Fear

All the really ugly emotions are firmly rooted in fear. Fear that we won’t measure up, fear that we’ll look foolish, fear that we’ll lose success or love or respect. Prejudice is a product of fear. Anger too.

Most people, myself included, allow too many important aspects of our lives to be dictated by the anguish of embarrassment or the dread of what may or may not come to pass. So much of our self-esteem is bound up in what other people might perceive. And that is the polar opposite of healthy.

In the recovery group Co-Dependents Anonymous there’s a saying that goes, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” They have a lot of sayings but that one pretty much sums it all up.

I suspect that being the most sentient creatures on the planet, we’re instinctively bent on hubris. Humans have the biggest brain-to-body ratio so naturally we’ve got control issues. It’s that Power-and-Small-People Syndrome. Basically, as a species we think way too much of ourselves. Take for example your typical road rage. Why does it happen? One word…… Control.

You’re the good driver. You take extra pains to stay in your lane. You mostly come to complete stops, usually signal for turns and stick pretty darned close to those speed limits. Rules are there for a reason. Then another driver breaks the rules right in front of you. And why should THEY be allowed to disregard the letter of the law when you so clearly comply? That’s when the control reflex kicks in and you decide to force him to play by the rules. Of course tensions elevate and tragedy ensues.

We humans fear a lot of really stupid things that constantly land us in trouble. It’s a widely held conviction that any really important decision should never be made when one is in an elevated emotional state. Because nine times out of nine it’s not only the wrong decision but also the worst possible one.

I once read, and firmly believe, that we cannot control our emotions. But… we can control how we react to them.

Some people take issue with that and claim they have full command of all their emotions. If they truly have that power then they’re more disciplined folk than I. My experience doesn’t bear that out. My emotions suddenly arrive out of nowhere like a moth at a porch light. Where did that come from? And even though I’ve always possessed the power to choose how I react, it never really occurred to me to exercise that choice.

Once I did, I started leaning toward the path of least resistance, or rather the path of best resistance. Now when a driver cuts me off, I just stay out of his way. It’s not my job to make him obey the law. His family has to live with him, I don’t.

When I gave my daughter her first driving lesson, I told her, “You have no right — no right — to get angry at someone else in traffic. Most drivers are basically self-absorbed brain donors and when they behave badly it HAS to be what you expected. Always count on it. The only genuine surprise should be when someone actually drives courteously. That, my love, is the rarity and should be your only unanticipated event on the road.”

I give her full credit for taking that to heart. She’s a marvelous driver now and I’ve never seen her upset in the car. At least not because of other drivers.

Yes, fear is the culprit for every negative feeling we encounter. As a writer, I cope with creative fears all the time. Over the years many people who didn’t know me, and a few who did, have suggested I let go of this fruitless dream of being a writer. And there are days I actually consider it.

When you’re on your own, there’s only so much self-induced encouragement and back patting you can muster. Now, whenever taunted by self-doubt, I refer to a sign on the wall over my desk. It simply reads:

“FAILURE IS FAR LESS FRIGHTENING THAN REGRET.”

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25 thoughts on “Fear

  1. You know my husband’s most frequent expression to our kids was, “You can control what happens to you, only how your react to it.” As you so aptly put, that applies to our emotions as well. Thanks Michael. I can’t help but come back and look over again your past posts as I read the new ones. God bless, Maria Delight Directed Living

  2. I see now I will have to read every one of your posts. You have a beautiful and heartfelt way of writing. Did you know that the same brain chemicals surge when we experience fear as when we experience excitement? I agree we can’t control our emotions but can control our responses. You might be interested in my posts on expressing emotions: http://www.conflicttango.com/expressing-emotions/
    Jagoda

    • Thank you, Jagoda. You’ve given me a genuine boost. All this banging away at my keyboard and, when I look up, there’s someone like you making a delightful comment or observation. My day is made. Cheers and felicitations!

    • Perspective is a big thing for me. There’s always more than one and it’s a bit snooty of me to presume my viewpoint is the only one worth considering. Thank you for reading. It means a great deal to me, especially being a first-time blogger.

    • Susan, how very kind of you to comment. I very much appreciate your sharing this reaction to my post. Failure is absolutely an opportunity — not a setback. The more people who get that, the more happiness they can discover for themselves. At least, that’s the way I approach it. Thanks for reading.

  3. wait a moment… there is a Co-Dependents Anonymous association? with meetings? not be make light of it, but wouldn’t the meetings consist of NOT telling others you problems so as to not let others become co dependent? if there is, there must be great facilitators running that meeting. Not trying to be funny, but just a thought…

    • Stephen, yes Co-Dependents Anonymous is a real organization and has been for quite some time. CoDA, as it is commonly referred to, has regular meetings in almost every major city and it’s easy enough to find one. Go to https://www.coda.org/meetings/index.php and find one close to you. The typical group allows for roughly three minutes per person to vent out loud about the challenges they’re facing and how they’re trying to use the tenets of recovery to overcome them. It’s a support group — not a whiners meeting. They utilize the basic principles of 12-Step recovery programs found in the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Blue Book. And yes, there are some fine facilitators running the meetings. If there is one in your area, they’re quite enlightening and well worth sitting in on. And thank you for your respect. I get that you weren’t trying to be funny. : ]

  4. Fear – certainly my greatest enemy when it comes to writing! Fear that I’ll hate the novel it’s going to take about 2 years to write, fear that I’ll grind to a halt, fear that I’ll never sell another short story, fear that everyone will feel sorry for me because I failed… but YAH BOO SUCKS to all that. If you give in to fear, you may as well give up. Great post – nice to ‘meet’ you and thanks for the comment on my A-Z post (from last year – far too busy writing to do it this year!)

    • Linda, I truly admire anyone who can create a novel — something I have always longed to do. Perhaps this challenge is what I needed to get me in the groove to write a full-length project like that. I’m hoping so anyway. I’m so happy you responded well to “Fear”. And I agree with your take from the perspective of a writer. But we can sooth ourselves a bit with the confident reassurance that nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Thank you for your kindness. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  5. I readily admit here that I am one of those, for a long time, have allowed my self-esteem to be linked with the opinions of others. Only recently, I’ve managed to untangle myself from this emotionally self-destructive habit and faced the fact that my job is not to make other people happy at the expense of my own happiness.

    Wonderful post, Michael 🙂

  6. I love the quote about not worrying about what other people think of you as its their business not theirs. I need to remember that! Great advice to your daughter on driving. Road rage scares me. Having to teach my daughters to drive someday scares me too! Good luck blogging.

  7. This was a great choice for F. And it’s so true. I don’t think we really stop to analyze how much of our thought process is dominated by this one emotion. It was a long time before I realized that fear was behind my anxiety and depression. It seems obvious, but knowing it and KNOWING it are two different things. Mindfulness is a of great help with the fearfulness.
    I love your advice to your daughter. 100% spot on. So glad to have found your blog.

    Happy Blogging!
    Kaye Draper at Write Me

  8. Welcome to the blogosphere! That saying is fantastic and I should probably write it on a sticky note that I wear on the back of my hand! I have moved beyond worry of embarassment, but still consider other possible opinions.

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