“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
― Jim Morrison
“All that ever holds somebody back, I think, is fear. For a minute I had fear. [Then] I went into the [dressing] room and shot my fear in the face…”
― Lady Gaga
I’ve heard it called The Great Impostor and do have to admit that fear has all the qualities of a ghost in that it can’t ever be located. It’s not what it seems. All fear does is to bang the chains of doubt around in your head and terrorize by doing nothing more than making a hell of a racket. It’s a self-induced restraint for your dreaming mind and comes with its own brand of GPS, the kind that starts rerouting as soon as you do anything out of range. Want to quit your job to start a new venture? Rerouting… Make a U Turn.
Just reading the word brings on a small tightness in the back of my throat. But what is it? And how does it stop us?
Punching it in the Throat
It’s an exercise I have to repeat, like strengthening a muscle, but when fear unexpectedly crops up in the middle of an otherwise bright and shiny outlook, I try to take a close look to find its color, shape, and substance. Rather than examining what it is I’m fearful of, I try to get a handle on what fear IS. Because in all the times I’ve done this, I’ve never been able to find anything that I could point to. Instead, fear’s been a slippery little demon that dances away as it morphs into its next form in an ugly mental game of terror tag.
I don’t think I shut the oven off. Should I turn around and go back to check? Ugh. What about the unplugging the iron? And Did I check the back door? Today’s the day I get the test results. What if there’s very bad news? What would he do without me? I can’t believe I signed up to jump out of that plane. What if the chute doesn’t open?”
When this loop is in full effect, this mental dialogue comes in a rapid fire staccato nearly without pause. It does back flips and impressive looping somersaults, but the mental chatter never actually lands. And never, ever have I found the center of the loop- the fear itself. I’ve found only the symptoms. The behavior. The thoughts.
Fear is actually just a habit, a mental pattern circling an empty black void.
The only thing
Through the famous quote, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, FDR pointed out the recursive nature of fear stories. We tend to rework the same theme time and again, swapping out just the small details. What we actually fear, is the experience of fear itself. But standing right up to it exposes the fact that its never anything more than a story. Like vampires and zombies at Halloween, they appear in full costume but once we get beyond the props, the illusion is exposed.