I experience fear sometimes.
Sometimes I experience fear because I don’t know how opposing counsel is going to react to my blackline in a tense contract negotiation. Sometimes times I experience fear because my girl is late returning home on a stormy winter’s night. Sometimes I experience fear because of FOMO for social events (well, I used to - I have conquered this one). Other times, I experience fear because I don’t know how my randomly-selected LSUC practice management review is going to go.
It's a mixed bag, really.
These are situations are all different, and the emotional intensity of my fear varies accordingly. But, ultimately, the fear I experience has its roots in childhood feelings of abandonment, rejection, low self-worth, insecurity or shame, feelings buried deep in my reptilian brain. I have been living with a fear of abandonment and rejection for most of my life.
My fear is an emotional reaction to the unknown. It is a product of my ego, which itself is a mechanism created by the mind during childhood to protect me from the demands of society’s norms and the ravages of my family upbringing. This is true for all of us – differences are only a matter of degree and personal history.
When my mind doesn’t have sufficient information to clearly define & evaluate a situation or threat (no matter how trivial), my ego attempts to fill in the blanks. And when my mind attempts to fill in the blanks, I end up making assumptions about the world around me - assumptions about the thoughts and feelings people convey to me, assumptions about others people’s actions and motivations.
My assumptions are - by definition - always false, meaning that there is large degree to which I miss what people are really trying to communicate to me or what the world is really showing to me. I fail to perceive what is truly real in the world; more importantly, I fail to meaningfully connect with the people around me.
What’s more, when I act on my assumptions, all I am acting on is my own fear; and, because my fear is a product of my ego, really, then, most of the time the only thing I am reacting to is, well…myself.
When you live in your fears, you don’t live in reality.
And that is the price of fear: foregoing opportunities to make authentic connections with the real world in order to avoid confronting your fears. Just to feel “safe”. For a long time, I have been living a safe, inauthentic life.
A Nerf life.
I am not saying that my life grinds to a halt when I act out of fear or that I’m unhappy with how things are going in my life or that I am living “the wrong way” because I fail to authentically relate to the world. There is no judgment here (and quite the opposite, in fact). What I am saying, however, is that much my life has been rooted in fear, regardless of the situation or intensity of the feeling, big or small, serious or trivial. In many instances, I have let my fears control my thoughts, decisions and actions.
But I have been working to confront these fears head-on. I have learned to understand my fear, feel it for what it is (a false assumption), process it and release it back into the wild. It has taken years to get to this point. But slowly, I am freeing my soul.
And I intend on remaining free.
You must consciously choose freedom each day. Becoming free takes a ton of courage and an unwavering commitment to self-awareness. And that’s terrifying - to look inside; to allow for the possibility that all of the beliefs which I have spent my entire life building up, the beliefs which form the blueprint for my life, may not be true; to know that everything I have built up to this point might not be authentic to my soul; to know that if I challenge my assumptions, following my true self no matter what, the ground may crumble beneath my feet….well, friends, that shit is capital aitch Hard.
It’s like when Neo awakens from the Matrix. Remember that scene? He pulls out the tubes from his body, choking on a mix of fresh air and old battery-goo stuck to his lungs, stands up and peers out into the infinite expanse of the human battery-farm that is his real reality. For the first time, Neo experiences life as it truly is; and in that moment, Neo is free. In that moment, his life begins.
That’s what it feels like. Painful. Hard. Confusing. But them’s the breaks, right? You have to put in that work; the underlying reasons for your fears can only be found within.
But after I broke free, I have experienced tremendous clarity, happiness, strength and peace through the healing that I have done. I feel at peace. I am happy. I have compassion for myself. Better still, I have compassion for others. I work more efficiently and I am able to provide clear, creative solutions to my clients. I can’t quite fly or dodge bullets yet…but I’m working on that.
And there’s still more work to be done. Even to this point, though, it’s been paradigm shifting.
It’s been exhilarating.
And I highly recommend it.