Part 1 in a series of three articles about managing fear.
How do you wrestle with the fear of having to face someone with a difficult truth? What if you had to stand up for yourself when personal boundaries have been crossed. It could be a situation of being bullied, or, someone you thought you could trust, has taken advantage of you in some way.
You desire to stand up to this person, to let them know what they did to make you unhappy. A feeling of dread arises if the relationship is still growing, and trust is building, and you don’t want it to come crashing down. You can feel a tug-of-war inside you.
It could be an authority figure you admire and you are very reluctant to rip a hole in the veneer of mutual respect, and are almost sure the person will react to it like criticism. Your mind pictures a negative reaction from them.
For this reason the majority of people avoid being honest in a situation like this and will find ways to mask their disappointment. But this will naturally lead to a behavior, or an outcome, that is worse in the long run. Yet knowing this, most of us let fear rule, and the problem is swept under the carpet.
Let’s see what happens if we let fear take over. Let’s say I decide that I won’t tell this person what I really think but will start to avoid them instead. Pretty soon I come to resent the person because I have not been true to myself. That resentment, like projecting onto someone else, is really a disappointment in me – that I failed to stand up for myself. This leads to a break-down in trust (in self and the other).
How different would it be if I faced that person and simply told them the facts and kept the negative feeling under control. Well they can react in one of two ways. They can react like I insulted them, or, after the initial shock is over, take on board what I said and respect me for having the guts to face them.
They may be glad, even relieved, that I brought it out into the open because, contrary to what I may be feeling, what they did was not on purpose to hurt me. This is far better than having them pick up a bad vibe in me. Unless they know the reason for the bad vibe, their logical reaction would be to mirror my dislike. Before you know it, you have two people who rub each other the wrong way.
Okay, (worst case scenario), say they take it as a personal insult and become defensive. As long as I faced them in a constructively critical way, I have just exposed their true attitude or motivation. I can now move on from that position towards resolution. If I then decide to avoid them, I am doing so out of new knowledge – not out of fear.
Yet knowing this bit of common sense does not stop the fear taking over your body – the aching gut, the dry mouth, the trembling hands, outbreaks of sweat, the sinking feeling. It’s the physical manifestation of fear which paralyses me. So I could resort to reasoning tactics. I ask myself:
1. What am I afraid will happen?
2. If it happened, what’s the worst possible outcome?
3. What’s the probability that this worst outcome could happen?
4. Now what could happen if I don’t face the situation?
Often, logical reasoning like this won’t work because this type of fear is irrational.
Whenever you’ve been in a situation like this, you almost feel angry with yourself that all the good reasoning on your part won’t make this fear reaction go away. Well it’s true you won’t get rid of fear permanently but you can tame it so that each time you face a difficult situation, you are much less affected by it.
The only way to tone it down is to tell yourself the opposite of what you fear – even if that opposite is absurd and you don’t believe it for a minute. Yes, like an affirmation.
Now this is what really works on the physical manifestation of fear. Even though you think your ‘affirmation’ is wildly optimistic, understand that you can condition yourself through repetition. After all Fear is doing it to you. Why not turn the tables?
If you repeat that wildly optimistic affirmation as many times as you can, you will find that when the dreaded moment of facing off arrives, you are much less fearful.
There is nothing magical or hypnotic about this. It is simply playing on that age old truth that ‘a lie repeated often enough becomes mistaken for the truth’. Don’t forget that fear will always compound itself so that the simple facts become concealed by negativity. Also, remember that the fear is much greater than the object of your fear’s actual threat to you.
It really is a case of ‘the only way out is through’. When you face fear in a situation like this, you will always come out shining because it no longer emotionally strangles you and the negative circumstances unravel under the light of openness and truth.