we’ve all heard the recommendations: face your fears, move in the direction of your fear, fear is the mind-killer.
they’re helpful, and people love citing them, myself included.
but they make a major assumption: we can identify our fear.
a slippery shape-shifter, fear is often buried so deeply and disguised so persuasively we don’t realize we’re avoiding it. to illustrate, a personal example.
a guy who broke up with me a few months ago texted recently. we chatted a little and he asked if we could meet. i was trying to be open and, you know, the kind of person who runs a site with “karma” in the name, even though he ended the relationship on a grouchy note and i owe him nothing.
i said i’d let him know.
meeting up didn’t sound like the best time ever but i thought it would be ok—nerve-racking but survivable. my overall feeling was, let’s see how this goes.
but as i turned the idea over in my mind, i grew suspicious. google said he wanted to hook up. male advisors concurred.
that made me angry. how dare he? what sort of young lady does he think i am? and, on a pragmatic note, hypersensitive me for casual sex in a city swarming with attractive women?
on top of being offended, i was uncertain and impatient. that’s an bad combination, . it leads you right into this spiral:
which led to a rash, but brilliant-sounding decision: i told him we could meet, assuming he didn’t want a booty call or to be friends.
and let me tell you, sending that text felt great. i was the image of prudence, taking care of myself, setting boundaries, and speaking my mind.
of course not. it was defensiveness. i was reinforcing the borders around my pain under the guise of self-protection. not again, buster! was my battle cry.
here’s where “if you feel good, you’re doing it wrong” comes into play. i didn’t think i was acting out of fear. but listening to fear appears rational and practical. protecting ourselves seems sensible and wise.
understandably, he backed off and basically said, never mind, peace out.
ideally, i would’ve been kind, met with him, and seen what was going on.
as it is, i drove someone away, didn’t gain any information, and now have this hurt in addition to lingering break up crap. the ironic coup de grace is now i have a bigger helping of what i thought i was avoiding: uncertainty.
here's how to avoid a similar experience:
- stay on the lookout for fear’s ego-inspired costumes
- keep asking why you’re resisting. in my case: why did i need those qualifiers? why couldn’t i just show up? if i’d investigated, i would’ve seen my concern over getting burned again.
- when you decide it is fear, make like a celebrity and rebrand! fear isn't fear. it's:
and from there, you know exactly what to do. dive. right. in. and expect the following: