December 1, 2011
Fear That Keeps You Stuck
“Loneliness and fear are common for survivors of abuse. For survivors to begin to shut themselves away emotionally and sometimes physically is normal because they have been hurt, and the world no longer feels like a safe place. When something hurts you, to be afraid of that source of pain is normal. However, the fear and isolation begin to create more fear and loneliness – feelings that are unrelated to the original abuse.” ~from Shelter from the Storm
Really read that last line – “feelings that are unrelated to the original abuse.” One of the hardest things about being afraid is that fear takes on a life of its own. A single moment – one dog nipping at you – becomes a fear of all dogs! One person hurting you becomes a fear that everyone will hurt you. Our fears are not to be taken lightly, they can be so strong that they immobilize us. Yet, there is a way out of the fear.
We’ll get to loneliness in the next week, for now, let’s take a look at the fears that are keeping you stuck.
The first step is to begin exploring how fear has been a part of your life and actually naming your fears. By taking stock of how fear has played a part in your life, you become present to the costs of remaining in fear. Ask yourself, “What have I been missing out on or unable to do as a result of my fears?” Then, by actually naming your fears – like, “I’m afraid of being alone” – you take some of the sting out of it and the fear starts to become an approachable problem that can be addressed.
We all have developed different strategies for either running away from or facing our fears, and, usually, we don’t give ourselves enough credit for being able to do the latter. Facing and challenging our fears in order to come up with a plan of action as to how we’ll do that is the next step. Yet as this fortune cookie quote so wisely puts it:
“Many a false step was made by standing still.”
When we are struggling to break out of certain habits of thought or behavior, it often seems safer and easier to just stick with the status quo. We find ourselves at a moment when we can take a step forward or simply keep our feet planted. The choice we make at such moments is crucial.
Reasons for standing still are numerous … movement creates momentum and we can be unsure or afraid of where that momentum might take us. We may feel a bit unsteady when we take some new, first steps - kinda like toddlers fumbling around. Those fumbly steps are so critical though - without them, we never have the opportunity to experience leaping, running, or dancing!
There is, however, very little to gain from standing still.
Now I'm not talking about the kind of stillness that comes from being peaceful or making decisions with foresight and thoughtfulness.
What I do want to challenge is the idea that standing still is the "safe" choice. How can allowing your feet to become as roots in the ground be safe? It seems to me, if you are firmly planted, you are much more vulnerable to those who can approach and use you as they will.
It's time to uproot ourselves! To shed the distorted thinking, memories, and fears that immobilize us.
I encourage you to pick one of the fears you identified today and then begin to challenge that fear by first identifying the payoffs & costs. Next create a measurable result to get into action to challenge the fear – what would your first step be?
Join me for the next Adult Survivors of Child Abuse Support Group, December 8, 6-7:15p, Embarcadero YMCA, 169 Steuart St. Feel free to contact me @ firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-513-0700 if you have any questions.
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