How does your fear get triggered?

How does your fear get triggered?

What fears do you have?

They might be existential fears, or more embodied fears. They might be related to the future and things you worry about, or to past experiences that have upset or traumatised you.

In life, there are many situations that can lead to you feeling afraid in one way or another. Over the last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about fear. And about stress.


Stress is considered a modern ill, our response to the busy-ness of modern life, and to our inappropriate worrying about ‘dangers’ which are more mental and/or emotional than ‘real’ or physical.

After all, as we’re often told, we’re no longer really being chased by sabre-toothed tigers or in danger of dying of starvation. Instead, we might just have an unpleasant boss, or a nerve-wracking deadline, or worries about being judged by the PTA, or whatever other #firstworldproblem we happen to be dealing with.

That hashtag bothers me. It implies again that these problems aren’t ‘real’. And yet, our physical and emotional responses to these problems are very real.

On top of that, undeniably ‘real’ problems can also make you more responsive to those more intangible issues.

Lots of people have suffered some kind of trauma, big or small. There are still many situations that may create real fear.

The Roots of Fear

In the first year of my elder son’s life, we were rushed to hospital in an ambulance three times. He had four general anaesthetics in that same one year period. I’ve only had four general anaesthetics in my entire life!

Even after that, he used to hold his breath when he was sleeping, waking himself up as he gasped for air. It still happens occasionally, though much less since he had an operation to remove his tonsils and adenoids.

These were life-threatening situations, which have left us both with a form of hospital trauma, and a hair-trigger response to ‘threatening’ situations. It’s something I’ve been working on, for both of us, with tapping. It’s a work-in-progress.

The thing is, that hair-trigger response, generated by real issues, also responds to less tangible threats. And I think the same is true for many people.

Fear, Stress and Trauma

Even if you haven’t suffered an obvious ‘trauma’, there are also fear responses that are triggered in childhood.

At a young age, more things truly are life-threatening. For example, being abandoned by a parent, even if it is just for a few hours, can mean death to a child. In this world where parents are often expected to go back to work without their children after just a few months, that is something that many children are exposed to.

Rather than dismissing feelings and physical manifestations as ‘just stress’, it can be helpful to acknowledge the core of true fear that underlies stress. And then work to release it!

To that end, here is a spread to examine your fear, where it came from, what is triggering it now, and how to deal with and release it.

Fears Spread

Drawing cards to answer these questions can bring a lot of insight to your situation. You will find a sample reading at the bottom of this post.

You can also use the cards themselves, or the answers you get, in a number of ways. For example, you could use them to journal more deeply about your feelings. You could use them to inspire you in a tapping meditation, or for a spell (more on both of those below).

Magical Tapping

It might be really helpful to tap on the insights brought up by this spread. I have recorded a tapping video on releasing fear, which will help. However, it is always great to use your own words, your own situations, your own insights.

You might want to call on some energy to help you, too. What kind of energy this is would depend on your belief system. It can be really powerful and supportive to visualise this energy while using the Balancing Breath exercise.

One possibility would be to choose a supportive spirit: an angel, a unicorn, a deity, a spirit guide, an animal guide, a faery, an ancestor. Find what works for you.

Another possibility is to create a magical spell. I suggest some possibilities below. You could hold the spell in mind while doing the Balancing Breath. Or use a different method to achieve a trance state.

A Protection Spell

Here, you can see a spell I set up for protecting my family. I used the Mystical Lenormand (AGMüller, 2006), with the extra ‘mediumistic’ cards.

This was the Lenormand I used most before the Celtic Lenormand, and it just felt right with the Angel and Animal Guide cards as protectors. The Dog is the card my husband chooses as his significator, and I like the Bear to represent myself as protective mother (as opposed to myself as the Querent).

Obviously, this isn’t useful if you have a regular Lenormand deck, or if you’re more of a tarot person. I therefore also created a couple of other options, shown below, to give you some ideas.

In the Lenormand spell, done with the Celtic Lenormand (U.S. Games, 2014), I have taken the Lady as significator in the centre.

Around her are the Heart for emotion and love, the Dog for friends and loyalty, the Hill Fort (Tower) for institutions and protection, and the Cross for spiritual support.

You could read this as her being surrounded and supported by spiritual love and friendly institutions. Also, emotional loyalty and protection from spirit.

Obviously, choose cards that speak to you. You could also just take your significator from a tarot deck and surround it with oracle cards, or have it supported from above and/or below by just one or two beings.

As for tarot, the concept of a significator is one I find most useful precisely for this kind of spellwork. You could choose a card based on your situation (feeling trapped: Eight of Swords, feeling beset by money troubles: Five of Pentacles). More usually, people pick a significator based either on appearance, or by astrological association. There are cards for each day of the year in many systems. More simply, you can take the element associated with your star sign:

Aries, Leo, Sagittarius: fire

Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces : water

Gemini, Aquarius, Libra: air

Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn: earth

Then, pick a Court card based on your life stage: Pages for students and children, or the young at heart. Knights if you’re a teenager or feeling exploratory or impetuous. Queens for women or those who feel nurturing and empathic. Kings for men or if you are a leader or elder.

For example, here I chose the Queen of Swords as my significator – a nurturing Gemini.

Around her I placed the Empress for abundance (money can buy a good security system, if not love) and nurturing energy.

I added in the Knight of Pentacles. You couldn’t ask for a better protector, as he is loyal and true, steadfast and certain.

The Magician represents bringing magic into your life. He also has all the resources he needs at his fingertips.

And finally the World. She has different aspects of spirit around her, and that lovely wreath in a protective shape around her. She’s also doubled up on the Magician’s wand – double the power and double the magic 🙂

As you can see from these different options, you can find what works best for you. If you like, rather than following any of these examples, why not just look through whatever deck/s you want to use. Pull out whichever cards feel most protective and seem to suit your situation best.

A sample reading

Finally, I wanted to offer up a sample reading with the Fears Spread. Drawing from the Game of Thrones Tarot (Chronicle Books, 2018), here is my reading:

1) What real fear is at the root of my responses? – Wheel of Fortune

Underlying this fear is the deep uncertainty of life.

What will the next turn of the Wheel bring? It might be something desired, or something avoided. Either way, there is change, ambiguity, something to adapt to. The fear of the unknown is very human, and experiences of change can lay down memories of pain, sadness, anger and more. Even desired changes take some getting used to.

As I mentioned, with my son there were a lot of scary challenges at a time I had hoped would be filled with the joy of new life. All those hospital visits, the uncertainty of whether or not he’d be alright. He survived, but there have been many challenges as well as many joys.

Life is uncertain and ever changing, that is the truth. Yet how we experience and live that truth can vary a lot. I can see that I was left with a fear of change, ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

2) What current stress is triggering this fear? – The Priestess

This card fits at several levels. In this position, as my current trigger, it represents my mother.

She is the woman who taught me to read coffee grounds and use a pendulum as a child in the Seventies.

And in a reference to the Game of Thrones character, the words ‘a woman who ages unnaturally’ sprang into my mind. My mother has had some health issues over the last few years that have aged her very quickly. In her early seventies, she has become less active and engaged than my great grandmother who died at eighty nine.

This sudden downhill slide has triggered existential anxiety in me, as well as fears for my mother, for her health, for her safety, for her finances and my own. Yeah, lots of fears there!

3) What energy will best help me deal with this situation? – Queen of Spears (Wands)

Daenerys Targaryen is a wonderful choice for the Queen of Wands. Fiery and passionate, politically engaged, and willing to take risks for those she loves. She’s not one for sitting around wringing her hands,instead she faces her fears straight on.

I’ve felt a bit hopeless lately, with my mother. Last year I tried to encourage her to do various things that might help, to no avail.

This card tells me I need to start being proactive again. It’s not necessarily about getting my mum to do anything, but about getting myself moving again. And combatting the fears this has raised in me.

4) How can I finally release this fear? – Four of Spears

This is such a beautiful card! Flowers bloom abundantly over the arboretum of the Red Keep. There’s a real feeling of joy and celebration here, as well as the idea of creating a solid foundation on which to build.

For me, this suggests building a structure for myself, one that is joyful rather than fearful. I can do that in a number of ways. For instance, I’ve been meditating on unicorns, which is supportive and also playful – the opposite of fear. I’ve also been using that tapping meditation on releasing fear. And I’ve been using the balancing breath exercise while meditating on the Goddess. I’ve also been connecting more with friends again, after a rather Hermit-y month. Four pillars of joy to support me in releasing my fear 🙂

I’d love to hear if you try out the spread, or any of these tools.




  1. Beverly King on April 25, 2018 at 3:59 pm

    Worrying about the well-being of loved ones can make my fear go from a simmer to boiling over. The breathing techniques you shared are wonderful tools, and I will definitely try out this spread.
    I’ve worked with people who were so anxious they couldn’t manage a deep, relaxed breath, so I got a bottle of children’s bubbles with a small wand and let them focus on blowing bubbles. 🙂

    • Chloe on April 26, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      The bubble mix idea is a lovely one, Bev! I’ve done that with my elder son, but never thought to do it with a grown-up 😀 Hope you find the spread helpful!

  2. Ellen on April 25, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Thank you for this indepth post about fear, about all the ways it can manifest in our lives and where it might originate from.
    Fear is a constant companion of me and I try to get to know it better. Thank you for reminding me of the power of tarot spells. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried it.
    The spread is definitely one for my Tarot journal. Thanks Chloe

    • Chloe on April 26, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      I hope you do give the spread a go, Ellen! And a tarot spell, too 😉

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