The Dance of Fear and Approval
The Dance of Fear and Approval
For all of us, fear is the number one saboteur in everyday life. It wears many masks and is as subtle, powerful, and damaging as an ocean rip tide. Unfortunately, we are taught, from an early age, that acknowledging fear means personal weakness. The truth is we all have fear but only a few are aware of its powerful presence; remaining unaware leaves the door open for fear to take over and destroy personal happiness. Even when we are aware of the subtle, destructive power of fear we can easily be overcome, getting swept away in its mighty undercurrent.
Fear serves many purposes some of which are healthy for us. It keeps us from crossing the street in front of a moving vehicle or sticking our hand into a lion's cage. However, the scientific research is clear about the destruction fear causes to our emotional and physical well being. Fear is the opposite of faith; it is also true that in any given situation we can not feel fear and have faith in an outcome, at the same time. Culturally we have managed to soften the taboo status of fear by using other words to describe it; common words or feelings we use in our daily lives to disguise fear are stress and anxiety.
Whether we admit it or not, a major source of fear is emotional or physical rejection by friends, family and strangers alike. This yearning to be accepted by others is an intricate pattern we develop while growing up to soothe feelings of inadequacy. While most were raised with the knowledge that they were loved many did not feel as though they were accepted, or even liked, for who they were by friends and/or family. This disconnect leaves us with a feeling of emptiness. So we spend time and energy, throughout the course of our lives, filling the depleted reservoir with the approval of others, rather than filling it from within. This drive is so subtle and strong that it mimics a rip tide carrying us off our intended path until we are so far into the water that we can no longer see the artistry of love and peace waiting, patiently, for us on the shoreline.
The fallacy is that gaining acceptance from others does not provide the deep emotional relief we are seeking. Think about it, suppose you are popular and have many friends, or dress very chic and receive a lot of compliments, or lie to present yourself in a different light. These things may give us temporary relief but in the long run, that feeling of being special will have faded leaving us still empty inside. To be very clear, we actually seek these temporary fixes as a way to validate ourselves and escape the emptiness; but do they really work? Think about all the things you do, in your daily life, to be or feel accepted by others.
The long term solution is self acceptance. We do this by acknowledging our feelings of inadequacy and working to heal those wounds so we may feel comfortable in our own skin. If we did not feel as though we were liked for who we were as children, we must realize that lack of approval was about those around and not us. Realize, if our caregivers did not accept themselves how could they accept us? The same holds true today; if we feel rejection, it really is about that person and their baggage not our own. We all make mistakes and none of us are perfect, but we are all lovable. Start today by making choices that are truly fulfilling, choices that leaves us feeling proud of ourselves; for then we are on the right track to finding the lasting sense of wholeness that is our natural state.
The next article will suggest solutions in winning the battle with fear.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC
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Fear is the opposite of faith! We can not be fearful, worried, stressed, tense, angry, controlling, frustrated, or anxious if we have faith that everything is as it should be.
Having faith in life, and its individual and global lessons, is the essential element to conquering fear. In observing the world, I hear so many people make statements like “things will work out as they are supposed to” or “if it is meant to be it will be”, but they do not live with peace. Instead their lives are filled with anxiety, stress and worry. It seems that while so many people have the mindful knowledge of this truth, they lack the necessary faith (belief) needed to incorporate the concept into their lives. Obviously, developing this deep belief is easier said then done; but in the long run it is well worth the practice and effort. To begin, practice disconnecting from the drama in your life; learn to quiet the chatter inside your head. In doing so, we become more connected with our own inner world rather than picking up the fearful energy around us. Did you realize that when we emotionally engage in the happenings around us we are literally picking up others energy, their junk, and incorporating it into our own energy system? When we disconnect from others drama and energy patterns, and learn to quiet the chatter in our minds, we instinctively become more accepting and less fearful.
Another tool to quiet fear is to practice incorporating an accepting perspective of everything around you. Learn to see every situation as having a benefit, and realize if there was not a benefit it would not be happening. For example, suppose you find your car with a flat tire. On the surface, there does not seem much good being offered at the moment. Most of us initially react to the monetary expense and scheduling inconvenience, we view it as a “bad” thing and exclaim “why me?” The truth is all situations are exactly as they should be; our reactions are simply fear taking hold over us. In the above example, the fear may be financial, or a fear of being seen as irresponsible because we are late for an appointment. To stop the fear from owning us, we look for the good in what is being presented and have faith that the situation will work it self out as it is supposed to for our highest and best good. Maybe the offering is an opportunity to practice patience, or it could be that the flat is meant to temporarily keep us off the road in order to avoid an auto accident, or both. We may never know the “whys” in any situation, so learn to accept what is; we have faith. Every situation has a benefit, and is as it should be, or it would not be happening as it is . With practice, this state of being can also be applied to terror or catastrophic events. Remember, as a self check, if you are feeling stressed, tense, nervous, anxious, etc., you are not living in faith.
Ask yourself, “What is my level of fear?” The first answer we hear is the correct answer; even if it is not the most flattering (this is true of any self exploratory work). Explore your fear; the wounds it stems from. How does having it in your life benefit you? Remember that a “benefit” does not always appear to be a positive thing but it does fill an emotional niche or it would not be there. Then practice identifying your fear in all situations. What are some of the common words you use to express feelings of fear? Work to change your perspective to acceptance and look for the lessons in all situations. While changing our ways is difficult work, it really takes less energy than living with fear. Take a look around, do you see the drama happening around you? Realize that even a situation happening to you is still drama, just happening closer to home. Think about and explore how you can detach emotionally from all of it. Take inventory of what you do, on a daily basis, to quiet your mind; do you meditate or practice yoga? Make it a priority and learn to incorporate inner work into your daily routine.
Yes, self growth takes time and practice. When we realize learning about ourselves is why we are here in the first place, it makes living life much easier, as we are learning to swim with the current instead of swimming against it.
Cynthia Pickett, MSW, LCSW, LADC
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Have you ever noticed how people react to the word change ? It is interesting to watch people's physical reaction when they hear the word. Their eyes may glaze over, any smile that once was vanishes, and arms may fold in a defensive posture. Have you ever wondered why it strikes such a deep chord in most of us? Especially since change is something that we are all doing every minute of the day, whether we resist or welcome it. It affects us deeply because, for most people, the primary emotion associated with change is fear.
If you will, imagine a scene in which we are all walking alone on our own individual path; like individual rays shooting from a circular sun. Maybe you visualize your personal path taking you through the forest, by the ocean, or through the desert, but you see it as beautiful and feel a certain sense of safety. You realize this path is the only thing in this world that you can honestly say is YOURS! For all of us, while we are strolling along our path, placing one foot in front of the other, we are becoming richer, better rounded from taking in the sights, sounds, and smells, along our way. These are our experiences that no one else can perceive the way we do because, remember, they are on their own path complete with their own unique experiences. At times, we may feel an underlying sense of anxiety because we are not sure of what lies ahead but when we know we are on the right path there is also a sense of confidence so we continue forward. This would all be easy if we just kept strolling along, but life does not work that way. Think about it, what happens to us when we encounter a hill and in our struggle to get up it take a step or two backwards; or when we get to a fallen log and stumble as we attempt to climb over it? Over and over I have seen people become consumed with fear that they won't make it over the log or up the hill. Or they fear that others, on their own path, may see them struggling, and think that they are weak. So people quit; they shut down. It is as though they become turtles sticking their heads back in their shells, and all the coaxing in the world will not draw them back out. They stop because they are scared of what lies ahead and assume that the experiences will be too hard or painful for them to face.
It is when we begin to appreciate the inherent value of these obstacles and see that their purpose is to make us stronger, then the resistance fades, the fear fades, and we take on a sense of “I can do it”. It is through this spirit of “I can do anything”, even though it may not be comfortable for us and may not be done perfectly, which keeps us going forward. We may even realize that without these bumps in the road that we would not evolve as fully or as quickly. How could we? Dealing with the rough terrain is what instills the balance to our leisurely stroll. We all venture off the path and we all take steps backwards. All of us, no matter how advanced we may be, make mistakes and slide into a place of fear. The difference is how long we choose to hide and if we are willing to get back up, again and again, to face the challenges of our lessons.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC
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Please feel free to contact Cynthia through any of the following:
316 California Avenue, Box 134
Reno, Nevada 89509