The Fear of Knowing

As mothers in a modern Information Age, we are inundated with information from every direction. Yet, very little of this “information” is truly valuable to us and our families. As mission driven moms, our job becomes to filter through this information and find the most essential principles that will build a strong family and home. And, of course, Freud was right when he said the most important knowledge we need is knowledge of ourselves:

“To be completely honest with oneself is the very best effort a human being can make.”  ~Sigmund Freud

This is so critical because it’s only when we see the truth about ourselves, our lives and our families that we can begin to take steps that will create permanent change. But this is precisely the truth we most often run away from — it means we must admit that we’ve been in the wrong and face the pain of our own shortcomings. 

In this podcast, though, Abraham Maslow – creator of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – assures us that although we fear knowing — knowing the truth about ourselves, our families and the world — although it requires work and effort and although it means we have to change in accordance with the truth we find, we have a dire NEED to know!  

“If you’re going to reach your potential, if you’re going to be a mission driven mom, you must know.  You must know all about yourself, you must know about your children, you must know the principles, you must know how to live them, you must know what God is asking you to do.  And you have to let go of that FEAR…and submit to that NEED to know.” ~Audrey Rindlisbacher

Listener’s Guide:

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast. 

0:57  Introduction to Maslow
5:31  The power of knowing oneself
9:03  Fear of weakness
11:46  Fear of greatness
18:45  Knowledge for decreasing anxiety
24:00  Avoidance of knowledge as avoidance of responsibility
26:29  Knowledge is essential

Quotes from this episode:

“Freud’s greatest discovery is that the great cause of much psychological illness is the fear of knowledge of oneself.” ~Abraham Maslow  

“To be completely honest with oneself is the very best effort a human being can make.” ~Sigmund Freud

“We have discovered that fear of knowledge of oneself is very often isomorphic with, and parallel with, fear of the outside world.  That is, inner problems and outer problems tend to be deeply similar and to be related to each other.” ~Abraham Maslow


“In general this kind of fear is defensive, in the sense that it is a protection of our self-esteem, of our love and respect for ourselves.  We tend to be afraid of any knowledge that could cause us to despise ourselves or to make us feel inferior, weak, worthless, evil, shameful.” ~Abraham Maslow 


“But there is another kind of truth we tend to evade.  Not only do we hang on to our psychopathology, but also we tend to evade personal growth because this too, can bring another kind of fear, of awe, of feelings of weakness and inadequacy. And so we find another kind of resistance, a denying of our best side, of our talents, of our finest impulses, of our highest potentialities, of our creativeness.  In brief this is the struggle against our own greatness.” ~Abraham Maslow

“[Women who are] truly searching for an accurate picture of themselves, paving the way for increased influence over themselves and in their homes and communities.  We cannot grow to the extent that we don’t have knowledge.  One of the most important pieces of knowledge we really need is the truth about ourselves.  When we see ourselves…truthfully, then we can get to work.  When we understand what we need to do, what that work is, we can take tremendous strides in a short period of time.” ~Audrey Rindlisbacher  

It is precisely the god-like in ourselves that we are ambivalent about, fascinated by, and fear of, motivated to and defensive against…Every one of our great creators, our god-like people, has testified to the element of courage that is needed in the lonely moment of creation.  This is a kind of daring, a going out in front all alone, a defiance, a challenge.  The moment of fear is quite understandable but must nevertheless be overcome if creation is to be possible.  Thus to discover in oneself a great talent can certainly bring exhilaration but it also brings a fear of the dangers and responsibilities and duties of being a leader and of being all alone.  Responsibility can be seen as a heavy burden and evaded as long as possible.” ~Abraham Maslow


“[Knowledge] makes the person bigger, wiser, richer, stronger, more evolved, more mature.” ~Abraham Maslow

“The adult human being is far more subtle and concealed about his anxieties and fears.  If they do not overwhelm him altogether, he is very apt to repress them, to deny even to himself that they exist.  There are many ways of coping with such anxieties…to such a person, the unfamiliar, the vaguely perceived, the mysterious, the hidden, the unexpected are all apt to be threatening.  One ways of rendering them familiar, predictable, manageable, controllable, unfrightening, and harmless, is to know them and to understand them.  And so knowledge may have not only a growing-forward function, but also an anxiety-reducing function, a protective homeostatic function.” ~Abraham Maslow

“Anxiety and timidity, not only bend curiosity and knowing and understanding to their own ends using them so to speak, as tools for allaying anxiety, but also the lack of curiosity can be an active or a passive expression of anxiety and fear.” ~Abraham Maslow


“This close relationship between knowing and doing can help us to interpret one cause of the fear of knowing as deeply a fear of doing, a fear of the consequences that flow from knowing, a fear of its dangerous responsibilities.  Often it is better not to know, because if you did know, you would have to act and stick your neck out…It was certainly safer for the Germans living near Dachau not to now what was going on, to be blind and psuedo-stupid.  For if they knew, they would either have had to do something about it or else feel guilty about being cowards.” ~Abraham Maslow

    1. To grow
    2. To weaken and dissipate fear and anxiety
    3. To engage in right action
    4. To take responsibility

“All those psychological and social factors that increase fear will cut our impulse to know; all factors that permit courage, freedom and boldness will thereby also free our need to know.” ~Abraham Maslow 

Challenge from Audrey: 

Ponder these 3 questions to become more of a person of knowing:

  1. What have you been afraid to know?
  2. How can you begin to learn the truth about yourself, God, and the world to a greater extent?
  3. How can you overcome the fears that hold you back from the knowledge you so desperately need?

Book from this episode