Four letters that describe an emotion no-one can escape. It’s a natural response to many situations – the human survival response that protects us, a double-edged sword that could be an advantage or a disadvantage. We need it, but we also don’t want to live with it.
Akin to a poisonous plant that will kill you, but may also save you when smaller quantities are used knowledgeable for medicinal purposes. The irony and complexity of life never fails to amaze me.
LIVING IN FEAR
Living your life in fear creates problems which build up layer upon layer, until you no longer know what to do, or how to live your life as you should. Soon it becomes an excuse and you give yourself permission to live a particular life that is not conducive to either your mental or physical health.
You cover the wounds but you haven’t stopped the bleeding.
You dress for success, but your heart aches and you don’t know why.
You laugh and smile and show the world a carefree attitude.
You surround yourself with ‘friends’ avoiding being on your own.
You work longer hours.
You stay busy and become the person everyone calls if something needs to be done. No matter how tiring it becomes, living hectically allows you to avoid the ‘fear’.
None of this eliminates the sense of fear inside you. Instead you become even more fearful of being on your own and no matter how loud you play the music, or drown your sorrows, that dark cloud still hovers. Being idle or on your own must be avoided at all costs. That’s when fear immobilizes you and you must confront it.
SOURCE OF YOUR FEAR
It’s time to live your life without fear. A life you deserve!
Finding the source of your pain may be a painful journey. Often that fear is so deep-rooted it has become an inherent part of who we are and how we act. Blithely we can say – ‘I’m afraid of nothing. Throw anything at me and I’ll deal with it.’
Friends admire our courage and sense of adventure, but they’re not there in the dead of night when nightmares awaken us with a thumping heart and sense of dread. Repeating over and over again every night.
When dawn breaks we paint on our brave face, clothe our bodies in bright colours, and step out into the world with a fake confidence that almost fools ourselves. We shake off the night terrors and greet the day with determination. We hone our bodies at the gym pushing ourselves until every muscle burns in protest, in an attempt to reach perfection, gaining control over some aspects of our lives.
GIVE FEAR A FACE
We can only push ourselves so far. Time to face your fears and unfriend them. Finding a counsellor who you can work with may be a lengthy process, but don’t give up. It’s not that the counsellor is ineffective, it’s your subconscious refusal to give up the one certainty in your life – fear. ‘Counselling doesn’t work for me’ is an excuse to hold on, giving yourself permission to live your life in a particular fashion. It’s also fear of the unknown.
Sometimes we’re not ready and fear that the exposure of our inner life, albeit to a stranger, will weaken us, strip away all the certainties, our coping mechanisms – a thought that perhaps we’re not aware of. Counsellors have different methods, different approaches, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another.
Have you ever stripped wallpaper off a wall only to discover that there’s another layer beneath, and as you rip it off you see yet another layer.
Uncovering the choices people have made, children’s scribbles, colours and patterns, all laid bare. You may hesitate, reluctant to finally remove these memories, or you may attack the wall with gusto. It’s a tiring project and sometimes you wish you had never started, had just painted over the cracks.
Removing years of deeply-grooved fears, facing them, seeing the colours and patterns emerge and realizing how they have affected our behaviour, our lives, is equally exhausting. Don’t give up. It’s a journey worth taking.
There are so many ‘What If?’ scenarios in life and sometimes we programme ourselves to expect the worst. We see it as a form of protection, but we remain nervous and jittery. ‘What if someone breaks in? What if someone mugs me? What if I lose my job? What if my home is repossessed? What if I get cancer? What if my partner dies before me? What if I’m alone in my old age? Who will look after me? What if I fall? What if I lose all my money?
Are any of these foregone conclusions? Without sugar-coating it, the truth is they are. They happen daily, but not to you. Try not to allow ‘What If’ to be the default setting. Break it down. Look at your fears objectively. All of your ‘what if’ fears are in your imagination and not one of them has happened to you. Delete all the ‘What Ifs’ and live your life free of fear, free of stuff that hasn’t happened.
Group counselling is one way to verbalize your fear and meet other people who are experiencing the same things you are, or hearing how they have moved on. ‘Sharing your story’ is a theme that runs through many support groups, self-realization and hope offered as a gift by others, allowing you to see other scenarios. It’s a painful process that may challenge you and demands bravery and honesty.
Young mum: ‘My daughter is almost 10 and I live in fear. I don’t want her to grow up. I know I’m over-protective, but what if something bad happens to her, what if someone attacks her, what if someone rapes her’.
Group Leader: Writes words on whiteboard: I don’t. I know. I’m. What if?
‘Own your internalized fears and see them for what they are – merely words that have no power over you if you choose. There are no guarantees in life, But there are surefire ways you see the world, and how you allow it to impact on your life’.
Group members: Murmur encouraging words – offering support.
One person remains silent, pressing her thumb into the palm of her hand, the pain making her wince, a pain that is bearable unlike the anguish of knowing your child has been raped. A story she now can’t share. A journey so painful and raw every nerve in your body screams daily. She wants to reassure the young mum that everything will be fine, that her daughter is safe, that the statistics are in her favour – just numbers. She reaches out and grasps the young mum’s hand.
Young man: ‘Every time I get into my car I need at least ten minutes to control my fear. I know the process so well now – deep breathing, focusing on my muscles and allowing them to relax, inhaling deeply, exhaling deeply. Some days my body is drenched with perspiration, my hands slippery on the steering wheel, but the process helps. It gives me the courage to turn the key in the ignition and move forward. I know I can do it, because I do it every day. I’ve proven to myself that my fears are invalid and the thoughts – ‘What if the brakes on my car fail. What if I knock someone down and maim them for life?’ – are merely figments of my imagination. It hasn’t happened and the statistics of it happening are……
Group member: He moves his chair back – breaking the circle, his thoughts in turmoil.
Will I share? Is it right? But I can reassure this young man that even if the worst happens you recover. You heal. It may take time – although your heart seems to bleed every year on that one anniversary you want to forget, but you get to a place of acceptance and peace. I’m the statistic in the room so everyone else is safe.
The session ends and everyone sighs with relief. The young mum hugs the lady who held her hand. ‘Thank you. You made me feel better.’
WHAT’S IT TO BE?
Fear holds us back from fulfilling our potential as human beings. Unwittingly, it colours thoughts and our actions.
Or Fear may help us avoid dangerous situations, impel us forward to where we want to be on the Monopoly Gameboard of life.
Recognize what you are feeling. If it’s fear, is it justified? Will it save you, help you and propel you into your future.
If the fear is paralyzing you, threatening your mental or physical health, seek help. CBT Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is extremely helpful.
MY FEAR IS HIDDEN BEHIND A SMILE
My fear is hidden behind the smile
that doesn’t reach my eyes
Fear-driven beats that seem to implode
Nothing for you to see here
Beyond the carefree jokes and puns
my life has taken on
Nothing for you to see
I cannot bare my soul
© Helena Abrahams
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I have written two novels available on Amazon