Are hidden fears holding you back… without you knowing it? Once you’ve exposed a fear, you can find ways to deal with it, live with it, protect yourself against it…But first you have to find it.
The clues of fear are when you find yourself saying: ‘Oh, I can’t; I do not dare; should not; I do not owe; I couldn’t do that…I’d feel so embarrassed…I wouldn’t know what to say…They’d think I’m stupid…I might not like it…I miss my usual routine too much…food…environment . …’ You have many good, rational, sensible reasons for all these doubts, of course. But more often than not, what lies beneath is simply fear.
Fear is like bread. Nature developed it as an information system. When you encounter a saber-toothed tiger, you don’t need to think intellectually that those teeth could do quite a bit of damage. You run automatically. Fear prevents you from doing stupid things and mobilizes your energies to get to safety.
When someone you love is in danger, when you find a lump, when the plane drops a couple of thousand feet… then fear comes out, operating the way it’s supposed to. It’s horrible, but at least you’re able to face it and find ways to cope or live with it.
Troubling fears are the ones we don’t confront, maybe we don’t recognize or try to hide from ourselves, maybe we don’t even know about them. They hold us without us knowing why. When it comes down to it, most of the barriers in our lives are of our own making. And most of the reasons we create these barriers is fear. Very often, those fears will not be sensible or protective, but silly, artificial, essentially meaningless…based on a childhood hangover or false assumption. But as long as fear is hidden, you’ll never have a chance to find out how realistic it really is and put it into sensible perspective.
How to find hidden fears
Listen to your excuses. It is part of human nature to find good reasons for what we do, even when we are actually acting on pure instinct or thoughtless emotion. So fear tends to lurk behind a maze of rationalizations and excuses. This means that your energy is devoted to trying to deal with the excuses, rather than the fear that produces them.
For example, you say: ‘Well, I’m trying to get in shape, I want to lose weight, but…’? You don’t have time, you have back problems, it’s too much trouble to eat properly, you get really hungry, exercise is so boring, life isn’t worth living without chips and chocolate…
If you try to deal with these excuses at face value, you’ll probably find yourself playing the ‘Yes, but’ game:
You: ‘I can’t eat a low-fat lunch, everything in the canteen makes you fat.’
Dude: ‘They must make a salad, couldn’t you have that?’
You: ‘Yes, but I’m still hungry and I can’t work well.’
Dude: ‘Couldn’t you take something to work?’
You: ‘Yes, but I just don’t have time in the mornings.’
Dude: Couldn’t you cook it the night before?
You: ‘Yes, but I have enough to make the family meal at night…‘
And so on, indefinitely. Getting rid of one excuse only produces another. There is only one way to get out of this game, and that is to stop playing it. Just say, okay, so I don’t want to do this. Why?
Let your feelings guide you. The helpful answer to WHY you don’t want to do something, why fear stops you, is always going to be not verbal or intellectual, but emotional. Take a few quiet moments to imagine yourself in the situation you are avoiding and open yourself to the feelings it produces. Allow yourself to react physically. Do you tense up, curl up into yourself, wince, feel sick, clench your teeth, clench your fists? Read your own body language, and most of the time it will tell you that underneath your excuses and reasons why not…is fear.
Be specific. Be VERY specific… afraid of what? Don’t settle for an abstract answer, but focus on the details, so you can face it and plan for it. ‘Change is always terrifying.’ Precisely what aspects of this particular change are frightening, and why, and how might you deal with them? ‘I’m afraid of failing’ What exactly could happen if you fail? Would it really be so horrible? What emergency plans could you make? It could upset my family. What would they do? How would you feel if they did? How could you deal with your feelings and theirs? It would be terrible. Would the awkwardness of giving up chocolate, missing your favorite TV show, sitting down and writing that late letter really, seriously, be more than you could bear?
fix those What if? Their what if they are helpful pointers to underlying fears. For each one, ask yourself exactly what would actually happen. ‘What if… I get confused… I can’t cope… I’m the fattest person in the gym… I can’t go on a diet… I don’t pass the interview… they laugh at me, they don’t like me, they reject me, they find out I’m really not very good.’
So what would really, really happen if…? Are you afraid that people will laugh at you? Will everyone you meet really stand up pointing and scoffing? It’s more like a playground nightmare than a sensible adult concern. It might have been a valid fear when you were ten years old, but now? Are you afraid of failing? Everyone has failures, and you know it. It’s not fun, but it’s not the end of the world. You can’t succeed without failing, and you certainly can’t learn anything without failing. And so. Once you start parsing them, you can convert your what if within So what is it.
And once you’ve brought a fear out into the open, you can find ways to deal with it, live with it, protect yourself against it. You can prevent it from holding you back without even knowing why.
But first you have to find it.