Fear: An Uninvited Guest
A few days ago, my wife called me on her way to work because the car was no longer running smoothly and the ‘Check Engine’ light had become illuminated on the dashboard. Being a complete amateur in the car department, I quickly searched the Web to see if I could pinpoint the problem and offer some type of assistance. No luck. Instead, I am instantly filled with fear at the seemingly infinite possibilities that could have caused the problem and the realization that this is going to be expensive.
Fear comes in all shapes and sizes. The unknown can be a terrifying thing because it can be quite difficult to feel safe and secure when we are out of our element or things fall outside of our control. When situations like this come up where we don’t know what to do or are unsure of what is happening, it isn’t unusual to feel scared. Sometimes fear can become part of our daily routine and will extend beyond our sense of wellbeing and affect our body, heart, and mind. It can keep us stuck in awful places because the alternatives often appear like worse possibilities. Fear can be devastating.
What if people reject me after getting to know me? What if they don’t like me? What if I fail miserably in this new project I’m taking on? What if I can’t love my spouse enough? What if I hurt them? What if they hurt me? What if I can’t provide for my family? What if the people that love me need more than I have to offer? What if I don’t have what it takes to make it? What if I lose, or suffer set backs? What if this hurts me?
This is fear: Fear of rejection, fear of failure, and fear of isolation. Like many of you know, these types of fears have a longer shelf life than some of the obstacles we face here and there that produce fear. I know it because I have lived it. I didn’t need to Google the topic to come up with the questions in the last paragraph because they are questions I have asked (either consciously or unconsciously). I know I am not the only one because many of my clients have expressed these very fears in therapy.
It takes an incredibly courageous vulnerability to explore fear. To really explore the meaning we make behind these questions we ask, and the thoughts that swirl in our mind. To wonder aloud what it says about me if one person rejects me or if I fail in a new project. Not surprisingly, just the thought of exploring the theme of fear can create more fear (i.e. what if I don’t like what I find out?). It takes true vulnerability to willingly explore regardless of what we might potentially find.
Fear is what started my own counselling journey some years ago. I found myself so utterly afraid of being hurt that I did not let anyone close. I couldn’t be rejected if I rejected others first – it felt like the perfect game plan. The part of me that had been hurt loved this strategy because it felt safe. But, there was this other small part of me that longed to be close to others and to be fully known. That part of me knew that I deserved more and that I deserved better. It also knew that I could handle whatever I discovered about myself. And it knew that fear had diligently protected me for many years but was no longer needed in my life.
I knew I had to change my relationship with fear: I started listening to it instead of avoiding it at all costs. I learned how to be curious about what it was trying to say and I learned to be compassionate towards myself when fear came restlessly knocking at my door. I learned back then and I am continuing to learn today. It isn’t about eradicating fear but discovering new ways of being in relationship with it – this is how fear’s power becomes lessened. And this is the work that we undertake at Re.Pose: helping you come along side of fear so you can hear its message and what it is wanting for you and your life, and thus helping you meet that very important need. It isn’t always easy but I have personally learned that it is worth the risk, and the work.