January 30, 2016

So it has been a long time since I entered a blog. Apparently this whole having a job and being a parent thing takes up a lot of time. But even though I have not been writing, I do keep thinking about the kinds of things I want to write about. I have really wanted to do a blog on the topic of fear. And the reason why I want to write about it is because I see its presence in the world every day. I see it in my clients, my children, and in myself. The fear can range from being down-right debilitating to just a nuisance. Fear can cause people to lash out and hurt others, and it can cause people to shrink away. But its presence in our world and within ourselves does impact our choices every day. Here is one small example. I take back roads to work most days, because I am more afraid of getting in an accident on the highway where more cars travel. So fear has dictated my daily route of travel.

Through working with my clients I have realized that most of what we are dealing with, at its core, is fear. It might go something like this: pattern of self-sabotage…fear of success/fear of failure; staying at a job that someone does not like…fear of change; staying in an unhappy relationship…fear of being alone/fear of losing financial stability; not saying no to people or bending over backwards…fear of others being upset with them. These are just examples, and any of these patterns of behavior could have other underlying causes, but these are just some common fears I see.

Fear does have its place in this world. It can help keep us safe. If you fear getting poisoned, you may avoid eating an unknown berry in the woods, and all-in-all that seems like a pretty reasonable and useful fear to have. Some fears may be more debatable, in terms of the usefulness of the fear. Personally, I am afraid of sharks, so I tend to stay out of the ocean. Now some may see this fear as useful and reasonable and others may see it as problematic because it is preventing me from doing something. However, I do not feel any great loss, sadness, or dissatisfaction for not going into the ocean because I so thoroughly enjoy it from the shore. But if my fear of sharks prevented me from having an experience that I wanted to have or became disruptive in my life, I think my fear would be problematic. Now my fear of sharks is easy for me to identify and talk about. Sometimes though, our fears are quietly hanging out in the background and we are not consciously aware of their presence. An example might be having an underlying fear of abandonment, which might cause someone to keep sabotaging their relationships without any conscious awareness of the fear. That is the kind of fear that likes to hang out in the background and make mischief while we just plod along with no idea why our relationships never work out.

So as you begin to think about this whole idea of fear try this strategy:
#1: Identify the obvious fears. Sharks, heights, dogs, etc.
#2: Decide if the obvious fears prevent you from having any life experiences you want to have, or if the fears have little impact on your life.
#3: Identify any problematic patterns of behavior or places in your life where you are feeling stuck or unhappy that may be “symptoms” that some underlying fear is present.
#4: Try to follow the problem downward like a rope anchoring a boat. When you get down to the anchor at the bottom of that rope, that is where the fear lives. Name it, identify it, work toward understanding the fear.
#5: Once you are aware of the fear, start to think about the different ways that fear may be affecting your life. Not all of it may be negative. Fear can be useful at times, problematic at others.
#6: Make a conscious decision as to what you want to do with the fear now that you are aware of it. Do you want to try to shift the fear, or do you want to just live with it? What you decide, is not as important as the fact that you do decide. Make a conscious decision about the fear, rather than just being unconsciously at its mercy.
#7: If you want to do something with the fear, start to make a plan for ways that you can begin to challenge or shift your fear. You might be surprised, that once you identify the fear, it might be easy to shift. There are other times though when fear can be stubborn and you will have to decide what resources you want use to help shift it.