I was having a conversation with my sister the other day and I told her I wasn’t afraid. I had nothing to be afraid of. I had faced all my worst fears and been defeated by them. This gave me a sort of invincibility. I had to deal with guilt and other kinds of debilitating feelings, but not fear.
I was wrong of course. Fear isn’t something you face and then it disappears. Fear is something that sits with you every day. Sometimes it is quiet. Sometimes it is excessively loud, but that’s its job. It’s an alarm system. It is supposed to alert you when something is off so that you can fix it.
I would love to be free from the excessive amount of fear I’ve carried around with me all my life. It would be great if I could just dust it off and it would be gone, but I can’t. What I can do, though, is learn how to turn off the alarm when it gets tripped up unnecessarily.
Feeling defeated by my worst fears in the past does not mean that the fears are gone, but it does mean that I have a new tool. I have a way to test misguided core beliefs that whisper to me that certain mistakes will lead to insurmountable catastrophe.
"They won’t." I can now say to those whispering anxieties after I finish listening to what the alarm is screeching. "If I make a mistake it won’t lead to catastrophe."
"How do you know?" The fear whispers back in a way that used to be impossible for me to answer.
“Because I’ve made mistakes far worse than this in the past and I’m still here. Life is still going. Nothing catastrophic happened.”
“But this time…”
I wait for it to finish. That intro used to be enough to send me reeling in my panic. This time, I would think, it was different, this would be it. I wouldn’t survive. My soul would be crushed, the pain would be unbearable.
Now I wait. “This time what?”
There’s no answer.
“What will I lose?” I ask the fear. “What will happen?”
The answers are usually small when they come back. “You’ll lose a few dollars or have wasted an hour of time. You’ll lose some one’s respect for you or have to adjust your plans.”
“And then what?” I ask.
“And then, then things will be different…”
“Things are always different. I want things to be different. I’ve been working to make things different.”
The alarm is done sounding. The problem is addressed.
Sometimes the fear is completely unfounded—a residual emotional memory of a faulty core belief. Sometimes it has truth in it and the alarm makes me reassess my decisions and come up with a plan to address possible problems.
That’s not a bad thing. That’s what fear is meant for.
So maybe the fear is not gone. Maybe I’m not really invincible, but I am stronger now and I have a better understanding of when and how to react to the alarm that goes off in my head and body and that’s a pretty good improvement.
We are all learning. I'm learning that fear can help me., but I don't have to let it control me.
Thanks for reading,