Overcoming My Fear of Bears (Part I)

Grizzlies in water
Teenaged Grizzlies (Copyright Linda Jo Hunter)
I’ve had a terror of bears all my life. The first time I saw one, I was three years old and fell deathly ill.

Ironically, my older sister is a bear expert, serving three seasons as a grizzly-viewing guide at a lodge in Alaska and writing a popular book about her experiences. She took this picture at close range. (!!)

Karma? You bet! But decades later in life, I still hadn’t overcome my knee-melting, stomach jolting FEAR at the very thought of bears. Until last week.

I was born with this phobia, of course. My studies of past lives told me that, but I also have evidence of the early onset of the fear from my own experience in the present lifetime.

When I was about three, my family of six took a camping trip into Northern Michigan, visiting Sleeping Bear Point near Traverse City. All I recall about that trip is a memory of sharing a pup tent with my sister, with my two older brothers in another pup tent, and certainly my parents must’ve had a larger tent for themselves, although I can’t see it in my mind’s eye. What I can see in my tunnel-view of memory are black bears, with their hideous light-brown noses, poking around in the garbage dump near the campgrounds. Everyone thought it was a wonderful sight, and foolishly encouraged these creatures to eat their castoffs. While they were all taking photographs, I was collapsing and dying inside.

I’ve been told that I got so sick, my family had to end its trip to get me back home. I recall nothing of that; as the energies of my psychic memories poured into me, I’d probably already “died.” I was, as we say in my little past-life therapy community of two, “reliving a death.” Not really an oxymoron; it’s a very real phenomenon that leaves you half out of body, half in, but can also be one of the most healing moments of any given lifetime, wherein you confront again the energies surrounding the death of one of the physical bodies you’d inhabited long ago.

As Joseph’s famous song says, “We’ve all died many times—but it still hasn’t killed us yet.” The trauma surrounding some deaths will last lifetimes, and each time those energies come around again cyclically (we tend to recreate circumstances in our present for this purpose—especially if we’ve launched ourselves on a path of spiritual/evolutionary healing and growth), we can chip away at that negative impact a little bit by approaching it with a new state of mind. But better to share my experience than to try to explain the abstract principles. You can think about those later.

Throughout my childhood, many of my nightmares involved bears chasing me. Once I’d seen one, apparently from a fairly close range, the psychic phobia was triggered. Even photographs of bears turned my insides to jelly. I couldn’t “bear” to look upon those horrid faces! The shape of a bear’s head simply gave me the deep heebie jeebies.

As years passed and my beloved sister got more involved in her ambitious outdoor career, becoming first an oceangoing yacht captain, I was in for more bear exposure. All too soon in my opinion, she landed a job as crew on an Alaska-bound naturalist cruise ship. Suddenly her little rental house was filled with gruesome books about bear attacks. She was trying to overcome her own concerns about brown bears—grizzlies, as the rest of us know them. So her approach was to read every single gut-blasting account of a person whose skull had been chewed upon by a massive, furred monster in the wild woods somewhere, while they remained alive to hear the bones crunching. And survived to tell these things. !!!

Yes, of course, I picked up that book and read the accounts, until I couldn’t stand it any longer. Did it cure my fear, as it apparently did for her? No! It turned my brain white inside and the rest of me fell away from my awareness.

Eventually, I recovered from that psychic shock and she went happily off on her boat tours, spotting grizzlies as well as enjoying the usual Alaskan natural wonders. I never wanted to hear how close she got to bears on that trip. Many years later, she and her husband took their summer jobs in Alaska, and you can read the rest of her story in her wonderful book (even I liked it), Lonesome for Bears: A Woman's Journey in the Tracks of the Wilderness.

Learning a little from her about their personalities and fishing habits and views about humans helped me lessen my phobia a slight amount. I could now appreciate them from a safe distance of many thousands of miles. But I still couldn’t stand to look at her paintings and photographs of them for more than a few seconds (sorry, Linda Jo). Okay, maybe I can stand this painting a little longer; pretty impressive brushwork, eh? (shivers)
Bear painting copyright Linda Jo Hunter
Painting copyright Linda Jo Hunter

My most significant “close bear encounter” (close enough for me!) happened during my early years with Joseph. We were living in a house that had a long hallway leading to a door that led to the garden. I was sweeping that hallway one day with my back to the door when Joseph came into the room, got a look of sheer horror on his face, and pointed to something above and behind me—and I collapsed into hysterical sobs!

Soon we were both weeping as the images poured into our minds from a previous lifetime and we, between gulps, shared with each other our flashback visions of what had happened as the scenes played out in both our minds. (We were actively involved in past-life therapy at that time, had studied all the ins and outs of the energy principles behind this, and were quite well-prepared to receive these psychic visions, supplied by our Cosmic Co-Authors, as I here refer to them.)

In the past life images we saw, I was standing in a cleared homestead field with some farm implement in my hands instead of a broom—probably a hoe. From the woods behind me emerged a rather large grizzly, which is most certainly what my deep unconscious believed Joseph was pointing at in the present. He was actually only pointing to warn me that the open door behind me was about to blow shut, but his movements and silence echoed the very same thing he’d done in the past, triggering both of our past-life memories.

What happened after that in the past life is thankfully unclear to me, but we could guess, because the next thing Joseph recalls is that he, at about three years old himself, was left utterly alone with the dead or dying body of his mother. He thinks the bear came back, and perhaps that’s when I actually died or my body was consumed. Whoever his father was, he was not with us at the time—perhaps on a hunting trip? How did the three-year-old survive all alone? We aren’t fully aware, but he knows that he did, and went on to further adventures in that lifetime.

For years, that was all I knew of that scene. Of course, I always assumed it was simply a very aggressive bear that came out of the woods to eat me. And that the depth of trauma surrounding that particular death had a lot to do with leaving behind, alone and seemingly helpless, my toddler son. Shudders.

Oddly enough, my phobia did not instantly disappear with that past-life flashback, as sometimes happens. If anything, the fear might have gotten a little worse with the knowing, although the tears we shed did release some of the negative energy—perhaps saving me from a repeat of my childhood illness, and Joseph as well.

This is a tricky thing about working with past life healing that many people forget: Just knowing is not always enough. You have to do something to change the energies into a more positive oscillation in your psychic anatomy. Sometimes that takes more time, and the application of an interdimensional understanding. You can actually reattune yourself to a past life and, without the healing changes, make yourself very ill indeed, or even die or lose your mind. Seriously. Not a thing to be toyed with.

So I tried to apply all I knew about changing around the negative energy-impact of that past-life shock. We went to the Natural History Museum and I tried standing in front of the stuffed grizzly raised up on its hind legs. Shivers. I managed not to vomit. I suppose that was progress?

I’ve tried watching cute and excellent movies about bears, animated and otherwise. I barely remember them, as I think I must’ve sat there with my eyes on the screen and my psychic self out-of-body again. But perhaps this also helped chip away at the fear? Adding more positive associations with bears?

A few years later, Joseph and I sponsored a Visionary Writer’s Retreat at a bed and breakfast in southern California. We met a lovely couple there who served as wilderness guides near Banff, Canada, taking groups on horseback into the famously spectacular scenery. They were delighted by our group of writers, and offered to take us on a real retreat, to write in nature unsurpassed. They assured me that they carried high-powered weapons to deal with any offending grizzlies and not to worry. I couldn’t make myself take up this rare opportunity, although I read all about the area and sincerely tried.

When my sister’s book came out, I read and enjoyed it from cover to cover. My stomach still churned, especially looking at the photographs. But I kept looking, and kept trying to view bears through her perspective. It helped a lot, but only from this safe distance.

So when Joseph proposed that we were going to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park last week, where black bears are common among the giant, ancient trees, I nearly fainted from anxiety.


I believed that with the strength of my phobia, any step into a bear-infested wood would most certainly mean I’d draw them right to me. After all, that’s the interdimensional energy principle: what you fear, you attract. That’s what had kept me out of the woods all this time!

Reading about the park online didn’t help: it only made me dizzy and nauseous and shaky. Every bit of literature we received from King's Canyon with our reservation receipts included large pictures of black bears with warnings and advice and so on.

But I knew it was time to get over this! It had become a block that was keeping me from enjoying something I love to do, having grown up in bear-free woods in southern Michigan. Now, living in California, it was hard to find forests without them. So I pulled out all my new tactics of energy psychology and started tapping.

I visualized that inevitable encounter, the bear lurking behind the trees, as I tapped acupuncture points. This time I did not use the extensive tapping protocol we learned in Eden Energy Medicine, but the simple Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) pioneered by Gary Craig (The EFT Manual). It’s easier to do for oneself, so I could do it late at night when the fear started to rise in my stomach every time I thought of the trip. I tapped every element I could think of.

Meanwhile, my sister and her husband came through San Diego on their way to a winter in Baja (quite a gal, huh?) and we chatted a bit. They of course thought we should rent an RV and camp in the park, but we’d (thankfully) already decided on staying in the lovely John Muir Lodge in Kings Canyon.

My only problem would be getting the food from the car into the hotel safely in the dark when we arrived. Terrifying to read the park rangers’ advice about this! They said bears would definitely break into our car if anything smelly were left inside, even cosmetics. My psychic brain downloaded its fear-info from my past life and said, “But won’t they come out of the woods and chase us into the hotel, as the raccoons once did to me in Yosemite valley in midwinter?”

I’d learned a lot of  safety tips from Linda’s book, as well as insights into bear behavior. Now I realize that my deadly past-life encounter was probably my fault, not the bear’s. I can guess that I raised that rake or hoe to him in absolute motherly terror to protect my child, and the bear took up the challenge. If instead I’d look away, avoided confrontational eye contact, pretended I didn’t see him, and quietly moved myself and my child back toward our homestead, it’s possible he might not have attacked. Perhaps, back in those days when bears weren’t squeezed into the tiny remaining wild places, he wasn’t so hungry as to become an intentional woman-killer (and Linda raises doubts that such a thing has ever existed).

So perhaps he’d been drawn by something growing in our field, or the smell of food in our home. Perhaps things might have ended differently. If he’d found me dead and already rotting, well, then I’d be, as they say, “fair game.” But to take down a live human? So I must’ve provoked him, and one swat from a giant bear paw can kill a person simply because that kind of bear-discipline only works if you’ve got a tough hide and lots of fur, right? It works well on bear cubs. Humans, however, should avoid inciting that kind of bear-training. And so on and so forth. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps …

That is my mind, adjusting the remnants of this past-life traumatic death, the energies of belief surrounding the incident. That is a part of my healing. And I’m grateful for it! But the final testing of all that I’ve learned since I was three years old was yet to come.

Coming in Part II: My Bear Encounters in Sequoia National Park*

(* Please "bear" with me. When this second post was transferred from an old site, I opted to keep the photos from the original. That meant I couldn't increase the type size or clean up the formatting problems. If I touched it at all, my original photos would be lost. Thank you for your understanding.)