Day 9

Sometimes I become fearful of the smallest things…returning a phone call…sending an overdue email…telling someone no.  What is that about?  How can something so small elicit so much fear?

My son and I were talking, several days ago, in the car.  ( I never knew how powerful a car ride could be until he became a teenager.)

“Is it true that the only two emotions we really ever feel are fear and love?”

I have talked of this frequently in my work…that we either view the world through a love-centered “filter” or through a fear-burdened “filter.”

“Well,” I responded.  We do feel a variety of emotions, but I do agree with you, that at the base of all emotions, lies either fear or love…the fear is often rooted in the fear of not being loved or accepted.”

I wonder if sometimes rooted beneath some of that fear is also a fear of being judged as inadequate.

Years ago (nearly 20!), only months before I “woke up” to my alcoholism, I was nearly paralyzed by fear. Fear to pick up the phone because it was…in most instances either a bill collector or some (former) friend to whom I had given my word on something, but then not followed-through.

Interestingly there was no fear of being injured physically.  No bear, alligator or armed bandit was waiting to break through the door when I answered the phone.  Nope…it was just Ms. Jackson calling from Capital One Bank wondering when I might be able to make a payment on my credit card.

It was remarkable how great a fear such as this could be felt for what appeared to be such seemingly non-dangerous events.  Ironically it was eventually the fear and anxiety of such simple things that led to my “coming to, waking up, epiphany-run” on a late-day summer run in July of 1993.

There is a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that you’ve probably heard before.  “Do the one thing everyday that scares you.”  When I first heard this quote, I thought that the stuff had to be BIG in order for it to be truly scary–training for a marathon, trying an Ironman, hurling down a mountain on my bike, skydiving, or standing on a cliff’s edge.

Not me...

But now as I get older and comfortable in my skin, I realize that what I believe Ms. Roosevelt suggests in this quote, is to do one thing each day that challenges us to lose our fear of not being loved…to do the one thing that holds us back from the understanding, belief and knowledge, that we are wonderful, adequate and loved even though we may have to say the no, admit we are behind in our bills or confront a friend.

Maybe its through working through the small stuff, where we feel our own worth, develop strength and a relationship of love with ourself and our Higher Power.

What small actions elicit a fear response in you?  What does this say about a potential area of growth for you?  How have you overcome your fears?  Let’s talk about it.

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10 Responses to Day 9

  1. Thanks for the gentle reminder.

  2. Elaine says:

    I recognize those small debilitating fears in myself…the phone call unanswered, the confrontation avoided, the paperwork/financial issues/other stuff postponed. Eventually something forces me to deal with the dreaded issue, some switch is “flipped” and I take action. And almost always the problem is not as fearsome as I imagined, the relief of acting is wonderful. Each time I tell myself, remember this: remember how great it feels to do the thing I avoided, to face that anxiety and vanquish it. Still, those things come again, insididiously, and I am, once again, avoiding something. If I could just figure out the “switch” and learn to flip it consciously, at the first sign of avoidance.

  3. Andi says:

    I always call that fear being a terrible procrastinator, but procrastination is fully born of fear. I just did it recently with registering my car in CO. I had been driving illegally for nearly two months and finally I realized I was afraid to go to the DMV, so I just kept risking getting pulled over…which is far scarier. I finally did it and it was really no big deal, and no one yelled or even cared that I was late doing it. I felt pretty silly.

    A few years ago I had a wonderful friend rescue me from my irrational fear of small things. I called her one night just hating myself and not knowing where to start to get control back of just the stupidest little things. She came right over with a notepad and made me just list all of the things I needed to fix, big and small and then sat with me while I picked three and did them immediately, and for the next week held me accountable to do three per day. That evening has influenced how I approach organizing my life, my work and my home. I still often avoid things that are unpleasant, but I do better than I used to.

    Someone on Oprah once told a person who’s house was chronically dirty that they should try committing to cleaning just 15 minutes a day. Far sooner than she expected, her house was organized and clean, and stayed that way. Maybe 15 minutes per day dealing with little scary things could do the same.

  4. Jo says:

    This topic really hits home with me. When I was younger, I had no idea how to deal with my fears and admittedly I allowed all those small fears to consume me many times. It often felt like everyone else had been given some instruction guide so they could be confident and know exactly what to do but I was left clueless. The first step toward not letting all my fears overwhelm me came when I began to realize that everyone has fears that they have to deal with and there is no magic guide. If all the people around me could do this, I could too.
    I fully agree that the root problem was/is the fear of being seen as inadequate or as a failure. Once we accept that we are only human and we are not going to be perfect, we can let go of much of our fear. I have found that focusing on the positive things in my life and on positive possible outcomes helps to eliminate fear’s power. I can look back and see that things were rarely ever as bad as I made them out to be in my head. Elaine, I know that relief you mention that comes from facing your fears and acting. I haven’t found that switch either, but sure wish I could.

    • Andi says:

      I am SO with you on the everyone else having an instruction booklet! I often say I feel like I figure things out 2 years later than everyone else, and would like to know where they are getting their clues!

  5. Karolina says:

    I also hate returning emails and phone calls…I’m not sure why though! I don’t love saying no to people, but over the years as I’ve learned about and developed healthy boundaries, saying no has become easier!

    I love the quote my Roosevelt! We gain courage when we face the things that fear us, and we realize that we’re still ok:)

  6. One of the most insidious fears is the fear of speaking truth to power.
    Sometime the power we fear is external to ourselves… other times the power we fear is the power that resides in ourselves.

    It seems understandable that we might fear external power, but why should we fear our own power? Because revealing truth to power, whether that power is external or internal, always has consequences. This is one I work on for myself all the time… seeing and acknowledging the truth.

    Think of the HUGE negative outcomes that flow from this fear. People have literally given their lives, and often the lives of others, as a result of their fear of telling truth to power.

    • Of course this reminds me of the amazing quote by Marianne Williamson…“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

  7. That is a GREAT quote! Very eloquently sums up what my 5 year old daughter often sings…”This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!”

    (Of course I have to wonder about that particular line when I walk around my house and find that my family has left 25 light bulb$ on!)

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