In her book "The Body is the Barometer of the Soul - so be your own doctor" Annette Noontil defines fear as False Expectations Appearing Real. Let's talk about it.
Fear plays such a big role in our lives. How many times you wanted to do something but you decided not to act because of fear of the consequences? Personally, I lost the count.
So why is fear so scary and difficult to overcome?
One of the reasons could be that we are afraid of how we will react once we will make a certain choice or another reason could be that we might be afraid of how the emotional response of others will make us feel. So, in other words, we might be afraid of how WE will feel when someone else will have an emotional response to our action.
Some of us, when faced with fears, decide to revert to doubt and use it as either an excuse to avoid taking responsibility of an action or, alternatively, as a "grey area" where to linger without feeling the pressure of making a choice. Doubt is much more insidious than we think and people can literally stall for years in that condition before realizing the reasons behind such a choice. It is better to act and do the wrong thing than stay in a perpetual condition of doubt.
Others, instead, when faced with fears choose to believe that it's better to tolerate our current dissatisfaction rather than take a chance at facing what we imagine to be "more future pain". The irony is that the natural evolution of this condition normally leads to an exponential increase of dissatisfaction and pain, which causes us to reach our personal rock bottom and realize that our current pain is actually worst than the potential pain of going through a change (unless our love of self is so deeply damaged to make us accept to live in prolonged pain, a.k.a. sufferance). Once that happens we finally take an action and our emotional response (or the one of people surrounding us) don't represent an obstacle anymore. Obviously we do not need to reach rock bottom before being able to act; we could choose to have faith in the goodness of our choice, face our fears and cope with the consequences of our actions but a lot of times we choose to take the first route and wait until we are cornered by situations before finding the courage to change our life. I unfortunately chose the first path and I am still paying the consequences of such choice. What i realized from this experience is that we have NO IDEA of the true consequence of "sinful" acting cause if we did, if we had clarity about what it entails and how much it affects our future life we would never, EVER choose to do that (if we were in our right mind).
So, to summarize what we talked about so far, one way to overcome our fears is to:
- Assess our situation truthfully
- Face our fears by taking an action
- Deal with the emotions that emerge, having faith that we are guided during the process
I emphasized the word "truthfully" because nothing can be accomplished while we live in a state of denial. We cannot hope to get out of an abusive relationship if we first don't acknowledge we are in one. We cannot leave our job if we first don't recognize we don't like it, we cannot lose weight if we first don't accept that we are fat.
Truth is not easy to accept and when stated out loud can stir up our emotions more than anything else. But once we develop the humility to receive it and we take an honest assessment of our life we can move on to the next step and start facing our fears.
THIS was the step that took me the longest to complete. I felt empowered by the truth but I didn't have the guts to do what i knew was right for me. My mind was like a theatre, showing me all the things that could possibly go wrong. Whenever I thought of separating and living alone with my daughter a thousands scenarios started to play in my mind. I would picture myself collapsing under the weight of the responsibilities that were waiting for me, I would imagine myself not being able to survive financially, I imagined the feeling of loneliness and terror when sleeping alone in a new house with a toddler under my care. All of these thoughts kept putting a break on my will to act until one day I realized that I was already living some of my worst fears. I had already touched rock bottom and my fervent imagination was doing nothing but keeping me locked in that space. I realized that while I kept picturing my future life through the lens of fear no change was ever going to happen in my real life. I kept wondering what danger would be waiting for me in that dark tunnel that separated me from the light and I concluded that if I had spent my time walking the talk rather than living in my fears I probably would have been already half way by then. So that's when I decided to act.
Surprisingly enough, a lot of things that I thought would be insurmountable and overwhelming turned out to be completely manageable and I realized that the monster I saw on the wall was only the enlarged and deformed shadow of a harmless mosquito. That's the part that tricks us all and is also the reason why Annette defined fear as False Expectations Appearing Real.
The last question we need to ask ourselves is:
What comes after action and how do we handle the consequences of facing our fears?
Action helped me to put things in the right perspective but most importantly it helped me expose a bunch of emotions that I had never confronted before. Some of them were expected (like feeling alone, feeling afraid of financial disaster, feeling unprotected), others instead were completely new to me and swept me off my feet when they first hit me (for example feeling deep anger towards men, feeling unloved, feeling ashamed of not having the courage to do the right thing, feeling afraid of not performing well at work, being afraid of being manipulated and dominated by people, and the list goes on and on).
I cannot put into words the amount of self work that I was able to accomplish as a result of this one single action. As I worked through every single emotion I felt like another burden was lifted from my back. My life got a little brighter every day and things started to become easier and more enjoyable. Life has been good since then. Action opened the door to a world I had never known before and initiated a process of growth that I am overwhelmingly grateful for.
When action brings along a wave of suppressed emotions that are challenged and exposed by the change in our lives the key is to handle them with humility (meaning being open to experience them without trying to avoid them or suppress them) and without self judgment.
Once we keep that in mind, fear will be just another feeling. If you don't believe me, try it. You'll be amazed at what you will learn along the way!
For more info on fear and truth: