The Dominion of Fear

I don't want to write this blog post.

I've been ruminating over this topic all week, but I've managed to come up with excuse after excuse for why I can work on it later.

You see? "Work". I did it again. I just defined this blog post as "work", thereby making my prior excuses justified. After all, "work" might be good for you (like eating your vegetables). But it certainly isn't fun.

Oh, look. A new email popped up (I kept that tab open, deliberately). There's been a minor update to my credit report. I'd better investigate!

OK. That was completely non-important. Back to the blog post. What was I going to write about again? Oh, right. Confronting my fears and becoming a more complete human being.

Wow, that's a big topic to address. I'm kind of tired (yawn). Boy, my stomach sure feels weird after eating that smoky BBQ and drinking a Mexican coke. Mexican cokes are really different ... they taste less like battery acid than regular American cokes do. I wonder if those wily Mexicans swap out the battery acid for something tastier, like citric acid? Wow. That would be neat to research, I should check the Wikipedia entry ...

Oh, wait. I should probably get back to this blog post.

So ... yeah. Fear and procrastination. Wow! What a big topic. But I said that already, didn't I?

Maybe I should add a section header, and just start digging into this topic. Less excuses, more soul-searching! (Wow, that's awesome, I should replace my header on the blog with this new tagline immediately! This blog post can totally wait!)

What is Fear?

I've been pushing my boundaries a lot, lately.

I've been saying what's on my mind, more frequently, when interacting with my friends. I haven't been second-guessing myself nearly as much. As a result, I've had much more meaningful and heartfelt conversations -- it's been really powerful feedback for me. I'm on the right path.

I'm less anxious and scared than I was, even a few months ago. I'm more 'Eriky' than I used to be, and this is an enormously powerful change.

However, I still have fears and doubts. Sometimes they overwhelm my other emotions, they cloud my judgment, and they make me weak when I need to be strong.

Fear is very powerful.

Fear can sabotage the best-laid plans, it can distract you from what's important in your life, and it can make you doubt yourself.

Sometimes, fear is very obvious about what it wants and what it represents. You just feel <strong>AFRAID</strong> and the adrenaline pounds through your veins.

More frequently, however, fear masks itself as something helpful.

Fear is <i>devious</i>, it wraps itself up in the cloak of logic and morality and social obligations. Fear wraps itself up in your grandmother's cloak, like the Big Bad Wolf.

Fear preys on your emotions. When faced with a major life choice, do you choose door #1, or door #2?

Fear suggests that if you open Door #2, you're probably going to hurt your brother's feelings.

Fear assures you that if you open door #2, you're going to fail, and you're going to appear weak in the eyes of your friends.

Fear DEMANDSthat you be 100% certain that door #2 is going to work out for you, before you DARE to open it.

Fear suggests a logical compromise, why not wait until you can choose door #1 and door #2 at the same time?

Fear whispers into your ear that you're probably going to screw it up anyways, and that you should just stick with tried and true door #1.

Fear is a powerful, tricky emotion that is content to rule your life ... if you allow it to.

The Dominion of Fear

Fear has been the dominant emotion in my life, since I was a child.

After my parents divorced, we moved away from all my friends. We moved to ‘the big city’ of Mankato! I was scared and confused. I didn’t know how to make friends, I seemed to screw everything up, and I was angry. Very angry! I would cry in school, and get made fun of for it. Sometimes I’d get shoved around a bit (because I clearly deserved it, I was showing weakness). I learned to put a giant wall up around me, I learned not to show my emotions. I also learned to become incredibly self-critical about any mistakes I made. A mistake meant that I was showing weakness, and allowing myself to be hurt and embarrassed by others. I was a very angry, frustrated, confused and depressed kid.

I was afraid of talking to people, and saying the wrong thing. I was even afraid of the little things -- minuscule, normal social interactions like 'small talk'. This isn't a normal or healthy way to live!

But fear is devious, and it burrows its way into your brain in ways that aren't so easy to eliminate.

Earlier this year, I was afraid to talk about my fears and emotions, and my life experiences. What if my friends judged me, or thought less of me? What if I screwed it up, and sounded stupid? What if opened myself up and I was rejected, and found inadequate? What if I appeared to be weak? What if I made myself vulnerable, and revealed something that could be used against me?

That last one is particularly powerful. My most powerful, long-lasting, and most complex fear is that I will reveal a weakness that will be turned against me. I am afraid of being vulnerable. I am afraid of turning over the keys to my 'soft underbelly' to someone else, and having them use it against me.

I'm also afraid of being rejected.

If someone rejects me because they don't know me well -- OK, I can live with that.

If I say something stupid and someone rejects me because of that -- OK, no big deal. I'm not 14 years old anymore. I can handle it.

But when you open yourself up to someone, and they reject the 'true you'? That's harsh. That's really brutal on the psyche.

I'm afraid of putting my 'true self' out there, with all of my fears and uncertainties and vulnerabilities, and being judged as the imperfect being that I am.

This is the dominion of fear. These fears have shaped the walls of my prison, for almost 30 years.

True Bravery

I've been pushing my boundaries a lot, lately.

I've been opening myself up more, being more authentic as a person. I've been testing the boundaries of how far my heart can reach -- how deep into the well can I go, before I screw up? Step by step, inch by inch, I'm becoming less fearful and more complete as a human being.

However, I don't consider this to be brave. It's iterative, low-risk, step-by-step movement in the right direction. But that's not bravery. I'm not leaping boldly into door #1, I'm inching my way over there one hesitant step at a time.

I don't consider acts like this, where I "Hiked in the woods and decided it was time to reconnect with my trauma and allow it to ‘speak’ to me" to be brave. I consider that a necessary part of my path. I'm inching towards my goals.

What I consider true bravery is boldly confronting my fears, the fears that have dominated my life for far too long.

What I consider truly brave is vulnerability -- leaping towards the unknown, where I am capable of being rejected and hurt and thrown down to the ground like a moldy bag of onions.

Moving Forward

I'm working on 'conquering my fears'. I'm taking many small, hesitant steps towards that lofty goal.

But until I start taking large confident steps, my fears will still be arguing with me. My fears will be telling me that door #2 is going to hurt someone's feelings, that door #2 is best approached with caution, that door #2 is going to leave me open to ridicule, that door #2 is just plain going to screw everything up.

My fears have dominated my life, for a long time. Now that I have my life back, I really want to move beyond this fear. I think I'm capable of doing this! But it's really, really hard.

When I think I have my fears 'under control', they rise up and fill me with adrenaline at the wrong moments. My brain seizes up, my body tenses up, and my mind fills with excuses and 'easy outs'.

I don't think this is something that can be conquered by logic, or solved by rearranging the emotional jigsaw puzzle in my brain, or by slowly approaching it through iterative and tentative steps. It's something that I just need to bodge on through, from a (relatively) calm and mindful state of being.

I'm tired of being ruled by fear. It's very fatiguing! :) It's also not very much fun.

A Brief Afterlude

Normally, writing these blog posts is emotionally uplifting and energizing. However, after writing this post I feel emotionally numb.

This post was hard to write, it was genuinely difficult. And I'm still not sure what I think about it.


Originally written on 2013-12-29