Fear underlies everything we do. It runs our show from behind, driving us to choices we regret, opportunities we miss, often to the point of grief for what was or what could have been.
But the truth is that fear is not a reality, it is a “what-if”. Fear causes the paralysis of our natural progression — and is the cause of all failure.
Most of our fear is subconscious. Even though we don't realize it, fear drives the vast majority of our actions, behaviors, choices, even our life paths. These choices often lead us down a road that absolutely validates why we were afraid.
Choosing Within the Comfort Zone?
Fear begets fear. We make the same fearful choices over and over again, completely missing the fact that we are in a pattern of discomfort. And then we wonder why things aren't the way we meant or wanted them to be.
A lot of us choose comfortable discomfort. We choose within our comfort zone, which really isn't comfortable at all, but it is all we know and what we think of as safe. When things don't turn out like we expected, our fears are validated.
Exercise: Identifying Your Fears
A word of warning: this exercise takes honesty. It's not about getting the answers right; it isn't a test. At the same time, it does require a hard, honest look at painful experiences you've had. This isn't about reliving the pain, or even wallowing in it. This is about allowing your own experiences to help you understand some of the root causes underlying the choices you've made. What brings you to repeat hurtful patterns? What have you been fighting all these years? What are your core fears? As painful as such contemplation may seem, try to approach this from a curious perspective. This exercise is intended to help you recognize the parts you play when fear presides over your life, and to show you how to truly free yourself from fear.
To do this exercise, carve out some time in a private space where you won't be interrupted, and have a pen and blank paper handy. You're going to want to allow yourself to think of experiences that make your guts jump. You know the feeling ... that lurch in your chest or your belly. The very experiences you don't like to think about — because they hurt — are the experiences that can best help you.
Usually when we have experiences that are uncomfortable, it's easy to blame those experiences on someone else, or on something we felt we couldn't help at the time. But this exercise isn't about what anyone else might have said or done. This exercise is only about you — your feelings, your reactions, your needs.
So here we go. Let yourself think of experiences that bring up that lurching feeling. Write down the first one that comes to mind. Not who did what or said what, just the experience. Here is an example: "I was in a relationship that didn't work out. He/She left me with no explanation and went on to someone else. I found out later that the new relationship had started while he/she was still with me." Write maybe three sentences saying, simply, what happened.
Now look at what you've written. What were the emotions you felt at the time? What had you been afraid would happen that happened anyway? Write those down too. If you look more closely at what you've written, see if you can whittle down your feelings into one or two words that succinctly describe your fears.
For the relationship example above, you might identify your core fears as:
- fear of abandonment
- fear of betrayal
Now try another. Another example might be: "Everyone ganged up on me over something I said, and I tried so hard to fix it. But I was shunned anyway, and ultimately pushed out of the group."
Core fears for this experience might be:
- fear of judgment
- fear of rejection
- fear of abandonment
The goal of this exercise is to name the fears that drive you to do things you wouldn't otherwise do. For instance, imagine you were the person pushed out of the group in the example above. What fear might have caused you to "allow" the people in the group to push you away when you still wanted their acceptance? Why didn't you, or couldn't you, express your feelings and intentions to try to save the relationships? You may have slinked or faded away without objecting, or dug your hole deeper by shouting your hurt, or anger, or both. There was nothing wrong with what you said to them; others in the group just used it as an opportunity to gain false power. But there you were, fighting tooth and nail for them to accept you. And here you are, years later, still hurting over it while they have gone on with their lives and probably don't even remember the event.
Go to the next event in your life that brings up that awful physical feeling. Repeat the process until you have addressed all of the situations that you can think of.
Core Fears: Patterns That Have Been Running Our Life
When you are finished, look over the fears you wrote down. You will find that the same words repeat over and over again. These are your core fears. Now that you have recognized them, and owned them, you can let them go. Have compassion for yourself for allowing these fears to run your life, and make a pact with yourself that you are done with these fears.
The next time the patterns start to come up, you are more likely to recognize them — and choose from your power rather than your fear. Oh, and have a sense of humor about it. Laugh at yourself when you find those fears creeping up!
Learning to be unafraid frees us to experience our lives to the fullest potential. Further, when we are not afraid, we can communicate with others honestly and fully. A lack of fear allows for open communication without editing!
©2009, 2012 by Meg Blackburn Losey, Ph.D. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Weiser Books,
an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC. www.redwheelweiser.com
The Art of Living Out Loud: How to Leave Behind Your Baggage and Pain to Become a Happy, Whole, Perfect Human...
by Meg Blackburn Losey Ph.D.
About the Author
Meg Blackburn Losey, Ph.D., a national and international keynote speaker, is the host of Cosmic Particles internet radio show. She is the author of numerous bestselling books. She is a regular contributor in many magazines and other publications. Visit her website at www.spiritlite.com.