In Webster’s Dictionary, it is defined as an unpleasant feeling of apprehension or distress caused by the presence or anticipation of danger.
In the Thesaurus, the word fear is synonymous with terror, dread, horror, fright, panic, alarm, trepidation and apprehension.
Some people wake up with it, some folks go to bed with it, and some of us even carry it around like a handbag – clutching it, holding on to it with every fiber in our being. We are afraid of being abandoned, being disappointed, being left behind, being dismissed, being discarded, being successful, being a failure, being defeated and being forgotten. We’re afraid of being loved, being hated, being recognized, being looked over, being found out, being happy, being depressed. We’re afraid of life, and we’re afraid of death.
We push it down, suppress it, ignore it, transfer it, obliterate it, annihilate it, repeat it, and dismiss it. We give it power, control, time and energy. It keeps us knotted in a ball and our stomachs churning – we become tense and angry, resentful and bitter. It works its way through our bodies like a tapeworm – slipping and sliding through our systems and when it hits a nerve, the nerve – whoa – paralysis. And then what? We try to get rid of the fear. We’re afraid someone’s going to leave us, so we pick up the phone and start calling incessantly. We’re afraid someone won’t like us or love us, so we do everything humanly possible to get that persons attention. We’re afraid we’re not good enough or worthy enough, so we manipulate or strategize how we can be needed or wanted. We’re afraid of failure, so we sabotage every opportunity. We’re afraid of our own opinions, so we lie. We’re afraid of being powerful, so we make ourselves small. We’re afraid of being found out, so we keep ourselves at a distance.
Oh, the list is long.
One way I dealt with my fear was by making it the very foundation of my life – my jumping off point. The place where I made decisions, made choices, and yes, took action.
While most human beings – at least the ones I know – have a garden variety of fears, I will share one of my very own ‘personal, favorite’ fear story/experiences as an example. For many years, many more than I care to divulge, I dated men who were absolutely 100% toxic. By toxic I mean self-involved, arrogant, insecure, and abusive men. (And let me just say, as an aside, bad boys – in my opinion – are different then bad men. Bad boys have some charm, and often have tattoos, and sometimes, but not always, look like Sam Shepherd and/or Viggo Mortenson/Morgenson. Bad men lean much more toward nasty, cruel). Okay back to my toxic men … the more they didn’t want me, the more I wanted them. If they didn’t call, I would call them – incessantly I might add – making up excuses as to why I needed to speak with them. If they didn’t show me affection, well, then, I would shower them with affection. Not to mention buying them gifts that ranged from small and cute, to expensive and extravagant. All the while, my insides were desperately churning away. As I write this, the image that comes to mind is a hamster wheel. Yes, a hamster wheel – trying to keep up with the fears that were overpowering and overwhelming me, and all I kept doing was taking what I thought was the appropriate (yeah, right) action, making the appropriate causes (uh, yeah) to have a good, healthy, loving, sexy relationship. But what I was really doing (YES!) was making causes and taking action to get rid of the fear. And so, it would just perpetuate, a different man, but… exactly the same frickin’ experience. And like every bad horror movie, the boogeyman fear monster would come back: bigger and weirder and more frightening then the previous time.
A friend of mine – a very spiritual & kind friend – told me I needed to understand the fear – the fear of having a healthy, loving, sexy, reciprocal relationship – to look it smack in the eye, and understand the root of it. He emphasized the word ROOT. When I rattled off all my fears, alphabetically I might add, he said, “No, no…no…it’s just one fear.” Huh. The concept of getting to the root took on a visual meaning for me: weeds. Weeds, spreading, carelessly, uncontrollably throughout a gorgeous, lush garden. You can’t just deadhead weeds, they’ll grow back even more abundantly, fiercely. You have to pull them by their very roots so that they stop growing. Stop spreading. You gotta rip them out.
After a few weeks, I became completely focused. My single-minded thought, prayer was to get to the root of my fear. First, understand it, and then, yes, get to the very root of it. I was going to absolutely understand with every fiber in my being what it was I was so deeply afraid of.
It finally occurred to me while in the back of a cab, sitting in bumper to bumper traffic – the aha moment, the breakfast at epiphany moment – I was deeply, hugely afraid of being abandoned. It was connected to a childhood trauma, one that I neatly tucked away and conveniently forgot about. As soon as I understood what the fear was, I completely and utterly understood the action(s) I took perfectly matched the fear I was experiencing. I was afraid of being left, so, BINGO, I did everything humanly possible to hold on to these men. A phrase that ran through my mind was ‘desperate breeds desperate’. The minute I understood my behavior, it all made sense.
Then the gods tested me.
I met Ken.
I determined that I would no longer be held hostage by my fear.
For two weeks every time the fear took hold of me (and trust me, I was in a frickin’ head lock), I let it run through me like the flu. When I felt the impulse to call him because I hadn’t heard from him, I talked myself out of it. When I felt the urge to buy him a little gift, a little trinket, I bought myself something instead. When I felt the need to spontaneously run into him by driving, or walking, or jogging around his block seven hundred times I reminded myself that that could also be considered stalking with possible jail-time and or community service attached to that action. Every single day, over and over and over, I reminded myself that if he, Ken, didn’t want to be with me, well then, fuck him, I didn’t want to be with him. No. No. No. No. NO. NO. NO. Period. And yes, god yes, it took everything in my power to control my urges, actions, behavior. After all, my chasing and wanting bad men had become a self-destructive free fall.
After two weeks of doing major battle with my own personal boogeyman fear monster, it no longer had power or control over me, and just like that, seriously – just like that – the fear upped and left, and quite naturally Ken took its place at the table.
And he’s been sitting there ever since.
What I realized, understood, the minute you have the courage to look something smack in the eye – whether it be a person, a challenge, an obstacle, or even the monster boogeyman, the minute you connect with it, the minute you face it, the minute you challenge it – it no longer has any control, any power over you.
You win over the fear.
And then you go out, and buy yourself a bottle of really good champagne – really good champagne – and raise a glass to you.
Fabulous, fearless you!