Craig, a middle-aged, average kind of guy with some balding (but quite a handsome face), couldn’t seem to get a handle on things. His life seemed unbalanced, upside down and he wasn’t sure why. When he came to therapy, he wasn’t complaining about his marriage or his children, not even work. He just didn’t feel right. Something was wrong.
As we talked, it turned out that he was feeling very anxious. But because he failed to acknowledge it, his anxiety had become like wallpaper, plastered all over but unnoticed. Discussing his anxiety, I explained to him that there are three fears that we all face, every day: fear of confronting someone, fear of making the wrong choice, and fear of making a big change in our life. We don’t want the pain and trouble that might come from taking these actions. But is that all there is to it? No indeed. Underneath these fears lie deeper, often hidden fears.
As I spoke, something like deep sadness passed over Craig’s face. He dropped his eyes and slumped in his chair. “Hidden fears,” he whispered. “Maybe that’s what bothering me.” He lifted his head and looked me straight in the eye. “I didn’t want to face it,” he said, “but I believe my wife is having an affair. I guess that’s why I’m here. I need some help.”
Craig’s case is common. We all have fears of being rejected, or abandoned by people that matter to us, or people in general. We often we hide these fears from others and sometimes from ourselves. At the same time, we also live with another fear, the fear of feeling inadequate or worthless because we reject ourselves.
Try as we might to keep our fears out of consciousness, they will eventually surface. When this time comes and we allow ourselves to become aware of our fears, we are at a critical choice-point in our life.
If you are an avoider, you may drink too much, binge on TV, have dangerous sex, or even become a workaholic trying to deal with your fear. On the other hand, if you are a controller, you may try harder and harder to fix things though nothing changes. You may use anger or guilt trying to control the situation or others. Maybe you get stuck on a mental merry-go-round trying to figure things out and just can’t stop thinking about the problem.
GOOD NEWS! The good news is that you can expose and overcome your fears and the harmful behaviors they cause. Are you willing to be honest and compassionate with yourself and others? This opens the door to exposing your fears and facing what is causing them. Then you can work at resolving threatening issues in a win-win way. Win-win means that everyone feels they were dealt with fairly. Here are the four steps you can take. Wonder of wonders, they are always the same! and they work!
There are four steps you can take that will get you from a negative, fearful mindset to a positive, honest and compassion mindset:
Recognize the problem and take responsibility for your part in it.
Interrupt/Let go of the stress and emotions of the problem
Refocus on honesty and compassion because you can see both sides of reality; you see the big picture and you want a win-win resolution.
- Replace/Act by stopping any inappropriate avoid or control strategies and working instead for a win-win resolution. It is possible to become a genuine problem-solver instead of an anxious or angry defensive self-protector.
If you are not ready to try taking the 4 Steps or you find this all confusing, here's a resource for you. In my book, Become the Person You Were Meant to Be - The Choice-Cube Method, you will find more information about the 4 Steps. There are also simple, but powerful Tools to help you take the Steps.