Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Religious and Theological Studies

First Advisor

Carrie Doehring, Ph.D.


Fear, Hope, Narrative, Pastoral, Theology, Trauma


Contemporary therapeutic circles utilize the concept of anxiety to describe a variety of disorders. Emotional reductionism is a detriment to the therapeutic community and the persons seeking its help. This dissertation proposes that attention to the emotion of fear clarifies our categorization of particular disorders and challenges emotional reductionism. I propose that the emotion of fear, through its theological relationship to hope, is useful in therapeutic practice for persons who experience trauma and PTSD.

I explore the differences between fear and anxiety by deconstructing anxiety. Through this process, I develop four categories which help the emotion of fear stand independent of anxiety in therapy. Temporality, behaviors, antidote and objects are categories which distinguish fear from anxiety. Together, they provide the impetus to explore the emotion of fear.

Understanding the emotion of fear requires an examination of its neurophysiological embodiment. This includes the brain structures responsible for fear production, its defensive behaviors and the evolutionary retention of fear. Dual inheritance evolutionary theory posits that we evolved physically and culturally, helping us understand the inescapability of fear and the unique threats humans fear. The threats humans react to develop through subjective interpretations of experience. Sometimes threats, through their presence in our memories and imaginations, inhibit a person's ability to live out a preferred identity and experience hope.

Understanding fear as embodied and subjective is important. Process theology provides a religious framework through which fear can be interpreted. In this framework, fear is developed as an adaptive human response. Moreover, fear is useful to the divine-human relationship, revealing an undercurrent of hope. In the context of the divine-human relationship fear is understood as an initial aim which protects a person from a threat, but also preserves them for novel future relationships.

Utilizing a "double-listening" stance, a therapist hears the traumatic narrative and counternarratives of resistance and resilience. These counternarratives express an orientation towards hopeful futures wherein persons thrive through living out a preferred identity. A therapeutic practice incorporating the emotion of fear will utilize the themes of survival, coping and thriving to enable persons to place their traumatic narrative within their meaning systems.


Copyright is held by the author.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Jason C. Whitehead

File size

321 p.

File format





Pastoral Counseling, Counseling Psychology, Theology