We live in a world filled with fear. And right now, it might seem like it is worse than it has ever been. Fear is everywhere. There is fear of disease, fear of financial destitution and fear of oppression and attacks on our human rights. They are widespread right now and they are feeding our existing fears coming from earlier traumas. These days, the fear can seem like it is growing exponentially. It can feel like there is no way out of it. We are literally afraid of our fear. Needless to say, it can feel like an uphill battle to live without fear with everything fueling its existence. One of the most important steps to stop living from fear is to understand the ways we are. Our fears don’t always show up the way we think. Let’s look at six signs we are making decisions from our fear.
We are highly logical. When we live life with many black and white rules, there tends to be fear driving those rules. Logical rules can seem highly unemotional. They seem to be driven by thoughts only, at least on the surface. But when we dive below our thoughts, we can find the fears that create them. This is why it can be so difficult to change these rules. The fears driving them must be addressed first. And it is true that the more extreme our rules, the more fear is involved. What do I mean by “rules”? Here are some examples:
There is only one correct way to do something.
The steps in life can only go in this order.
Taking risks will always fail.
We mitigate the unknown. When we are driven by fear, the unknown can feel terrifying. Any gap in certainty is never a potential opportunity for good things. It is only a disaster waiting to happen. When we have something unknown in our lives, our fear will tell us we must resolve it as fast as possible. We must force it to certainty. It is this force that can create the most problems. Often, the best result happens when we pause. But too much fear won’t allow for that.
We are anxious. This one might appear obvious at first. If we are fearful, we are likely to experience anxiety. But the anxiety is rarely coming from our original traumatic fear. The anxiety is our fear of the fear (or fear of any emotion). Anxiety tells us not to feel the fear from childhood. Instead, anxiety tells us to project that fear on to what is happening right now. Anxiety makes our flashback fear about now. And that means we make decisions from our past fear today. Not surprisingly, this is not going to lead to new and better results.
We get depressed. Depression might not appear to be fear-driven, but it is. Have you ever noticed how it comes up at the moments you are about to do something new and exciting, something that will take you out of the norm? Depression is a defense that is meant to keep you safe by keeping you small. It is meant to stop you in your tracks so you don’t make an unsafe decision which could lead to something disastrous. But in the end, depression becomes the way we punish ourselves in anticipation of being punished by others. And that’s no way to live.
We feel paralyzed. We can’t seem to get anything started or finished. This is especially true if these things are new things, exciting things, visible things or successful things. The fears will drive our ability to complete new tasks because we are afraid of the results. Maybe we are afraid we will fail. Maybe we are afraid we will succeed in a big way and become a target. But living small can feel safer when fear is driving our decisions.
We overcommit. We have a tendency to commit to things that were never meant to be permanent. Maybe it was meant to be transitional. Maybe it was meant to take us from point A to point B. But instead, we have committed to it for life. It could be a relationship, a place to live or a job. And we can’t see a way out. We overcommit to give ourselves that feeling of stability. It helps quell our fears. But we get trapped in places we were never meant to stay.
It is important to keep an eye on our fears and how they might be driving our life choices. It is easy to believe that the fear is the truth. But it’s not the truth. Our lives were meant to be driven by much more than the fear of living. We need to take a step back from all those fear-based influences and question what we thought we knew. We won’t change things fast, but with small steps and awareness, we can start to live life without the intense fear that has plagued us since childhood. Let’s make changes together. Come join us in Survivor’s Guide for Life this October as we discuss how to emerge from fear-based living.