What does fear look like?

Many times I have talked with clients who are ready to take the next step, whatever that step might be, yet they just can’t seem to motivate themselves to get started. This is because most of us fear the unknown, and the decision to make big changes in our lives is often a leap of faith. As an example, someone may want to make career changes,or they are considering marriage or divorce, writing a book or speaking in public.

I have often noticed that people in these situations deny that they fearful. And I believe they are sincere in that belief, because they don’t recognize the many faces of fear.

Let’s take an example here. A client is required to write a thesis in order to complete a master’s degree, but he can’t seem to get started, even though the clock is ticking. He tells me he isn’t scared, that he simply lacks the motivation and the discipline to put pen to paper, so to speak.

If we look back at my previous statement, we can apply the principle that people fear the unknown, and to this college student, the thesis represents the final leg of his academic marathon. In this case, he may fear success because it means leaving the safe confines of a college campus and venturing out into the world.

Conversely, he may feel inadequate to the task at hand, and feel as though he might not be able to write and defend a worthwhile thesis. Either way, this student did not recognize the face of fear because it came disguised as lack of motivation and procrastination. If you examine his response to a required thesis that he has known about from day one, you must conclude that his strategy of avoidance is based on fear.

Can he write a killer thesis and defend it? Unknown

If he does write and defend it, can he graduate and be successful out in the real world? Unknown.

We have established that people fear the unknown. In this case, fear did not look like fear. We typically think of fear as a response to seeing a snake or spider, or being robbed. But many times fear doesn’t come knocking on the front door in an obvious way. Often it sneaks in a side window disguised as something else, something less shameful and certainly more palatable to our self image.

Hence, my client wasn’t scared, he was simply unmotivated. But in order to flip the motivation switch to the on position, we have to recognize the enemy and call it by its real name. Fear of failure is universal, and it drains the enthusiasm out of so many life adventures that people dream about. It may seem like a hard thing to learn, but a willingness to accept that you might fail at something and still be a worthwhile and admirable person is a developed skill that can be honed and put into practice in your life. What would be the outcome of this newly acquired life skill? Simple; you would be more willing to try, whatever that encompasses. And the trying and doing becomes more important that the successful outcome.

A corollary to this is that you have to be willing to accept that sometimes, you will be wrong, and being wrong doesn’t diminish you or make you less worthy. If you subconsciously cannot tolerate being wrong, then you may become argumentative or angry when you are challenged, even by (or especially by) a loved one. The blow to the ego is too much to bear.

In this case, what diminishes you is not being wrong, it is your response to being wrong. On a conscious level, what is so hard about saying ” Oh really, I didn’t know that. Thanks for the information!” It is only hard if our subconscious mind rebels against a challenge to our self esteem, which is, in itself based on fear of being judged as inadequate or uninformed. And so it goes.

The point of this blog is that we all have fear, me included. Fear is a healthy emotion that cautions us when we deal with new situations. This is a basic survival response. But when we fail to recognize fear, we lose the benefit and instead adopt a coping behavior that works against you.

If my college student had recognized immediately that his procrastination was based on fear, he would have been able to deal with the enemy head on. Instead he was deceived by fear disguised as something else, and was struggling.

My job as a hypnotherapist is to help people recognize this trap, and help them see that success and failure are two sides of the same coin. If you never try, you will never fail. And if you never fail, you never tried. I like to say, “Nothing succeeds like failure because we learn from our mistakes.”

We all have God given value, and that value is not based on whether you can pass a test, or remember the capital of Mongolia, or recall the score of the last Super Bowl game. Once you free yourself of this fear by accepting that it’s OK to make mistakes, it will open the door to opportunities that were off limits before. Isn’t that liberating? What would your life look life if you weren’t afraid?

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