Category Archives: Fear

Change happens.

So here it is, Lisa-Jo Baker gives us a one-word prompt, we write on it for 5 minutes.  No extreme editing, no rethinking, no backtracking.  Then we go back and encourage someone that posted before us by reading and commenting on their post.  Today’s word is: Change

Ready, set, write! (Yes, I actually do set myself a timer)

Change is inevitable.  We can’t stop the change.  Each second, each minute something about our universe has changed.  And we can never go back to the way it was.  But, oh, how we try.  We cling to “what used to be” even when the final shreds of hope disintegrate in our hands into nothingness.  We can try and fight it, or stubbornly sit on our rear-ends, but no matter how hard we try, things are never going to be the same again.

We CAN embrace the change in it’s inevitability.  We can choose to go along for the journey and see where change takes us.  We can choose the path of destiny and fulfillment.  Hope lies not in the palm of tightly gripped hand, but in the freely thrown up palm reaching for the heavens in an accepting gesture.  We can instead hold on to the steady rock that keeps us safe in the darkest nights, in the fiercest storms, in the lowest valleys.  We can hold fast to the knowledge that change brings healing, hope, a future, a peace that we have never experienced before.  Lessons are learned when we embrace change.  Loss is part of life.  Hope is part of heaven.

Stop!

So there you have it.  Enjoy!

 

It’s up to you…

A life coach told me soon after meeting me that I was “visionary.” I just can’t help but see the “big picture” pretty much everywhere I look. I can see the good and the bad all at the same time. This can be frustrating if I see something (or someone) headed in the wrong direction. This can be useful if I am planning something. I can choose to use my personality trait for good, or for evil. In the words of Mr. Monk, “It’s a gift, and a curse.”

Personality traits are like that, a gift AND a curse. You and I were pretty much born the way we are, we didn’t have a say in the matter. We are like lumps of newly formed clay, ready to be shaped by family, time, and circumstances. Very occasionally that shaping forms a near-perfect human that can manage life well. But mostly, we turn out slightly misshapen, with an oddly placed handle here, or a slightly twisted rim there. Then we become adults. All of that molding and shaping that had been going on by the people in charge of us comes to a screeching halt, and, well, we are what we are.

Do you feel like this inside?

Then, we go through the fires that hardens the clay and solidifies the shape we were when we stepped into adulthood. Because life is like that. Trial by fire. Will we survive, or won’t we? Sure, we have to accept ourselves for who we are, and so should our loved ones. But, I truly think that this only goes so far. It’s hard to be around someone with an anger problem. It’s hard to keep throwing paddles and a boat out to someone who is stubbornly (yes, I say “stubbornly” because you and I can choose to be despondent, or not) stuck in a pond of despondency and despair.

We start to feel the the moments that the oddly placed handle gets in the way, causing all sorts of problems. We feel embarrassment when the slightly twisted rim keeps spilling the liquid inside at all the wrong times. Sometimes whole pieces fall off, or we are dashed to the tile floor and break. In many cases, people throw up their hands after several failures and say, “I’m never going to change!” We are what we are, right? Why bother trying? Well, yes, and no.

The truth is, we can’t change our genetic inheritance, but we do have a choice in how we use those traits: we can choose to stay the way we were shaped, or we can choose to, effectively, start over by smashing up the broken vessel and getting some fresh clay. You already have the ingredients you need: personality traits, learning experiences, belief systems, relationships, and etc. You can decide which ingredients you are going to use, and which you are going to throw out. You can decide how those personality traits will manifest in the real world. In other words, you decide who you are and how you behave. You get to choose the colors and the shape. That’s right. Shall I say it again?

YOU GET TO DECIDE.

Frankly, It really doesn’t matter what came before. All of those childhood experiences that brought to where you are don’t matter much. What matters is what you decide today. Do you struggle with fear (like me)? You can decide today to make a step toward freedom from that fear. Do you struggle with an addiction that rules your life? You can decide today to get yourself to the appropriate help according to your needs. It’s your choice. It’s up to you. You could change from the above to this:

Isn’t this beautiful?

Or not. It’s up to you to decide.

When circumstances drag you screaming down the highway of life

I haven’t been on here for a while, because a circumstance in my life pretty much sucks right now.  Out of respect for those involved, I am not going to divulge the details at this time.  Besides, this post is not really about the circumstance itself.  Rather, this post is about my response to the circumstance.

I’d like to start by saying that what I am experiencing is completely new to me.  The torrent of emotions is a bit terrifying because they are so strong.  At this stage in this current reality, I either feel everything, or nothing.  I’m either fully engaged in my terrifying emotions, or not at all.  I want to spend enormous amounts of time by myself.  I don’t want to cry in front of people (because I am already prone to crying at the drop of a hat, I cry about this without warning or much provocation) and have to explain myself.  I think you get the point that there is nothing in between either option.  Everyday is a fight to stay focused on life.  I have to be able to “do” my life according to it’s rules.  I still have a son to love and care for despite the circumstance.  I have a husband who needs my empathy just as much as I need his.

Life has taught me that new experiences feel awkward, strange, and scary. My brain has to store the new experience as memories and grow new neurons based on those memories so that the experience becomes familiar and part of my brain-scape.  Perhaps this is why a lot people dislike change so much, because the new experience takes time to get used to.  But, eventually one does get used to the experience.  One mostly knows what to expect, and (mostly) how to respond.  The stored memories and new neurons give us a structure to rely on.

Being the intuitive, introspective, deep-thinking sort, I will learn things from this experience.  After the worst of this is over, I will be able to look back and see the blessings, the bad stuff, the I-never-want-to-go-through-this-again stuff, even the happy moments.  Next time, I will know how to respond to the circumstance, and to my own emotions.  Next time, I might be able to find a middle ground between the terror and the numbness.

Despite the difficulties, I am grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow.

I am grateful.

Anger that burned deep.

Hello again! It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time for another testimony about overcoming emotional difficulties.  I don’t have another person lined up, so I am going to dish on myself.  So here we go…

It’s kinda tough to pick just one experience that I’ve had in the past 22 years that highlights an emotional difficulty that I have overcome because a) there are so many, and b) they are all interconnected which makes them complex and difficult to articulate clearly.

I have mentioned that my mother was an addict.  Her last addiction was prescription painkillers, which ended up taking her life in a (presumably) accidental overdose.  She was secretive about her addiction, and it was not immediately obvious to me because I had no knowledge about addiction during my childhood.  However, the symptoms of her addiction problem were usually at the forefront of her parenting because she was either at best confusing, or, at worst, abusive.

For example, my mother would periodically become very angry with the rest of the family.  Why she was angry with us was almost always a mystery.  One of the confusing things she would do during these random periods of mystery anger was to not let my sister and I do the weekly cleaning.  She would storm around, bang things, with a face screwed up in anger doing the cleaning.  I would feel awkward and strange.  I was afraid to say anything to mother for fear of upsetting her further.  Richelle and I walked around as if the floor was made of nails (sharp side up) while giving each other furtive looks of confusion and despair.  After a few hours of this, I would be practically begging for her to let me do the cleaning.  Anything to ease the stress and tension I felt.  Then, just as mysteriously, she would get over it.  Very occasionally there was some kind of discussion that really didn’t make any sense or have anything to do with reality.

As a child, these sorts of events caused confusion and fear.  This started embers burning in my soul that would smolder into my adulthood.  As I began working through the hurts of my childhood in counseling, I began to see my mother’s transgressions with anger, hurt, disappointment, and frustration.  These emotions ignited the long- burning embers from adolescence into raging flames.  It took a lot of years, and work, before I could even consider forgiving my mother.

For me, forgiving my mother meant giving up the right to be angry with her.  And believe me, I had felt I had every right to be angry with her for her transgressions.  I think some of you may even agree with me.  However, if unleashed, my anger could be a destructive force that wreak havoc in most areas in life.  I was deeply invested in my rights.  So much so, that God, in His infinite wisdom, had to work every angle to help me to see that holding things against my mother was actually holding myself prisoner to my own anger.  He had some pretty huge mountains to move.  Fiery, raging, burning volcanos. He showed me that I would be paying the consequences for my for my self-righteous attitude, like so much volcanic ash.  I would end up psychologically and spiritually dead, like those poor people on Pompeii.

As God labored to show me the truth, the light began breaking through my eyes, which were tightly shut against it.  Truth always stand the test of time, regardless of what we think or feel about it.  I eventually knew I had a choice to make.  On one hand, my right to be angry with my mother, on the other, forgiving her and moving on.  Forgiving her meant giving up my rights, but it also meant freedom.  Freedom from the burdens of pain.  Freedom from the consequences of my choices.  Freedom to live life to it’s fullest.

As you can probably guess, I chose to give up my rights.  And, indeed, I felt freer.  The rage no longer held me captive, torturing me incessantly, burning me from the inside out.

Today, I mostly look on my relationship with my mother regret and sadness, but, I am (mostly) not angry.  If she were still alive, I might even attempt to have a relationship with her, which is saying something.

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Now, it’s your turn… Do you have something you overcame that you would like to share with the rest of the world?

Don’t clam up. A blog post on taking risks in relationships…Part 1.

Author’s note: As I write this blog, I am finding that there is really two parts to this topic: taking risks in relationships in general, and the process of choosing a person with whom to take a risk.  In the interest of not writing a REALLY long post on both parts, I am going to break this into two parts.

A dear, sweet friend of mine, whom I have known since childhood, has been hurt quite a bit lately by relationships.  As a result of her pain, this appeared on her Facebook page:

While can appreciate the reason for the sentiment, I’m not sure I agree with the idea behind it.

I got married at the age of 20, mostly because I was pregnant and I needed the father’s health insurance to cover the related health care costs.  We had convinced ourselves that we loved each other and that we could make marriage work despite the true reason for marrying.  Little did I know that that marriage would end in disaster.  While I was no angel in this marriage and contributed to the failure of our marriage, I felt I was treated horribly, including, but not limited to, adultery on his part at least once, probably twice. Then, I was left, and divorced, by the person who had pledged to stick with me through thick and thin.

Relationships are risky.   The potential for being hurt, or hurting another, is huge.  People often present the best of themselves at the beginning, then the worst of themselves comes out as time goes on.  Often, the worst of ourselves, and the other person clash, causing chaos in our relationships.  Unless the chaos is effectively worked through or controlled, the result is generally a split (or a divorce if one is married).  It has to be said than in some cases, there is no hope for the relationship, no matter how much work goes into the relationship.  Splitting up with someone you committed  yourself to can cause intense emotional pain.  This pain is akin to having a limb ripped from your body, even if the other person was horrible.  The suffering can go on for years afterwards.   Self-doubt can creep in.  Fear of being hurt again becomes the new paradigm.  Any potential future relationships are affected by past hurts. One can be come overly-cautious in their attempt to try out this new relationship while avoiding true risk.  Which makes the new relationship more likely to fail.  Like I said, it’s risky.

When my marriage failed, I was at the beginning of the long healing journey that I have been on.  Frankly, at the time my marriage failed, I was not capable of managing the hurt associated with ripping and tearing that was going on.  I did not understand myself, nor the reasons that my marriage didn’t work.  I was single for about 7 years before my current husband decided he wanted to date me.  During that 7 years, I had to do a lot work in counseling, and with God, to overcome the terrible feelings of loss, anger, and sadness.  For 7 years, I was a single, working mother struggling to make ends meet, and trying to manage my volatile emotional state and a child who severely struggling as well.

The idea of adding a husband, and stepfather, into the equation was downright scary.  Like so many situations I observed, adding a man into my, and my son’s, life was extremely risky and likely to result in chaos.  What if my son and husband didn’t get along (they didn’t for a long time)?  What if my husband committed adultery like the first one?  What if he left me?  What if he couldn’t deal with the emotional baggage that came with marrying me (he does with a ton of grace)?  What if we just couldn’t work out our problems?  What if one of us gave up hope (I’ve been close a dozen times or more)?  What if my marriage failed?  Taking that step toward marriage again was a huge risk.  It could end in disaster like the first one.

The desire to close oneself off to the world, to potential love, to other people becomes intense after a split with someone you once loved.  Wrapping yourself up in hard shell of safety really only results in a life half lived.  Sure, you are safe from harm, but you are also safe from joy, happiness, fulfillment, and a good, lasting relationship.  This hard-shell reality affects how you react to other people, how you make decisions, how you behave in relationships.  You cannot fully commit to another person when you live your life this way, even if the person you found is the best person for  you.

The heart of the matter is that while putting yourself in a position to not “be let down” feels safe, I believe you are actually risking more than if you allow yourself to take the risk of being hurt.  I think I have made that the point that taking risks is dangerous,  BUT (with capital letters no less), I believe that taking risks is a necessary part of living life to it’s fullest.  Sure, the potential for hurt is there, but the potential for joy is there too.  The hurts described above can eventually heal, if you allow that to happen.  That’s right, you can heal from the hurt.   I would like to add an addendum to this statement: I think that one can make poor choices in partners and end up going the healing process over and over again.  If that’s what’s causing you so much pain, I would question how you choose partners.  So, we are gonna talk about that in part 2 of this post.

You are not forever tainted by your marriage’s, or relationship’s, failure.  You can rise above the associated pain and suffering.  You can place yourself in someone else’s hand again.  And, if you get hurt, you can  heal, again.  Unless you allow yourself to take that risk, you don’t know how something is going turn out.  You can live a a full life with someone by your side.  You can put your trust and hope in someone else’s hand.  Let yourself out of your shell.

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It’s your turn: do believe you can be healed from the hurt caused by failed relationships?

Testimonial Tuesday by Richelle Knapp (my sis)

It’s time again for another installment of Testimonial Tuesday.  I am the oldest of four, and my sister is the second oldest.  She and I have been through a lot together.  Although we had different experiences and perceptions of our childhood experiences, we have been on a similar journey.  Each individual step in our journeys is invariably linked to the other person’s.  My sister describes a part of her journey in overcoming her difficulties.  So without further, I give to you my sister Richelle Knapp…

As I was growing up, my mother was hard to figure out, to say the least. She was very mean to me and my siblings most of the time. But other times, she was really nice and fun to be around. She singled me out for a period of physical abuse. She was a drug addict. She did not really know how to raise children.

I don’t think she intended to be this way. I don’t think she set out to abuse drugs. But her background was a big part of it. Her family was a mess with alcoholic parents. She and her siblings were ripped apart when she was very young. She was largely a victim of circumstance. But sadly she did become an addict. She was always in a deep grip of denial about her addiction.

Her life impacted mine in deep and profound ways. Everything that happened to her and to me as a result of her problems and our relationship resonated for years even after her death. When she passed it took me a while to figure out that I was not mourning her death, but her life. After her passing, I had many emotional and mental problems. I was losing touch with reality and regressing back to my childhood. I was having almost constant anxiety attacks.  I was also having flashbacks of things I did not understand. I had a vague feeling of ongoing fear and even terror at times. My poor husband went through it all with me and was my main support. I could not figure out how to function. I could not work or do much of anything else. My emotions were in constant upheaval. One day I would be okay, and the next I could not get out of bed. I was lost in a sea of mental and emotional problems, and I was drowning.

When things got really bad, my sister ended up coming out to help me. She brought me back to her house to stay for a month and to begin to get me the help that I needed.  I went through something called inner healing.  Inner healing is a way in which God is able to come in and make significant changes to a person’s spiritual landscape. I had Dissociative Integrative Disorder. Through the inner healing, process  God revealed the fragments of my psyche and integrated them back together again. When it was over, I felt whole for the first time in a long time. But I also felt very fragile, as if I could break very easily again.

Later in the year, I came in contact with a woman who was instrumental in helping me to become stronger emotionally, and mentally. During the time she counseled me, we did certain exercises to help me to better understand what was going with me. I realized I still blamed my mother for the majority of the problems in my life. I realized that I had not forgiven her for just about everything. One of the most important exercises we did was called The Vault. My counselor had me talk through a list of things I had made in a previous meeting that had to do with my life. I had to decide what I wanted to “keep” so that I could deal with it still, and what I wanted to “lock” in the vault and move on from. As I worked through the list I could feel myself suddenly getting lighter and lighter emotionally. It was a significant time for me, a real turning point. I left that session feeling completely different. I felt very nearly completely healed. It was finally a new beginning for me. For the first time in a long time, I felt free.

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I am 38 years old. I have been happily married for over 4 years. I live in Bear, DE with my husband. I believe that anything can be overcome if you are willing to do whatever it takes; if you are willing to do the hard stuff to be healed and ultimately be free.

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So, tell  me, do you want to write about so something you have overcoming?

Don’t poke that dragon with a stick. It’ll eat you. Or will it?

Didn’t your mother teach you NOT to poke a sleeping dragon?  That you should let sleeping dragons lie?

He looks too cute to be dangerous. Right?

Or was that dogs?

He’s definitely too cute to be dangerous.

Like all reptiles, dragons are great at sleeping.  You know, being cold-blooded and all.  Sleeping is an excellent way to conserve energy.  So, as you can imagine, something as big as a dragon needs lots of sleep.  Except when they don’t.  I mean, a dragon’s got to eat sometimes, right?

In case you’re not catching on to my little metaphor, the sleeping dragons (or dogs) that I am referring to is our emotional troubles.  Stuff from the past is like a sleeping dragon.  Some of us have lots and lots of dragons sleeping together in the dog-pile technique.  Others have one or two.  Either way, I personally, and sincerely believe that sleeping dragons are dangerous.  They can wake up at and wreak havoc on our emotional state, on our relationships, and our life anytime they want to.

Dragons are smart creatures.  They like to sleep in dark corners, letting us know they’re there, but never really fully engaging us.  They’re happy there in their comfy little corner.  Because of the shadows, we can’t really see what they’re doing.  But, believe you me, they are causing trouble.

Un-dealt with emotional problems come out various forms, and we often don’t even realize it.  Mostly because our reactions are normal…to us.  THEY run your life.  THEY decide how and when you behave and interact with your environment.  Like when my husband innocently says something that sets off an angry reaction in me.  Or, when a sudden, overwhelming fear of enclosed spaces keeps me from having fun.  Or, when I sling into a deep depression for no apparent reason.  Or, when I have (yet another) bout of anxiety at the prospect of meeting new people.  All of these reactions come from somewhere.   I learned them growing up.  All of these reactions can cause me problems as an adult.  They stunt my growth.  They keep me from fully engaging in life.  They harm my relationships.  And most importantly, they keep me back from being who I was meant to be.

If you decide to take control of the situation, you WILL have to face your dragons head on.  Sure, once you poke them and wake them up they are going to growl and stomp and threaten to eat you.  They might even throw a flame or two your way.

Remember this guy?

But, here’s the thing:  YOU are in control of the dragons.  YOU are the master of THEIR fate.  It’s not the other way around.  Because as Christopher Robin told Winnie the Pooh, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  You hold the secret weapons that defeat the dragons.  You know their vulnerabilities.  You know where that soft spot is and can drive in your sword (or lance if you prefer).  If you do, you will truly be at peace.  You will never have to worry about what that dragon will do next.  You can get on with your life and live it to the fullest.

Pretty cool, huh?

So, I say, don’t let the sleeping dragons lie there forever.  Take up your sword, your spear, your counseling sessions and deliberately, and methodically, deal that dragon it’s death blow.

You’ll then be free from it’s grip.  Forever.

I promise.

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Your turn, which weapon do you prefer?

Don’t let the fire-breathing dragons of life intimidate you into a case of the “I Can’ts”

I’ve had a bad couple of days.  This is mostly what I felt like:

Meet my alter-ego, Mrs. Viking Grumpy Pants.

Blog writing was right out.

However, because I cannot shut this brain of mine off, I have been thinking about a conversation I had with a friend on Sunday.  She didn’t say exactly what was going on in her life, but she did say she just couldn’t take anymore pain and suffering.   She just couldn’t go on anymore.  She wanted to give up and give in.  I did my best to encourage her to not give up, to trust God’s process, and to get back on track.  In other word, she is trying to make some changes and keeps getting knocked down.

Let’s be honest, most of our habits need to change.  Especially the emotional habits that constantly put us on the edge of a cliff.  That cliff you can’t see because you’re too busy making butt impressions on the couch.  Habits grow neurons in our brain that settle in with their favorite treats to watch a movie and refuse to budge from that really comfy couch because  you made an excellent indent where their butt goes.  Habits are familiar.  Habits are comfortable.  Habits are safe.

Making changes is a lot like fighting a fire-breathing dragon.  It’s difficult and it can be painful.  I mean, after all they have that nasty habit of giggling at me when I attempt to hack my way through their hard, scaly skin.  And the fire.  Need I say more?

Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!

When faced with this, it is easy to want to give up.  I mean after all, falling down repeatedly on  your face is a painful (and embarrassing) experience.  Why would any sane person keep doing something that hurts, right?  If you’re not careful, this kind of thinking can give you a case of the “I Can’ts”.  As in “I just can’t do this anymore.”  As in “I can’t face the pain anymore.”  As in “I can’t change.”  As in “let’s just give up and let the dragon eat us, m’kay?” (Ok, that last didn’t technically have “I can’t” in there, but you get my point)

Yes, making changes is difficult and painful, but not impossible.

That’s right I said “NOT IMPOSSIBLE”.  (I shouted that in case you didn’t hear me.  You’re welcome)

It requires work, determination, sweat, blood, tears, grit, toughness and any other “You Can Do This” adjective you’d like to throw in there.  If you keep at it,  you’ll get there eventually.  That dragon does  have it’s weak spots.  You just have to keep looking for them.

Because the pain and difficulties associated with change are a price worth paying to get you out of your butt-impression making half-life.

I promise.

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So, tell me about one of  your fire-breathing dragons…

Laziness is like a fat cat

I knew a fat cat once.  She had a genial disposition.  She’d let you pet her and would rub her fat little body all over your clothes.  But, she could barely get around on her stubby little legs with that huge belly in the way.

Okay, maybe she didn’t have the beer and TV remote…

She was content to eat food, use her litter box, and pretty much sleep the rest of the time.  In other words, she was lazy.

lazy |ˈlāzē|adjective ( lazier , laziest )

1 unwilling to work or use energy : I’m very lazy by nature | he was too lazy to cook.

  • characterized by lack of effort or activity : lazy summer days.
  • showing a lack of effort or care : lazy writing.
  • (of a river) slow-moving.

2 (of a livestock brand) placed on its side rather than upright : a logo with a lazy E.

DERIVATIVES

  • lazily |-zəlē| adverb
  • laziness noun

ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: perhaps related to Low German lasich ‘languid, idle.’

When  you look at Fluffy here, don’t you feel kind of sorry for her?  Do you feel kind of sorry for her?  Do you feel the urge to smack her owner senseless?  Are you asking yourself, “How could she let herself get this far?”  Do you feel the urge to take charge and put her on a diet?  How about if you look at yourself?  Do you have the same feelings?

If yes, keep reading.

If no, definitely keep reading.

When dealing with our own emotional difficulties, it is easy to become fat and content on the food of our own delusions.  We can pretend that all is well.  We can tell ourselves that changing is impossible.  We can say to the world, “But I was born this way!” and get out our beer and watch some TV.

Because, avoiding the truth is easier.

Deep down inside, we know the truth.  We know that the lazy, selfish manner in which we conduct our lives is not good for ourselves, or for the world we live in.  We know that living in a place of anger isn’t good for our romantic relationship.  We know that isolating ourselves isn’t good for us.  We know that our addiction is probably killing us.  We know that depression is keeping us from engaging in life.

Changing takes work.  It takes discipline.  It takes falling-down-in-dirt-and scraping-your-hands-and-knees-then-getting-back-up-again determination.  It takes recognizing and being honest about our own failures.  It takes will and perseverance.  It takes training.

This is who I’d rather be. Wouldn’t you?

Don’t be like that fat cat, happy and content on the gluttony of your willingness to  just eat and sleep and poop.

And never do anything else.

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Tell  me, do you know any fat cats?

An essential truth on fear

If you look to the left of this post you’ll see this quote (and a bunch of other worthy quotes, I might add):

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. -Nelson Mandela

I think that this one of the essential truths of humanity.  Fear is a significant daily motivator for many, many people, whether they know it or not.  Fear can define our actions, how we respond, what decisions we make.  The thing is, if most of what we are afraid is based on evidence, some would say truth.  And, we make decisions based on that truth, even if the action we take is slightly ridiculous.  For example:

  • Truth: The subway is a potentially dangerous place.  I may get hurt.
  • Action: Therefore I will walk the 6 miles to work.
  • Truth: I may get hurt on the roller coaster.
  • Action: Do not ride the roller coaster.
  • Truth: My husband beats me.
  • Action: I will lie about my feelings.
  • Truth: My mother says things that hurt my heart.
  • Action: I will keep my distance from my mother.

See what I mean?  Each thing listed is, or may be, true.  And therefore, you do what is necessary to protect yourself, even if it means compromising yourself, your principles, and/or your morals.

I am a person who has lived her life with fear.  Fear of just about anything and everything.  Even ridiculous stuff like “I might fall on the sidewalk therefore I must vigilantly stare at where I am walking, or avoid sidewalks altogether.”  Yeah, I did that.  Here’s another example: Fear would motivate me to act like a loon around people I didn’t know very well because I was afraid of being rejected.  If forced to talk to a new person, I would babble like an idiot all red in the face in sheer embarrassment at my ungainly social behavior.  For me, the safest thing was to avoid meeting new people altogether.  This fear lent itself to tension in  my marriage because my husband is rather fond of meeting new people.  Going to birthday parties of people I didn’t know would cause me a great deal of pre-festivities anxiety.  My husband has done a pretty good job being gracious with my crazy behavior.  But, I could tell he was sad because it was so hard for me.  Because of his desire to be supportive, my behavior limited his ability to be social.

I eventually got over the worst of this kind of social anxiety.  Mostly because, over time, I came to realize the new people weren’t going to hurt (mostly).  I felt like my behavior was wrong and it needed to change.  I had to force myself to calm down and give it a try, over and over again.  I had to force myself to appear to be calm, and have a nice conversation with someone I didn’t know.  This is where Mr. Mandela’s quote comes in handy.  He is saying that it is likely you are never going to stop feeling afraid. If you want to triumph over fear, if you want to conquer fear then do the very thing you fear.  Despite the trembling and shaking and your imagination going into overtime.

To overcome the fear, you have to ask yourself if being afraid is worth the price you’ll pay for allowing yourself to behave in fear?  Is it right to let yourself be bullied by your spouse?  Is it right to NEVER experience a roller coaster ride (well, maybe)?  Is right to walk 6 miles to work, in the snow, uphill both ways because something MIGHT happen to you?  Is it right for me to never form new friendships because I am afraid of rejection?  I have to choose one or the other.  I have to choose fear, or courage.  In other words, it’s my choice.  Mine.  No one else’s choice.  I  have to choose to overcome my fear.  I have to choose to be brave, even if I don’t feel brave inside.  And it’s your choice too.  YOU CAN CHOOSE to do the thing you fear.  That’s right, you have a choice.  Making the choice is point A, doing the thing you fear is point B.  The process of getting from A to B may look messy, but it’s a good messy.

Recently, I walked into a Zumba class at my local YMCA.  I didn’t know a single person in the room.  Not a soul.  It would be easy for me to do my usual wallflower routine and stick to the back and not talk to anyone.  No one was making an attempt to approach me and say, “Hi!”  Which would normally be just fine with me.  But, I would be missing out on making new friends.  Just last week I looked at the woman next to me and introduced myself.  I CHOSE to overcome my fear.  And, as it turns out this person is very kind and warm.  She shook my hand warmly, held it tightly, and introduced herself.  I felt good inside.  And, next time I show up for this class, if she is there, I will probably get a warm, “Hello!” from her, even if she can’t remember my name.  Overcoming my fear was totally worth it.

So, here it is:  Do what you fear.  Then you will be fear’s master, not it’s slave.  You will have unchained yourself from that wall.

Eventually, you will live free.

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So tell me, what are you afraid of and what can YOU do to overcome your fear?