January 7 - Noticing the Fear




Yesterday we talked about the importance of identifying the filter of fear through which we listen while communicating, particularly in our most intimate relationships. Since fear can easily drive us back to addictive habits, it is essential that we get very familiar with our fears and how to distinguish the legacies of the past from the valid fears of the present.

As a child, because of the presence of alcoholism in my family and a child’s limited ability to logically process information, I declared myself not to matter. It hurt so badly that I tried to avoid ever feeling like that again; I lived in fear of history repeating itself. Because I feared it so intensely, my unconscious mind constantly sought out any signs of my not mattering so that I could immediately avoid that feeling. But because I was always fearing it and looking for it, I saw little else.

Once I recognized this fear as an adult and decided that I wanted to learn a new way to live my life, it was important that I become very familiar with it; I needed to become aware of how often I reacted out of the desire to avoid “not mattering” rather than being able to make clear and conscious choices. Oh, I thought I made choices at the time, but in retrospect I can clearly see how I simply reacted with the unconscious intention to avoid the feeling that I didn’t matter. The astonishing thing is that what I did to avoid “not mattering” usually insured that I would treat myself as if I truly did not matter. I literally created that which I was trying so hard to avoid.

For example, if I didn’t feel someone was giving sufficient consideration to my desires or needs, I would just stop speaking about them at all. I would just keep them to myself and never risk being “rejected” again. How is that for making sure that my needs could not matter?

I cannot even count how many times someone would ask me whether I would prefer “x” or “y”, and my reply would be, “It doesn’t really matter, whichever you don’t want.”

Today there is still a place deep inside of me that believes that any words I might write won’t matter...that people will not read them, and if they do, they won’t make a difference to them. But then I remember, that not to write them at all will ensure that my thoughts, my life, my experience will not matter, so I wrap my arms around my fear and type away, knowing that the expression of who we are is truly all that matters in the end.

If I had not grown aware and noticed what fear resided deep inside of me, I would never have been able to replace the old fear with new conceptions and behaviors.

And I had to notice my behaviors often enough so that I became able to recognize my automatic reactive pattern earlier and earlier. Once I could catch the behavior at the first hint of its appearance, I then could be ready to switch into a new one. I chose to replace the legacy of fear with the promise of curiosity.

This simple, but profound, substitution enabled me to recognize the many ways that others were constantly trying to let me know that I matter. For example, tonight I sip on a warm cup of tea while writing to you, my dear friends…my faithful German shepherd is sleeping on my foot while I type…and my daughter dropped what she was doing earlier to make certain that my temperamental Internet hook-up would work again for me. When I was scanning for what there was to fear, these lovely messages would not have been even a blip on my radar screen. But tonight they felt warm and nurturing and special. Tonight I chose to remember how very much I matter.

Today, begin to notice the times you react out of the fear you recognized yesterday. What situations are you aware of now that you were not before? Write them down if possible. The more quickly you are able to notice your fear, the sooner you will be able to step into your wonderful life and make conscious, fulfilling, personal choices!

What is it that you most often try to avoid being seen as? What would hurt you the most if someone thought it about you? How often do you feel that way? What hurts your feelings the most? When did you first feel that way? Are you certain that your declaration then was accurate? What would you be willing to seek instead of scanning for this legacy of fear?

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