Fear of being criticized, fear of being humiliated, fear of being rejected, fear of violence being visited upon you. These are the common types of fear that some people find themselves being subjugated to, by their own minds, on daily basis.
The irony about living in fear is that whatever it is that you fear, will most likely happen if you do not put yourself in a position to accept and deal with it. It takes more energy hiding from people and situations which evoke fear in you, when compared to the amount of energy it takes for you to invest in preparation strategies for embracing your feelings of fear and tackling the problem at hand.
There are two cognitive processes for getting past your fear, the first is learning about the core reasons for your fear, while the second is changing your beliefs about your feelings.
Firstly, with most people I have worked with in regards to getting past their issues of fear, it has always come down to their fear of suffering. We fear suffering far more than we fear dying, I guess this is why in Christian texts the talk of hell and the idea of being burned while experiencing never ending agony was captivating and frightening for myself and my peers as children. Regardless the belief that one shouldn’t suffer is an irrational belief. It is an irrational belief, because through suffering comes growth. The infant who is teething, is going through a stage of suffering, with the end result being strong teeth. The toddler learning to walk is going through a stage of suffering, with the end result being efficient mobility. The teenager struggling to learn algebra is going through a stage of suffering, with the end result being improved cognitive ability in calculating and solving math problems. Suffering is not to be avoided but embraced. I am not embracing nor encouraging any form of self punishment here, but rather I am endorsing and encouraging an attitude of courage.
Secondly, is the issue with feelings. Feelings make great servants but terrible masters. Some people who struggle with anxiety issues will often avoid discussing certain topics or tackling certain issues due to their fear of having to dealing with painful feelings. This behavior is based on the flawed belief that our feelings are to be tendered to. Our ability to feel is based on our need to compare our perception of the world as it exists in our heads to the world as it really is outside our heads. When our feelings are positive, it means that the world we perceive and the world as is are congruent. When our feelings are negative, it means that the world we perceive is incongruent with the world as it. Our negative feelings are an opportunity for us to reexamine our thoughts and core beliefs with the goal of correcting our perception to match reality as close as possible.
The process of practicing these cognitive processes are easier written than done, and in most cases require the assistance of a professional.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and a life coach.
In the early two thousands, I worked for a residential treatment program. This program provided treatment services for youth offenders who had been convicted for various offenses through the juvenile courts. One day the program director, summoned me into his office, he was making me a job offer, specifically, he wanted me to take over the resident director’s job. I found two problems with this offer, this first was that the resident director was still in that position, the second was that it was not a therapeutic position. My primary issue with the offer, was that he had just had a heated disagreement with the resident director, in front of witnesses and his gesture in offering me the job was a power move. I knew that he would be offended if I did not accept the offer, and that he might see it as a political strategy of sorts on my part. Perhaps he would think I was aligning myself with the resident director against him. I simply did not want the job, because I enjoyed being a therapist and I also considered it immoral to accept a job position that was already filled. I did not want to walk around the facility engaging with the resident director, knowing that he was soon going to be fired and that I would take his place. I also did not want to lose my job.
So I took a deep breath, said a short prayer in my mind and politely declined the offer. To no surprise he gave me a look of surprise and annoyance. I happened to understand that if he could so easily throw the resident director under the bus, my acceptance or decline of the offer would not protect me from similar treatment.
This is my understanding of what courage is, understanding that there are no guarantees or shortcuts in life. Courage isn’t necessarily about sacrifice, this is because without realizing it, most human being put their lives on the line in certain everyday activities. Most notably would be driving. Courage is the recognition that challenges or struggles in our everyday lives are inevitable and that avoiding them or putting them off only makes these challenges more difficult to overcome in the long run.
Most of us have been led on to believe that if only we would submit to some type of lifestyle or entity that everything will end up being okay. From cultural beliefs, attending institutions of higher learning to being employed by certain employers. We surrender beliefs in our personal powers to buy into the illusion of an easier life, all the while failing to recognize the role we play in maintaining the illusion.
As a therapist, when working with clients who have difficulty in making what may seem as a risky or out of the ordinary courageous decision; I guide them through an exercise designed to help them recognize how much of their personal power goes into maintaining the current situation that they are currently unhappy with. It is after they have come to understand and accept this revelation that the conversation shifts into how they can use their personal power into creating the new type of life they desire and deserve.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.