Fear has been my companion ever since I can remember. My default reaction to anything is pretty much: fear.
Fear in different forms and different flavors.
Guilt as Fear
Judgment as Fear
Anxiety as Fear
Insecurity as Fear
Sadness as Fear
Lethargy as Fear
Excitement as Fear
Hope as Fear
Fear to me, is the base, the stock from which all other emotions borrow their foundation, their main substance yet all representing a different nuance of fear.
I’ve worked with fear many times and I have made many improvements. I’ve done things I never thought I was capable of and continue to push myself to do so. To not let fear dictate my life and living.
And yet, somehow, fear has a way of creeping up and seeping into my reality over and over again. Some people say that Fear is simply a part of life and all that is required is that you keep pushing through it.
I do not accept that Fear is simply a part of life. After all, we all get squeamish and anxious about different things. We have moments of absolute peace and we have moments of absolute petrification. One moment we are in the grasps of worry and in another, we’re trying very hard to control our bladder as we’re consumed with laughter
Fear is not a constant, it’s something that gets activated under certain conditions. We can make Fear a constant when those conditions are constantly present.
Within this post, I’m exploring a constant fear – a fear that is with me, day in and day out, moment to moment. Not always active, but nevertheless there, dormant, nestled inside my body along every fiber of my tissue creating a constant tension.
I looked at this fear and realized how it’s always here. It’s constant. The only other constant in my life is: me. Somehow I am creating the conditions for this fear to be ever-present.
Then I looked at instances of fear activation from the past days, weeks, months, years – all the way back to childhood and asked myself what these fears had in common.
What I saw is that I never feared the situations or scenarios themselves. What I feared were their implications, the meanings I had assigned to each one of those situations.
For instance, if I fear to approach a stranger – it is not the physical act of walking up to someone, opening my mouth and speaking that I am afraid of. I walk and talk all the time at home or with people I know. I will fear this instance over other physically similar instances because of the implications I’ve attached to it, the meaning I have assigned to the possible outcomes of such an interaction (eg. ‘I am not likable’)
Furthermore, I noticed that what I actually feared was a form of confirmation. I feared interacting with another, or others interacting among themselves because this could create a certain outcome or result which to me would confirm or deny a set of beliefs and definitions I had given to myself.
This is a sort of confirmation bias at play where I would constantly fear the worst-case scenario where I would be confronted with a situation that would blurt out at me ALL THOSE THINGS YOU FEAR ABOUT YOURSELF ARE TRUE!
Where I’d then sink inside myself thinking ‘I knew it, all those horrible things about me are true, I really am inadequate, worthless, weak, …’. Or maybe the outcome would actually reject my preconceived beliefs and definitions and maybe I have a moment of relief, only to be followed by ‘this is too good to be true, they’re probably just trying to be nice to me – there’s still plenty wrong with me.’
But all these and definitions, have been the same ones from childhood.
‘I am inadequate’
‘I am powerless’
‘I am weak’
‘I am a burden’
‘I am insignificant’
‘I am worthless’
‘I am to blame’
To me, these were ‘natural conclusions’ derived from certain events in childhood. That I was being treated as these words in fact and that this was an accurate reflection of who I am as a person, as a being. Yet, when I have to be brutally honest with myself, I can see that those conclusions as assigned meaning were choices and decisions I made about myself in those moments.
When someone lashed out at me in anger, I could have assigned a myriad of meanings to that.
Anything from ‘Wow, that’s loud’, ‘That person has anger issues’, ‘This is crazy’ to laughing at the absurdity of what is taking place.
But I didn’t assign any of those meanings to what was playing out. I was very specific and very selective about which meanings I assigned and why only those ones. Because on some level, I had already decided that they were true. No one forced me to take on these meanings. I assigned these and consequently built my whole life and reality around these meanings.
I then also looked at the nature of the experience of these fears, where they feel like a complete body take-over, like my body is being ‘possessed’ by fear. In my behavior and interaction with others, I could also sense this possessive nature, as I would interpret behavior and events in a way that ‘prove’ that they are treating me in a way that is ‘less than’, and then would fight and argue that I am RIGHT in interpreting their behavior and words this way, that they’re deliberately diminishing and demeaning me. Even after some talking and explaining that this was not at all what was happening, I will still insist that this was the case and that ‘they’re not telling me the whole truth’. Isn’t that funny? That I would fight over the fact that I am being diminished and demeaned, even when others are showing me it is not the case? That I actually WANT this to be true?
These meanings I have assigned to myself and to certain situations don’t serve me at all, yet I fight tooth and nail to hold on to them as being ‘true’ at all costs. In reality, they’re serpents with forked tongues, causing much polarization and separation – yet I hold on to them as if they’re the most prized treasure in the world.
In this, I experience a repeat of the traumas I went through in childhood. It seems that events and people are drawn to me to recreate the same scenarios again and again. For the longest time, I took this as proof that how I see reality ‘is in fact so’ – but what if all that is happening is that I am being presented with the same scenarios over and over again as an opportunity to see the meaning I have assigned to myself and others, to evaluate these meanings and change them. To see the reality of a situation for what it is, rather than the meaning we give it. Yet within this, we can still assign meaning. But this meaning is the ‘Who am I going to be within this?’
We can make our self-condemning beliefs come true and ‘be truth’ by deciding on it and living it. But they’re not absolute truths. They’re only true and alive because we decided to make it so, because we animated them with our very breath, thoughts, words and deeds. But they’re not ultimately true. And if they’re not ultimately true, wouldn’t you rather decide to live words that serve you instead of demean you?