A few of my thoughts on this.
I think what Wexler experienced is mainly due to one's desire/will that is put into the working/spell not being exactly what one had in mind when having the desire/want/need. The powers that are put in motion, I think, are quite literal and not discerning in the witch's desire, in other words - what one puts into motion is what one gets. The old cliche 'be careful what you wish for, you may just get it', is very applicable in the craft.
In Wexler's example about facing her fear(s), that is what happened. The spell put forces into motion that resulted in things she fears being put before her - most likely not exactly what she had in mind though. Probably what she had in mind (and I'm just assuming here) was to not be afraid any longer of what she presently fears. Along that line of thought, one would have to be more 'specific and literal' in the spell, and make sure it is really what one wants in as many respects as one can think of. Also, not being fearful is not quite the same as no fear. A reasonable level of fear I call 'caution', for example, I want to go into the forest at night and not be afraid is well and dandy, but to enter without research and taking pre-cautions could get one killed in the forest. I think that doing this research and taking the precautions is the precursor to not having an incapacitating fear of something. There will still be risks, and that's where contingency plans can be assistance.
One last thought on the matter - it happens to both new and experienced witches, but probably a little more often and intense than that of experienced witches (now)...and that my dearies is how one gets experienced, LOL (although it sure helps to have a mentor saying - I wouldn't do it exactly that way if I were you while wagging his/her index finger at you, lol).
The emphasis above is my own. This I very much agree with. A lesson I need to learn is how to set the correct energies in to motion, not to do whatever "seems right" and trust that I have tugged on the right threads. For me, there is a distinct difference between intuition/deep feelings and my conscious mind saying "this is probably a good way to get these results." Unfortunately it is easy for me to confuse the two.
When I got my big girl panties on and said "I'm going to face my fears," probably what I intended was a short and relatively painless episode where I simply gained a deeper understanding of my fear and therefore conquered it. Instead I literally have been put in front of my fears and I get to find my way out, like tossing a kid in to the pool to teach him how to swim. So yep, I did not at all think ahead. In the end, this is probably the much better way to really confront your fears. But the fact still stands that I got myself in to something without realizing the consequences, which is not an admirable thing to do.
Thank you, Wexler, for this post! I must admit, I have not thought too much about the bad, unintended consequences of spells, promises, and declarations of intent. I have been thinking lately about how if one tells the truth and only speaks the truth then simple words can hold tremendous power. One can actually create things! I have always found this point to be a place of relief, peace, and excitement. I have used this power a couple of times in the past to create some wonderful changes in mine and my wife's lives. After reading your posts and the comments, I will now put much more thought into the dangers as well. Thank you!
I have a great story about creating things with the power of words and thought, without using actual spells. I find it to be highly braggy (and a little unbelievable) though so it is not always the best to share. At the end of the story, everything went perfectly and there were no downsides or disasters. So I don't believe that every project or new experiment will implode, or that everything has to go wrong. Just some things, some times, will inevitably not work and you have to sort out the mess. Just like in any skill. I guess the main difference is that in cooking, disasters are contained in the kitchen - in witchcraft, the disaster zone is our entire lives.