention of this part of the book is spark the desire in you to stop letting false fear negatively effect your life and become open to how it may actually be a teacher in disguise.

Going back to the two types of fear mentioned above, Dr. Rankin argues that it is not life’s stressors themselves that make us sick.  It is the stories that we make up about these events, which trigger stress responses in our bodies and diminish our health.  The false fears are the one’s that have a cumulative effect on our bodies and damage both our physical and mental health.

So how do we change our relationship to fear? This is what Part 2 is about.

Part 2:  The truth about fear

Here we dive more deeply into true fear, vs. false fear, the small self and the inner pilot light. We are also introduced to the Four Fearful Assumptions, which are four limiting beliefs that are at the root of many of our false fears

The Four Fearful Assumptions are:

Uncertainty is unsafe.

I can’t handle losing what I cherish

It’s a dangerous world.

I am all alone.

These are beliefs that our small selves may hold to be true. When we believe these assumptions, we conclude that we must pursue safety, security and certainty at all costs. 

Rankin writes, “Not until the scientific revolution did the driving need for knowledge and certainty overtake our willingness to live in the realm of mythology, metaphor, and mystery. The quest for certainly initially helped us feel safe because we began to understand more about how the world works. This knowledge allowed us some understanding of science, so we no longer believed we were at the whim of uncertain, unexplainable, unpredictable forces, the way indigenous culture often did.  But this craving for certainty came with a dark side. We lost our tolerance for uncertainly and loss and led us to concluded that we lived all alone in a dangerous world.”

Do you think you have the power to go from fearing uncertainty to viewing it as exciting and full of possibility?  When you commit to letting life be your teacher, moving in this direction becomes easier because you can see that every uncertainty and challenge is a teacher that is moving you closer to your goal.

The big takeaway from this section is that we have the power to turn Four Fearful Assumptions into Four Courage Cultivating Truths:

Uncertainty is the gateway to possibility.

Loss is natural and can lead to growth.

It’s a purposeful universe.

We are all One.

Dr. Rankin states that when trying to shift from the “assumptions” to the “truths,” your cognitive mind will keep trying to talk you out of believing them because it is often governed by your small self instead of your inner pilot light. In the last chapters of this part of the book, Rankin appeals to the cognitive mind, making the case for the Courage Cultivating Truths, before moving on the the last part of the book, which focuses on trusting something greater than the cognitive mind.

Part 3:  The Prescription for courage

This section is about personal transformation.  To quote Dr. Rankin, “To cultivate courage in a sustainable way, we must begin to trust in something more. Perhaps you sense this thing outside yourself, (your version of God), or within, where you trust your higher self- the voice of your inner pilot light.” She states that if you do not believe in a guiding force that helps you stay aligned with your purpose, the cognitive mind feels like it has to stay in control and keep a tight grip. It will not loosen its grip unless it sees the evidence that it is safe to let go.

The Six Steps to Cultivating Courage are:

  1. Believe- Replace fear-inducing beliefs with courage-enhancing trust.
  2. Support- Seek out support from people around you- and offer your support to others.
  3. Intuition- Learn to trust your intuition in order to discern true fear from false fear.
  4. Diagnose- Identify what lies at the root of your false fear.
  5. Prescribe- Write the Prescription for Courage for yourself
  6. Surrender-Release attachment to outcomes and accept what is.

This section of the book has many different exercises for working through these steps and taking the journey to cultivate courage.

Rankin moves on to talk about intuition, how it feels, and how to use awareness to discern true fear from false fear. As research for the book, Rankin interviewed many people whose intuitive hunches protected them.  I am happy to see that the highly sensitive and accurate internal warning system that humans have, intuition, has a prominent place in this book. 

Overall, The Fear Cure was a really well rounded book with a perfect mix of science and spirituality, theory and exercises. This book has a surprising amount of really useful techniques that take you from not just looking at fear in a new way, but actually changing your relationship to fear and using it as a teacher. This is a book you want to own, highlight and refer back to.  I honestly think if readers take action by doing the suggested writing activities and other exercises, that a transformation will take place.  I am looking forward to incorporating Dr. Rankin’s work on fear into Wisdom Cultivators offerings and helping to move members from fear into freedom!

Thanks for reading.

With Gratitude,

Aimee O’Neil LLMSW

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Aimee O'Neil LLMSW

Aimee O'Neil LLMSW

Founder of Wisdom Cultivators

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