It is a tremendously common fear.
No matter what the fear, the problem arises when we allow it to take hold of us and to tighten its grip over time.
It might feel like you know something else is out there…but risking what you know is scary.
The irony around fear is that we will be consumed by it and avoid it at all costs, which can have the ability to re-surface in other forms…such as those all too familiar terms of anxiety, depression, anger, etc. Facing the fear just feels too daunting a task and we get this idea we cannot do it or that it is too late for us or any number of other reasons. So, back to the irony…the not facing it and avoiding it, becomes much more energy draining than actually stopping and examining it for a little while. When we understand what the fear is and how it is holding us back, this can do the opposite for us and give us some renewed energy.
Chances are you are saying this is much easier said than done. If you fall under one of the above categories, you could potentially not even be aware of this or the fear has gone beyond what you think is even possible to regain control. Perhaps none of it is even making sense to you yet. Let me offer a few examples of how fear can manifest itself into our lives.
Without ever realizing it, our vices often become what they are based on a deeper fear. For example, ever have an addiction to something? Smoking, smoking up, alcohol, food to name a few of the more common ones. For many, this might not even be an addiction, but rather your go-to when times are tough. Initially, our draw toward them is not because we are literally scared of a particular thing, but generally because it will ease a bit of stress and relax us…sound like good enough reasons…
But what happens when we find we are needing that one vice more and more? We forget why we started with it in the first place, but we do know that any anxiety we might be feeling can instantly be calmed once we get to whatever it is we chose for our vice. So, we can no longer remember whether we actually fear anything at all, simply that we are deemed as having “anxiety” or perhaps “depression” and this vice is the only thing that helps it and that’s that.
Do you have any idea how many times I have heard people say they need (insert vice) since they have anxiety and it is the only thing that works.
There is a whole lot of irony here…
Essentially, facing the fear or emotion became too hard and not facing it resulted in anxiety and turning to the vice made that easier. If one were to backtrack and try facing whatever it is that scares you, it’s possible (actually, I am willing to bet it is highly possible and likely even probable) that anxiety never surfaces at all and there will be no need for the vice.
I should be clear. I am certainly not summing all of this up into one easy fix. I just want to offer a thought based on my experiences with others (as a therapist) and myself. I know for myself, it was always important to me to make sense of things…hence my curiosity in making sense of this.
So what happens when we choose not to grab that cigarette, joint, donut, or whatever it might be that gives us a short-lived sense of ease? I’m sure most people have tried this since I am picking on those harmful vices we all know are not great for our health and will have attempted to quit them at various times. But do you remember what happens? Is it that uncomfortable feeling in your stomach? Does it feel all knotted up? Could it be anxiety?? And after that subsides a bit or perhaps you might need some help with it such as a pill and then it is possible you slip into a state of depression? And all because you were trying to get healthier?? Is it worth it?
Okay, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s revisit the initial anxiety. Of course you are feeling anxious! I mean, all these emotions that you’ve been holding at bay for years and avoiding at all cost with the help of your trusty vice…well, they didn’t really go away…that’s impossible! They are all there waiting for you now…just waiting for you to feel them again. And you have no idea what to do with them…
Perhaps by now you are thinking this is way too much work and how could I ever tell you that you could gain energy from this? Well, part of it is right. It does take work since it might be a long time since you actually allowed yourself to feel what you need to feel. But the work is much different from what one typically thinks. I believe we can get energy from the work too. Time tends to flow easier with this work, which changes the energy. The stuff you are doing now in the avoiding of the emotions (or even over dominating in one emotion), that is work too, but more of a draining nature. Otherwise, we get trapped in the mundane of not thinking too much about ourselves and inevitably can fall into the same anxious feelings.
I’ve been focused on those not so healthy vices. Let’s take a look at what we deem as healthy ones as well. Oftentimes, we even decide to replace a bad one with a good one, but unavoidably the same fear is still there. We just feel better about ourselves physically due to the healthier option. We can just as easily become addicted to exercising, eating obsessively healthy, our work, our children, or busyness (an overactive schedule). When we have hundreds of things or other people to focus all our energy on, we never need to think about ourselves. Sometimes, this can be good, but it can also build up overtime. We have a tendency to think if we care about ourselves first we are being selfish, when in reality, this is the opposite.
I would say when you are ready, start with thinking about facing your fear; although you may never think you are ready. If you begin to think about the idea that your anxiety is not you and you actually could have control over it, the process can happen naturally. It does take time, but once you begin to believe in the concept, that time is building your energy, your confidence, and in the meantime reducing the fear.
Test it out. But remember…it only works when you believe in it. Lots of us would rather be skeptical and that is okay, but in general this only sucks your energy also. Think of it this way…you can either benefit yourself at no real cost or things can simply stay the same. It is a choice, but a liberating one!