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.
Fear clues 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 ashamed… 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 and sensible reasons for all these doubts, of course. But more often than not, what lies underneath is simply fear.
Fear is like bread. Nature developed it as an information system. When you come across a saber-tooth 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 save yourself.
When someone you love is in danger, when you find a bulge, 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 are able to face it and find ways to cope or live with it.
Troubling fears are the ones we don’t confront, maybe don’t acknowledge or try to hide from ourselves, maybe don’t even know about. They hold us without us knowing why. When you get to the bottom of it, most of the barriers in our lives are of our own making. And most of the reasons why we create these barriers is fear. Quite often, those fears will be neither sensible nor protective, but silly, contrived, essentially nonsensical…based on a childhood hangover or false assumption. But as long as the fear is hidden, you’ll never get 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 spent trying to deal with the excuses, rather than the fear that produces them.
For example, you say: ‘Well, I’m trying to get fit, I want to lose weight, but…’? You don’t have time, you have back problems, it’s too much trouble to eat properly, you are very hungry, exercise is so boring, life is not worth it without chips and chocolate…
If you try to deal with these verbatim excuses, 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.’
Friend: ‘They must make a salad, couldn’t you have that?’
You: ‘Yes, but I’m still hungry and I can’t work well.’
Friend: ‘Couldn’t you take something to work?’
You: ‘Yes, but I just don’t have time in the mornings.’
Friend: Couldn’t you cook it the night before?
You: ‘Yes, but I have enough with making 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. Because?
Let your feelings guide you. The useful answer to WHY you don’t want to do something, why fear is stopping 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 up to the feelings it produces. Allow yourself to react physically. Do you tense up, huddle in on 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 you don’t… 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 deal with it and plan for it. ‘Change is always frightening.’ Precisely what aspects of this particular change are scary, 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 that 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 discomfort of giving up chocolate, missing your favorite TV show, sitting down and writing that overdue letter really, really be more than you can bear?
fix those What if? His what if they are useful 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 stick to 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 not really very good.’
So what would really, really happen if…? Are you afraid that people will laugh at you? Will everyone you meet really stand around pointing and mocking? It’s more like a playground nightmare than a sensible adult’s concern. It might have been a valid fear when you were ten, 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. Etc. Once you start analyzing them, you can convert your what if in So what is it.
And once you’ve exposed a fear, you can find ways to deal with it, live with it, protect yourself against it. You can avoid being slowed down without even knowing why.
But first you have to find it.