“I’m afraid that X is going to happen.”
“I’m afraid that they Y…” ‘y’ being “can’t be trusted”, “are going to leave”, “cheating on me”, “surfing dating sites behind my back”, “are too good to be true”, “not over their ex” and other such concerns that can keep you awake at night and hog up a lot of your brain power.
“I’m afraid that I’m not good enough/going to do something to mess it up.”
These concerns may be very familiar to you, especially if you end up ruminating and flip flapping about what course of action, if any to take next, and invariably end up painting yourself into a corner.
If we’re willing to be in and pay attention to reality, plus are willing to listen to ourselves, we can figure out whether we are worrying about something that isn’t happening or hasn’t happened yet, or whether we are actually aware of pertinent facts.
The trouble is that many people operate on fear, veering between being very reactive to it, or paralysed in anxiety, rumination, and indecision. When you experience the former, you may have a knee-jerk reaction and make a decision that may not be rooted in the actual situation and the facts presented to you – this may be because you experience uncomfortable emotions, feel afraid, run with it, take the message as a sign to act fast, and bail. You’ll be familiar with this if you’ve ever had someone get close to you and then exit like a bat out of hell or sabotage by creating problems.
When you experience the latter, you spend more time being afraid, thinking about being afraid, thinking about what course of action you should take/imagining that you don’t have any options, and being afraid of making a decision and getting it wrong, than you do responding to the fear and taking action.
What isn’t asked often enough is: Is it fear? Or, am I dealing with knowledge?
Knowledge is being cognizant and aware of the facts. You’re aware of the truth of something or even the indications.
If something was happening, you’d like to think that you’d be handling it – that’s why they say fear means it’s not happening, so in effect, if there is real reason for concern, you have time to take pre-emptive measures and act. Unfortunately when you don’t trust yourself or don’t want to let go of your hopes or any illusions that may be held, you deny the knowledge you have but continue to feel the fear anyway. Also your idea of ‘acting’ may be trying to work harder to ‘win’ them and blaming yourself instead of pushing your flush handle.
If you were afraid that you were being robbed or ripped off, what would you do?
- Take precautions.
- Distance yourself.
- Investigate and increase any precautions you have taken as you discover more facts.
What would stop you from acting though?
- Fear that you’ve got it wrong.
- Fear of ‘conflict’, in particular, a confrontation.
- Fear of the responsibility of using the knowledge to think up a solution and take action.
- Fear of consequences such as loss, starting over, and trusting again.
This means you now have knowledge that you’re being robbed, but deny it and label as ‘fear’ and don’t act, or act in line with the fear instead of the knowledge.
Then you have fear that you’re being robbed plus fear of being wrong and being hurt/exposed further, plus knowledge that you have put truth last and acted against yourself. You’d almost hope you’d be wrong about them robbing you, so you could end up being right!
One of the worst things about these feelings of ‘fear’ which may actually be knowledge that you’re not responding to, is that instead of addressing what you should be, aside from potentially exposing yourself to emotional harm if not even physical harm, by excluding the knowledge, you tend to focus on giving yourself a hard time.
This is why I hear from so many people who feel afraid about something and then follow up the fear with something that essentially boils down to “I’m not good enough.”
When what you already know doesn’t change and does indeed prove to be true, you end up feeling bad about ignoring your gut or even obvious facts around you and feel bad about running yourself down. Then you feel regretful that you were doing these things instead of taking action.Using some of the examples from the beginning, particularly when people tell me that they’re concerned that someone is or isn’t something, it’s because, even if they’re not consciously acknowledging it, they are aware of facts and/indications of the truth. They know that the person has done something that makes it difficult to trust, is flaky, hooking up with their ex or has a wandering eye, has an active dating site profile, has been moving too fast, or has not been out of their relationship long enough to not feel concerned about the ex.
When you feel afraid, you should always ask “Is it internal fear or external?”
It’s internal on its own if there is no external evidence to support your concerns. This means you can work out whether it’s general insecurity that you showed up with, or whether there is something familiar about the situation (experience) that brings up anxiety, and ultimately calm yourself and take action to support and nurture yourself. Address whether you’re being insecure about being insecure. Note as well that if you look at experience from a different perspective, it can give you a helping hand in taking a different course of action.
Let me assure you that feeling afraid and then piling on negative self-talk is not going to help – be a friend to yourself!
If there’s external evidence to support your concerns, then while there may be some internal fear mixed in, you have very valid, real concerns about this person/situation which makes it at best code amber (stop, look, listen and don’t proceed until it’s fully addressed), or it’s code red (abort mission). If you can’t figure out where you end and they begin, it’s a sign that you’re too enmeshed anyway and that you need to step back.
What you shouldn’t do is do nothing at all or do the equivalent of running a red light at a level crossing.
When it comes to concerns that you have about you, it’s important to remember that you’re good enough and that you have to show up and behave like a deserving equal and not some ‘less than’ person shielding your eyes from the light radiating from the arse of someone on a pedestal. It’s also important to remember that it’s not all about you – the success or failure of the relationship/situation doesn’t rest wholly and solely on you.
If you spend most of your time trying to anticipate what’s next or worrying about what isn’t happening, or worrying about the fact that you’re not acting upon knowledge, you create a great deal of unnecessary anxiety in your life that would be lessened by being in your present and where appropriate taking action.
Fear is ultimately just a feeling. You are still behind the wheel of your life – please drive and navigate!
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Image via SXC