Fear is a Thought Monster Ruling the Peanut Gallery in Your Head

Fear is a Thought Monster Ruling the Peanut Gallery in Your Head

One of the greatest awakenings I’ve had recently was that the fear I had held on to the tightest, the fear of being abandoned and alone, had finally broken free. This is what happens when we lock away our fears instead of facing them as they come. Eventually, like a cyst festering for years, it bursts, and when it does, it’s usually messy and gross.

My entire life I have feared being abandoned because I wasn’t good enough. I worked hard to be the best at everything and to please everyone I could so they would love me. I put on the mask of warrior goddess and wore it well. I wielded a mighty sword so swift and piercing that people were afraid of my wrath.

Outwardly I appeared strong and fearless, while inwardly I was a cowering child. The thought monsters I conjured were evil and menacing, and to cover up my fear, I judged others harshly for their weaknesses. I rarely cried, I never allowed myself to feel pain, and when it hurt so much I couldn’t handle it, I lashed out uncontrollably. Then I hated myself even more for my weakness of feeling, hated that I was afraid of anything.

What Movie Is Your Brain Playing?

How often in your life have you avoided doing something because of the terrifying story you concocted in your head? Maybe you avoid flying or swimming in the ocean (amazing how the film Jaws forced many of us back on to the beach).

Our brains are very convincing; we’ve learned to tell ourselves the story of fear so well. Our brains don’t even know the difference between what’s happening outside of us and the wild tales we’ve conceived all on our own. The brain lights up the same and the body reacts in tow as if it’s “real.”

Once belief sets in and the habit is formed, our bodies be damned — they can’t change it. I’ve lost count of how many times I have played out a scenario in my head and watched my body begin to sweat and my stomach tie up in knots. All because of a movie playing in my head that had nothing to do with reality.

Living for that Next Adrenaline Rush?

I can admit that sometimes I’ve gone ahead with the conjuring of the thought monsters even though I knew I was doing it. We begin to like our fears, and our ego steps up to hide them, protecting them like children so we don’t have to face them and risk losing them. We begin to feel safe with our fears because our body is used to them.

Isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results? I mean, it’s sort of absurd if you think about it. It defies logic, and yet we still do it over and over.

We humans with our wild imaginations can take a molehill and turn it into a mountain in a nanosecond. Hey, we like the chemicals our fears release, and there is no rational reason given to us to change something that seems to feel so good. Who stops something that feels good, right? I know damn well I am going to regret that second helping of ice cream, but I take it.

The Peanut Gallery in Your Head

We create clever ways of hiding our fears, and we give birth to a cacophony of voices that will reinforce all of the reasons why we should keep on hiding, why we should be afraid so we don’t forget to. Soon, we become ruled by the peanut gallery in our head.

They are those little voices that egg you on as you head to the freezer to grab the caramel pecan ice cream for a three-scoop “snack,” creating a masterful set of justifications as to why three scoops won’t be bad — you’re going to yoga class tomorrow, you need it, you’re in a shitty mood, he didn’t call, and why should he, you’re not worth it anyway, of course you didn’t get the job, you’re not really good enough for it anyway, so go get the ice cream. It will make you feel better.

All the while there is another voice in our heads, the judge, and although we think it’s on our side, it really isn’t. The judge is sort of like the tongue of a serpent — lashing in and lashing out. Judging us and judging everything outside of us that doesn’t fall into line.

The Story on the Inside & the One on the Outside

Fear is a Thought Monster Ruling the Peanut Gallery in Your HeadWe live one story on the inside and another on the outside. On the inside we just want that ice cream because we’ve told ourselves (with the help of the peanut gallery) it’s the only thing that will make us feel better. Our judge stands back mocking us, calling out the cellulite on our thighs and the glaring fact that we couldn’t get the job because we don’t have a college degree.

That same judge is the first in line to judge others around you who might point out some of those fears you’re so desperately trying to hide, a judge and jury all wrapped into one. Give them a quick wit and a sharp tongue and you’re dangerous. The judge can call you out on your shit, but no one else can.

If you grew up with brothers and sisters, you’ll remember how your siblings could punch you in the stomach at will. However, if anyone outside the family threatened you with a cold knuckle sandwich, your siblings were the first to jump in and squash that outsider like an ant on a picnic table. I can mess with my brother, but you can’t. Yep, that’s our judge.

Being the Judge & Jury & the Condemned

Our fears tag on to our beliefs. No one will love me because I’m not worthy of love. Fear of being unloved begets an outward appearance of not needing love, which in turn sends a warning to the judge and jury in our heads to hand down a verdict on anyone or anything that dares raise a finger to confirm our own fears.

Face it: it’s a whole lot easier to judge others than to look at ourselves. And when we do finally look, the judge turns on us with a vengeance, reminding us why we are unworthy of love, so we decide rather quickly not to do that again. Like a child burned by a stove, we are scorched by the searing heat of the self-hatred we put upon ourselves.

This may seem over the top. You may be thinking, “I don’t hate myself.” Now, I’m nothing if not dramatic, but I can honestly admit to you that I have hated myself. After admitting that to others, I have found that many of us have felt that hatred at one point or another.

Self-Righteousness: Holding On To Beliefs about Right and Wrong

Okay, so you don’t have to admit hate, but ask yourself how tightly you hold on to your beliefs about right and wrong; ask yourself how often you judge those who don’t agree with you or seem to have the ability to see right through you to where your fears are hiding.

There is nothing more satisfying to our judge and jury than self-righteousness. I have become judgmental of people who don’t have judgments against themselves, maybe because I want everyone to be like me. It will make me feel better . . . probably. But I’d be willing to bet that the loudest in the room to scream, “I love myself!” is probably lying.

Fear is a thought monster we conjured out of false beliefs we took on because we didn’t know any better, and judgment is the weapon we use against ourselves and others to protect our fears.

©2014 Betsy Chasse. Reprinted with permission
from Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing.
All Rights Reserved. www.beyondword.com

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Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World  --  by Betsy Chasse

Tipping Sacred Cows: The Uplifting Story of Spilt Milk and Finding Your Own Spiritual Path in a Hectic World  --  by Betsy ChasseAward-winning producer of the sleeper hit What the Bleep Do We Know!? Betsy Chasse thought she had it all figured out...until she realized she didn’t. She didn’t know anything about happiness, love, spirituality, or herself...nothing, nada, zilch. She dissects the fragile beliefs we all hold so dear.

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About the Author

Betsy Chasse, author of: Tipping Sacred Cows (Photo credit: Mary Lou Sandler)Betsy Chasse is an internationally known author, filmmaker and speaker. She is the Co-Creator (Writer, Director, Producer) of the film "What The Bleep Do We Know?!" and the author of several books including Tipping Sacred Cows, Metanoia - A Transformative Change of Heart and the companion book to BLEEP, Discovering The Endless Possibilities for Altering Your Everyday Reality. She also enjoys blogging for Huff Post, Intent.com, Modern Mom and other sites. Chasse continues to make provocative films.