Written by Stella Talpo
I’ve struggled with fear for a really long time. It manifests itself in different forms each day. In this blog post I want to address the fear of the unknown. And the subsequent resistance to facing the unknown that we have, paralysed by this fear. We give fear the keys to our fate so that we can feel comfortable and safe. But what if we looked it straight in the face instead? What if we kicked down the door and took back the reigns?
Have you ever had a situation replay over and over again? Maybe a boss who bullies you? Doesn’t matter how many workplaces you change, the same dynamic always seems to arise. Perhaps its a repetitive type of relationship or an outcome that continues showing its unwelcomed face regardless of the time, circumstance or people around changing. You’re wondering why no matter what, you’re always confronted with this same mortifying situation that you’ve been avoiding.
I had it with women in authority. I couldn’t for the life of me confront them. Sometimes I read what they were saying totally wrong and I felt attacked even though it wasn’t at all what they were intending. It was not their problem, it was mine. For some reason, no matter where I worked, it just kept repeating. Without fail, I had an issue with authoritative female figures, even if they were very normal and lovely. Sometimes it was with female friends I had, who weren’t even authoritative by nature. I’d feel this inner tug to make sure everything was ok and that I’d done everything right to pacify a situation that first of all, wasn’t even a situation. This neurotic compulsivity to please and do more and more to make sure everyone was happy at the expense of myself. The root of that is probably a topic for another blog, what I want to point out now is this character, this archetype, that kept visiting me in my life.
Why was it coming up every time? Why did it keep cropping up just when I thought I’d found a sneaky way out of dealing with this complex of mine?
Because I chose to run every time.
What I was struggling to learn was how to set boundaries with women, but first of all with myself. And until I learnt how to do that (by using the opportunity to learn and practice a new behaviour), sure enough that situation would arise with as much certainty as the sun does every morning. What that struggle or repetitive situation is for each of us depends on loads of variables. We may have had experiences in our childhood and past, which make us react in a certain way to a certain type of personality or behaviour. For me, the main problem was my inability to recognise that I was not setting boundaries. I first and foremost wasn’t doing this with myself because I was lacking self-respect, self-love and self-esteem, so therefore I wasn’t doing it with anyone else.
And every time a woman came into my life to bring up these old feelings of total fear and a frantic need to please and over-do, she came to help me learn how to set those boundaries with myself. But I was too afraid to not please, too afraid to let someone down or appear unreliable (all things I struggled to feel with regards to my a female archetype in my life story), too afraid to say something wrong. I was too afraid to voice my needs or set my boundaries with myself and these outside figures that I thought it better to just run into the ground than go through the terrifying ordeal of confronting my fear. So the opportunity kept presenting itself, kept tempting me to maybe try a different approach this time. But I wasn’t having any of it. The fear was too great, I’d rather live my life like this then ever confront it.
I self-sacrificed, I abandoned my needs, I compromised, I put others first on my list of priorities. And sure enough I got tired and sick, I felt really empty because I wasn’t taking care of me. I was taking care of others, and not even because they’d demanded it! But because I was reacting to this subconscious compulsion to make everyone and everything ok and perfect as if it was actually in my power to do such a thing.
So I ran and I didn’t confront. And sure enough, hello, there it was once again.
Here’s an analogy which has stuck with me for so many years. I wanted to bring it up in this blog today because of how well it illustrates this flee rather than be behaviour I’m talking about:
Taking the Easy Route Around
It is very human to want to find the easy way around something. We’ve invented technologies, methods, utilities and more utilities to make our lives easier and get things done quicker. In many respects they’re good, they offer us more time for things that matter. But when it comes to healing and self-development, I don’t believe the same rule applies. Although we save time and money now, which we’d use for things that seem more important to us now, that niggling feeling (be it anxiety, depression, lack of satisfaction, emptiness, addiction) will not go away and can risk taking away valuable things like time, relationships and money in the long run.
The analogy goes a bit like this: we’re standing at a crossroads. One road looks despairingly dark, uninviting and difficult to get through. It looks long and laborious and not really worth the exertion. The other road looks welcoming, less demanding and like a walk in the park if you will. Both roads supposedly lead you to the same place… eventually.
So you take the easy route because why go through unnecessary pain to reach the same destination? Valid rationale. It’s as pleasant a journey as you’d assumed and the sun’s shining and everything’s rather delightful until, after much walking, you find that you’re back at the crossroads you started at. You’re faced with the same decision again, which way do I go? Well, God forbid going through the unpredictable and probably painful hard route, so once again we choose to go down the easy one.
Unbelievably, after another pleasant, struggle-free journey, you’re back to square one. Well… “I might not be going anywhere but at least it’s easy”, you think.
Many of us continue through life like this. So naturally, we have the same situation repeat itself over and over again because we’re making the same choice over and over again… the path of least resistance. We’re constantly avoiding the difficult route, the one which demands effort, time, emotional investment and most importantly, for us to abandon our comfort zones. We are so attached to these comfortable spaces we create for ourselves and find that they get more cushty with age. We don’t know that the more time we spend taking the easier route, the harder it’ll be to ever choose to face the hard one. These comfortable spaces could include, not speaking up for yourself with your partner, friend or family member (the conflict would be inconvenient, the idea of losing them terrifies you), partaking in a sabotaging toxic cycle (could be an addiction that’s keeping you stuck like binge eating, or totally shutting yourself off from the world because the fear of the outside is too great), not trying, pretending to not care etc etc. In reality, none of these are easy routes at all…
The initial discomfort, finding the power inside you to override the fear and push yourself into the unknown, feels nauseating. I’m sure you can think of a time where you were put in that position and your whole body crumbled at the thought. But it’s the beginning and only feels uncomfortable temporarily… and most importantly, it’s the necessary step to go forward in your life and personal growth.
To heal, to learn, to grow… one must venture through, not around.
We think we’re being savvy. We’ve tricked the system and we’re avoiding pain. We’re avoiding the conflict, we’re avoiding the breakup (because being alone is worse than being unhappy, we think), we’re avoiding sobriety (because who wants to be faced with existential reality), we’re avoiding the present.
But this is a lie we’ve spun ourselves. We’re not avoiding pain, we’re delaying it. Because we’re afraid of that initial sting and discomfort (just like when we were kids, too scared of pulling the plaster off). And the more time passes, the more painful that pain will be to face. Fair enough, some people never come face to face with it, once it’s too late we forget there was a destination to begin with. Our fortress of comfort becomes all we know and we close ourselves off to the world and to growth. But if you don’t want that to be how your journey unravels then it’s important to understand where you might be convincing yourself that you’re fine where you are, when really maybe you’re not. We think we’re outsmarting the system by avoiding, in order to feel less pain in the immediate present. Tomorrow can deal with it. What we might not consider is how we’re accruing a huge interest on said pain. All the additional time suffering, psyching ourselves out, growing inwardly within ourselves are small prices to pay for delaying the pain right?
The sooner we face the fear, the sooner we can see an unsurmountable change in our lives. One we never thought possible. It takes serious will and practice but the outcome far greater outweighs that of constantly wondering what actually lay beyond the dark, arduous route.
3 Beginning Steps to Help You Overcome Fear / Leave Your Comfort Zone
Ask yourself why you want to overcome your fear, why you want to change your behaviour. When the why is clear, the how becomes more intuitive and less of a battle with yourself. When the why is chosen and solid, you’re willingness and resilience to walk through the fire becomes stronger. When you know why you want to choose a different path, nothing will stop you.
Meditation can really help you consolidate your seat within yourself. It allows us to act from a space of calm and mindfulness so we’re less likely to make rash and compulsive decisions. When we’re totally mindful and present in our actions, we watch as our decisions unfold. This simple act of watching gives us power and autonomy over what might normally be auto-pilot, compulsive behaviour. Being in the now within yourself will give you the strength to make mindful choices to stay on a new path rather than stray back to old behaviours.
Spend some minutes of your day imagining what your ideal self would be like. What would they do in this situation? What life have they created for themselves? Visualise the life that you really want, waiting for you at the end of the arduous wrong. Consolidating your desire to reach your destination through visual and emotional connection and stimulus will help you through those difficult days when you might want to throw in the towel. It will keep you focused and give you a more tangible vision of what your why is.
Do it now or do it later. You’re still going to have to do it.
If any of the themes have resonated with you, you can get in touch with Stella via firstname.lastname@example.org.