Seems I’ve managed to catch on to another one of life’s hidden lessons (and it only required having this lesson come repeatedly barreling toward me from many different directions, in many different forms, and both personally and professionally)!
Nevertheless, this lesson is in the true realization of how tempted and controlled so many of us are by fear. How, in most every decision, even the positive and exciting ones, it’s not long before we’re experiencing instant flashes of our dreams and goals shattering as we take imaginary wrong steps. We are immediately drawn to all that could go wrong, while what could go right is just as swiftly shoved into the background somewhere.
Take the thought of going for that promotion at work. The feelings of excitement and pride are almost simultaneously smacked down with visions of possible rejection, or our co-workers’ angry jealous faces and comments. How about simply thinking about marriage? In an instant, the joyful flutter is extinguished as we’re transported twenty years into the future and involuntarily developing home-movies in our minds, featuring us and our spouses reenacting those terrible fights between our parents that we had front-row seats for as kids. Even the slightest consideration of buying a house is enough to hijack our minds with images of overdue mortgage payments, eviction notices, or the word BANKRUPT in bold red print.
The fear seeps in so fast that we can’t even slow down enough to actually realize what we’re fearing.
Fear has a kind of creepy black-out effect. One minute you’re enjoying outlooks of a better life and the next, you’re suddenly sucked into a terrifying whirlpool of disproportionate negativity and trying to stay afloat. We can’t seem to put our fingers on what happens in the middle. All we know is that we want this terror to go away, so much that we’ll all-too-willingly abandon the very goals, dreams, and thoughts that initially brought it on.
But you know what? That right there is never a solution. Such avoidance only sparks yet another treacherous feeling you may have heard others refer to as “frozen.”
The “frozen” in this sense are not cold in body temperature, nor are they necessarily insensitive or mean in attitude. The frozen are those incapable of decision. They are immovable, stiff, still, stuck.
To be honest, they’re scared straight.
So let’s tie this together. In all too many cases, we allow fear to trick us into thinking it’s protecting us, when really, all it does is bully us into remaining its hostages. What if fear were a person? How do you think he or she would look? I don’t know about you, but I picture the kind of person you yell at your kids to never go near or talk to. Could be that kind of dark shadowy figure lurking behind trees, scheming up creepy sneaky ways to lure you into your own demise…
…if this person emerged out of nowhere in the night, blocked your path, and reached out his or her long, bony, shaky, index finger to signal for you to come closer, would you go? I’m assuming your answer is a big “no” (with quite possibly a swear word or two in front of it). My point exactly.
If you wouldn’t go with fear in physical form, what in the world would justify you going with it mentally?
Let’s put this visual into action: Think about a decision you want to make right now, but can’t. I’m sure it’s safe to assume that there is some hope and excitement tied to this decision, as well as some fears, discomforts, and concerns. But stop there.
Now, picture yourself in the middle of a forest, standing (frozen) with two diverging paths ahead of you. You can’t see far down either path, but at the beginning of one stands that creepy Fear figure and at the beginning of the other stands Hope. We already established what Fear looks like, so now it’s time to imagine how Hope might appear in human form. Maybe a bit blurry, but with a cheerful glow around him or her. Maybe an uncertain, yet friendly smile? That kind of person who sparks your curiosity, is simply nice to look at, and is just refreshing to be around.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go with Hope?
When put this way, many of us can grasp the no-brainer concept--- when faced with a decision, it’s not only OK, but it’s crucial to go with hope. Lingering (for once) on all the ways things might actually go right, how making a change might actually make life better, and how taking new steps will always lead to some kind of excitement and adventure. The path down hope may not guarantee success in the form it is sought in, but it sure as hell won’t lead you back to fearfully-frozen. Remember, this risk only exists on that other, very separate, path.
It’s clear that the fear route has no logical basis for intersecting with the hope route, yet somehow, our hopes still lead us directly to fear. Anyone else find this strange?
Here’s the problem. In most cases, fear is learned. Fear is often repeatedly observed in process and consequence, and usually in the lives of those we love most. Herein lies the power of fear….. it’s familiar.
The known is often much more preferred than the unknown, even when the known is undesirable in every other aspect. This is a major reason for repeated patterns in our lives. The reason we unwillingly “become our parents,” or end up in other situations we’ve spent our entire lives fearfully-avoiding. We choose it.
The lesson here is that fear is fear and any action inspired by it will only circle right back to more of it. A fearful mind brings out a fearful environment and unfortunately for some, such a prediction is just as comfortable as it is dreadful. The very knowledge that misery is on the way (especially when coming in expected form) allows for a necessary sense of control that is otherwise lost along an unchartered path (like hope). But is it worth it?
Well, you tell me. The choice is between a familiar path of fear and failed outcomes vs. a less predictable path of new and exciting possibilities. Yes, both evoke discomfort, but only one leaves room for healthy change. It is crucial to recognize the choice we have in not only the decisions we ultimately make for our lives, but especially in the mental path we choose to take for arriving at those decisions.
We can continue to allow fear to lead us down that dark, narrow, dead-end road, complete with disturbing scenery of all the things that might go wrong for us,
we can turn back around and start getting excited about all the things that might go right.
We can always, always go with hope.